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We're getting breaking news into our newsroom this morning.


The jury in Delaware has reached a verdict in the federal trial for President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden.


On count one, the verdict is guilty. On count two, the verdict is guilty. And on count three, the verdict is guilty. It is the first time in history that the child of a sitting president has been convicted of federal charges. From New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily. Today, why a jury found Hunter Biden guilty on federal gun charges? What it will mean for his father and what it could do to the presidential race. White House reporter Katie Rogers is our guest. It's Wednesday, June 12th. Katie, I think we have to start by just recognizing the extraordinary and really improbable situation that we're in as of today, which is that over the past two weeks, the former President of the United States was found guilty of a crime, and the son of the current President of the United States was found guilty of a crime, all during a presidential race between those two presidents. It's just staggering.


It's remarkable. I was in a hotel lobby next door to the courthouse yesterday after the jury went to deliberate and happened to glance over at CNN and saw former President Trump walking to attend a probation appointment. Just the starkness of that really hit home where we're in this moment where the former President has a probation officer and the President's son is on the precipice of being convicted of three felony gun charges.


Right. There was never any doubt that Trump's case was going to go to trial because he made very clear he was never going to accept a plea deal. But I think for a lot of us, the Hunter Biden case has been a more confusing legal saga. The last time we talked about it on this show, Hunter Biden was very deep in negotiations with the federal government to try to reach a plea deal that would avoid a trial, and then those negotiations collapsed. So catch us up, Katie, on what happened next and how it is we got to this guilty set of verdicts.


Right. And it's been a real saga. As a reminder, this stems back to the administration of President Donald Trump. At the time, the President and other Republicans were itching to find ways to undercut the candidacy of Joe Biden. One way to do that is to look into the business dealings and life of his troubled son, Hunter Biden. Before Donald Trump leaves office, a federal prosecutor named David Weiss has been appointed to look into Hunter Biden in a wide investigation that is centered around Hunter Biden's finances. So flash forward to almost a year ago, exactly. Hunter Biden and his legal team have reached a deal with Weiss on tax charges and also this gun charge that would avoid jail time and basically avoid the outcome we just saw today. But when that plea deal gets in front of a judge, it becomes clear that both sides are not in agreement about what this deal means, particularly around the issue of whether or not Hunter Biden should face WICE, future charges. The judge sends them back to negotiate, but Hunter Biden's team opts not to do that. They decide to roll the dice, essentially challenges Weiss to take this thing to trial.


Weiss takes them up on it, brings the charges, and that led to the trial that we saw play out in Delaware last week.


That trial ends up being pretty narrowly focused on gun charges. Just remind us what exactly those charges are.


Basically, what got Hunter Biden in trouble is that during October 2018, he goes to a gun store in Wilmington, Delaware, looking to buy a revolver. He filled out a form that said, At that current time, he was not an unlawful user of drugs and was not addicted to drugs. That is one of the disqualifiers that gun sellers use to disqualify people from purchasing a firearms. Basically, prosecutors are saying that at that time, Hunter Biden lied to the gun dealer on that form, lied on the form itself, and illegally possessed a handgun.


Got it. They're saying he was, in fact, a drug user at that time.




Okay, so take us into the trial itself. How do federal prosecutors go about making their case that Hunter Biden lied when he signed that form?


Right. So essentially, prosecutors have to prove that Hunter Biden was addicted and an unlawful user of drugs during this period in October where he possessed a handgun. But throughout the trial, which was interesting, and the judge agreed that this was the case, they repeatedly said, We do not have to prove that he was using on the day he purchased the gun or even during the time he had the gun. In that sense, prosecutors have a really wide window of opportunity to essentially prove that Hunter Biden was a drug addict around this time. So prosecutors have a lot to work with. They have documents, including text messages, bank receipts, ATM, ATM, to present to the jury. But they also have a 2021 memoir written by Hunter Biden that extensively detailed his drug addiction, the depths of it, and it certainly involves a time during which he purchased this gun. He doesn't talk about it in the book, but there are passages in it in which he recounts buying drugs in Wilmington, the addiction he fell into with other family members, and snippets of that memoir, which were read in Hunter Biden's voice, were piped in by prosecutors into that courtroom.


Wow. So the prosecution starts with a pretty serious mountain of problematic evidence it would sound like for Hunter Biden, including his own words, documenting drug use during the period that's at the center of this trial.


