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Jun 3, 2024, 4:51pm EDT
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Semafor Signals

As Biden’s son Hunter goes on trial, Democrats fret over potential political ramifications

Insights from CNN, The New York Times, and Puck

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Hunter Biden arrives at the federal court on the opening day of his trial in Wilmington, Delaware, on June 3, 2024.
Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS
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The News

US President Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s trial on federal gun charges began on Monday in Delaware federal court. Hunter Biden has pled not guilty after a tentative plea deal to avoid trial fell through in 2023.

Prosecutors alleged Hunter lied on an application to buy a gun in 2018 when asked about his substance use history. Hunter has previously written that he was addicted to crack at the time. Hunter is also facing tax-related charges in California; that trial is slated for later this year.

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Hunter’s trial comes days after former president and current presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records to unfairly influence the 2016 presidential election.

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Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Hunter Biden’s charges raise specter of political interference

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Sources:  
CNN, NBC, Reuters, The New York Times

Hunter Biden has maintained he has been unfairly targeted by his father’s political opponents. After his initial indictment on the charges, Hunter’s lawyer told CNN that Republican politicians had succeeded in “pressuring this US attorney to do something to vindicate their political position.” But the judge overseeing the case rejected those claims and said there is no evidence for them. More broadly, legal experts have said the charges he faces are rarely brought unless the individual has also been charged with a violent crime, which Hunter has not. But just because a charge is rare, that doesn’t mean it is improper, another expert said.

Republicans seek opportunities to ‘drag down’ Biden

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Sources:  
The Associated Press, Spectrum News, The New York Times

Republicans have used Hunter Biden’s history “as an anchor to try to drag down his father,” the Associated Press noted, and the trial offers fresh opportunity to do so again. If Hunter is convicted, some political analysts said voters might see his father as “guilty by association.” If he’s acquitted, Republicans could allege the justice system is corrupt, a common allegation in the wake of Trump’s conviction. Republicans have sought political angles on Hunter’s gun charges before: Before it fell apart in 2023, his tentative plea deal was a source of ire for some GOP lawmakers, who alleged without evidence it was a “sweetheart” deal thanks to preferential treatment from the Justice Department.

Biden allies are worried trial could pose distraction

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Sources:  
The Associated Press, The New York Times, Puck

As Biden’s reelection campaign ramps up, allies of the president are concerned that the trial could prove a distraction. People close to the president told the New York Times that Hunter’s legal problems are at the top of Biden’s personal list of concerns. If it were possible for Hunter to take a plea deal, some legal experts told the Times, he should to avoid what will likely be a painful and embarrassing trial. On the other side, Republicans are “desperately hoping that Hunter’s trial will help neutralize, or at least distract from” Trump’s felony convictions, Tara Palmeri wrote for Puck.

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