Joe Biden shows support for son as his gun trial begins

US President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Pic: AP

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US President Joe Biden has said he has “boundless love” for his son Hunter as jury selection in his federal gun case started on Monday.

Hunter Biden has been charged in Delaware with three felonies stemming from a 2018 firearm purchase when he was, allegedly, addicted to crack cocaine.

He has been accused of lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false claim on the application used to screen firearms applicants when he said he was not a drug user, and illegally having the gun for 11 days.

Hunter and Melissa Cohen Biden arrive at court
Pic: Reuters
Image:
Hunter and Melissa Cohen Biden arrive at court. Pic: Reuters

A plea deal that would have avoided a trial so close to the 2024 election previously collapsed.

Biden pleaded not guilty and has argued he is being unfairly targeted by the US justice department, after Republicans decried the now-defunct deal as special treatment for the Democratic president’s son.

Joe Biden said that as president he would not comment on the criminal trial – but as a father, he has “boundless love for my son, confidence in him, and respect for his strength”.

Proud father

The US leader said: “I am the president, but I am also a dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today”.

First lady Jill Biden was seated in the front row of the Delaware courtroom in a show of support.

Hunter Biden’s trial comes just days after Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was convicted of 34 felonies in New York City.

Jill Biden arrives at the federal court on the opening day of trial of Hunter Biden.
Pic: Reuters
Image:
Jill Biden arrives at court on the opening day of Hunter Biden’s trial. Pic: Reuters

A jury found the former president guilty of a scheme to cover up a hush-money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels made to fend off damage to his 2016 presidential campaign.

Prospective jurors in Hunter Biden’s case were quizzed individually to determine whether they could be fair and impartial.

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Questions put to them ranged from their knowledge of the case, thoughts about gun ownership and whether they or anyone close to them have struggled with substance abuse or addiction, or ever owned a gun.

Hunter Biden is also facing a separate trial in California in September for failing to pay $1.4m (£1.1m) in taxes.

Campaign distraction

Joe BIden’s allies are worried the trial could become a distraction as the presidential election campaign gets underway.

U.S. President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden go for a bike ride in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, U.S., June 1, 2024. REUTERS/Anna Rose Layden
Image:
Joe Biden and Hunter Biden go for a bike ride on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

Prosecutors are hoping to show Hunter Biden was in the throes of addiction when he bought the gun and therefore lied on the forms.

They have said they are planning to use his published memoir as evidence, and they may also introduce contents from a laptop that he left at a Delaware repair shop and never retrieved.

The highly personal contents made their way to Republicans in 2020 and were publicly leaked to cause maximum embarrassment to the Biden camp.

Drug addiction

The case against Hunter Biden stems from a period when he was addicted to crack cocaine.

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His descent into drugs and alcohol followed the death of his brother, Beau Biden, from cancer in 2015.

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty in both cases, and his attorneys have suggested they may argue he did not see himself as an addict when prosecutors say he checked “no” to the question on the form. They will also attack the credibility of the gun store owner.

If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison, though first-time offenders are unlikely to get anywhere near this maximum term, and it’s unclear whether the judge would give him time behind bars.

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