Right. And on top of all this, on top of all of that evidence, they have witnesses who were very close to Hunter who detailed his drug use and the toll it took on them at some points, including his ex-wife, Kathleen Buhl, who was married to him for 24 years and recounted on the stand periods in which she struggled to get him into rehab, during which their marriage essentially fell apart because he was so deep into drug use and also infidelity. Then probably most powerfully, they called Halley Biden, who is the widow of Hunter Biden's older brother Bo Biden. Bow died in 2015. And after that, Hunter Biden and Halley Biden fall into a romantic relationship, during which she testified that she fell into crack cocaine use with him.


So Halley testifies that not only was she aware of Hunter Biden's drug use, but she actually descends into drug addiction with him.


Exactly. So What really came through during Halley Biden's testimony was the hell she described that she was in with Hunter Biden as they fell into drug addiction. She had said they were buying ping-pong-sized balls of crack cocaine and using them together. Hunter would disappear for days at a time, telling her that he was, quote, sleeping on a car and smoking crack. Eventually, she begins trying to clean out his car of drug paraphernalia, she stumbles upon this handgun that is in a lockbox in Hunter Biden's car. As she testified and as prosecutors displayed in court, Halley Biden was texting Hunter Biden at that time saying, I panicked, I just threw it away. He's admonishing her for doing that. It just really recounts this high drama, very messy period of time between people who are in the throes of addiction, and it is all around the time that prosecutors are most focused on.


Katie, as all of this testimony is being given and these really pretty embarrassing and painful details are being aired, what is the mood like in that courtroom?


The mood in the courtroom was somber and serious as most trials are, but it was also surreal because for most days of this week-long trial, Jill Biden, the first lady, was in the front row sitting directly behind Hunter Biden. So the first lady of the United States keeps her eyes on Hunter, on the prosecutors, on the defense team. Most of the trials, she left for one day to go to France, and she left the President's side in France to come back to this trial. That is the starkest illustration to me of the Biden family's priorities. At one point yesterday in the courtroom, I counted at least eight members of the Biden family. Hunter's uncle, Jimmy Biden, was sitting in the front row, as was his sister Ashley Biden, his aunt, Valerie Biden-Owens, who raised him in the first years of his life after his mother died, was in the front row. It had become a family affair. Sitting in that courtroom, watching the Bidons watch Hunter Biden on trial was a stark reminder that while some of the details of Hunter Biden's addiction have been startlingly public at times, the pain faced by the people closest to him has largely been private.


Seeing people like Halley Biden take the stand and detail drug use and recount this hell she had gone through, seeing Kathleen Buhl take the stand and talk about the time she tried to get him sober and couldn't do it was a real reminder that this large, very public-facing family had privately, for years, been trying to outrun this, trying to move on from it. It really did feel like this first family's worst moments of private pain were now on display for public consumption.


We'll be right back.


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Katie, with all of that sorted testimony we heard from people like Hunter Biden's ex-wife and ex-girlfriend, it feels like the prosecution went a pretty long way towards its goal of portraying Hunter Biden as somebody addicted to drugs. What was the defense's strategy once it was their turn in this trial?


The defense is trying to prove that during the time Hunter Biden bought that gun in October 2018, he was not addicted to drugs, but in fact was working hard at maintaining his sobriety.


How do they try to prove that?


They make the case that there is no proof that prosecutors can find that shows that he was actively using when he filled out that form or during the 11 days he had that gun. His attorney, Abby Lowe, who is a longtime criminal defense attorney in Washington, he's a very well-known Washington scandal lawyer, is doing all he can to inject doubt into this very, as prosecutors present it, open and shut case of Hunter Biden's addiction. For instance, Lowe tries to poke holes in the prosecution's argument that Hunter Biden would frequent a particular 711 in Delaware to buy drugs by saying there's no absolute proof through text messages, through location data, or otherwise, that Hunter Hunter was actually in that 7-Eleven buying drugs. At one point, Lowe says, You don't know if he's just there to buy a cup of coffee. That is the work of a defense attorney to say, Unless there is hard evidence showing him with a dealer, it could have been for any other reason than to buy drugs, and Hunter Biden could have been or believed himself to be sober.


I'm curious who the defense called to the witness stand in their effort to try to muddy this picture of Hunter Biden as someone addicted to drugs in this period.


The defense actually, most notably, called Hunter Biden's eldest daughter, Naomi Biden, to the stand. They try to use Naomi as a witness who understands that her father was, by her own words, hopeful and the best she'd seen him in a long time during this period of time. But upon cross-examination, prosecutors pull out There's text messages between Naomi Biden and her father that show a different story. During the time Hunter Biden had this gun, Naomi Biden is trying to meet up with him in New York City and is unable to reach him. At one point, she tells her father she's really sad, she can't handle this, she just misses him and wants to hang out with him. Prosecutors use those communications to establish that, in fact, this was actually not great. His own daughter could not reach him when they were in the same city.


So the defense is theoretically best witnessed to this idea that he was not a drug addict at this time, that he might have even been sober or on his way to being sober ends up being someone who essentially confirms the prosecution's claims that Hunter Biden is still not okay during this period.


Right. So by the time Naomi Biden leaves the stand, walks across the room, and wraps her dad in a hug for about a minute, it becomes clear that this testimony, and this cross-examination especially, did not go the way Hunter Biden and his team hoped it would have.


Of course, we know that this defense strategy didn't work because we now know the guilty verdict. It seems clear that this jury ultimately looks at all this evidence and says that while perhaps they didn't have a timestamped photograph of Hunter Biden using drugs or being high on drugs the day that he bought this gun, it very much seems from the testimony that the jury believed the prosecution's portrayal of him as someone very much in the throes of drug addiction at the time that he bought that gun.


Right. In the end, jurors took only three hours to return a guilty verdict.


Right. Let's turn to the reaction to this verdict, starting with Hunter Biden's father, President Joe Biden.


Right. Minutes after the verdict is announced and the first lady walks out of the courthouse holding Hunter Biden's hand. The President releases a statement reiterating his support for his son, how proud he is of what he called seeing someone you love come out of the other side of an addiction like this. But also, he says he is going to accept the outcome of the trial. Last week, he was asked if he would pardon Hunter Biden, and President Biden said no. To me, that's drawing a clear line of being a supportive father who backs his son no matter what, and a president who is not going to overreach and pardon someone who was just convicted in a court of law.


Right. That simultaneously seemed to be President Biden drawing a contrast with former President Trump.


Right. In an election that has been all about drawing a character contrast with Donald Trump, the statement itself strikes a contrast with Donald Trump, who has railed against the outcome of his own trial, has essentially lashed out at every aspect of this legal process. President Biden, by contrast, has quietly accepted the outcome and continued to say that he will keep embracing his son.


Since you raised it, the question of this conviction and the election, I think, is going to be on many people's minds. How does the conviction of the incumbent incumbent President's son on gun charges potentially impact the course of this election?


Well, at the very least, a conviction of the president's son shows that there were consequences in a legal trial that had some serious weight to them. All along, Republicans have alleged that the Biden-led Justice Department was going to let the President's son off easy. So So the fact that Hunter Biden was convicted takes some of the steam out of the Republican argument that he would get some sweetheart deal or be treated more favorably than Donald Trump would have been during his own hush money deal. Trial. That said, Republicans will use this, and Donald Trump will use this, to bolster this idea that the Bidons are a crime family, that corruption runs through the family. In fact, Hunter Biden is going to stand trial later this summer on tax evasion charges. Republicans are certainly hoping to, in the heat of a campaign season, attack the Bidons again on the grounds that the Bidons can't be trusted, essentially. I would expect to hear more of that in a drum beat as this campaign goes on.


Katie, I'm curious, in a country that's ravaged by a drug epidemic, is it possible that this conviction and watching Joe Biden reach out to his son and his family go through what it's gone through might not just be something that doesn't hurt Biden, and this admittedly gets complicated and cynical when it comes to politics, but potentially makes Biden more relatable to some voters and in some sense, is a political virtue.


I think there's a lot of truth to that. Americans have shown in polls that what they see of Joe Biden is a father supporting his son. That's not a political calculation on Joe Biden's part. I think if you know anything about the President and his relationship with his kids, it was forged out of great tragedy at the beginning of President Biden's career. They're extremely close because of that, and they're incredibly loyal to each other because of that. You just see that play out through the presidency. You're seeing it play out today. The President rearranges his schedule really quickly after the verdict to go fly home to Wilmington to see his son met Hunter Biden on the tarmac and gave him a hug. So there is that cynical part of you that thinks this is a play for sympathy or a play for Americans to see this family in a different way. But also, several of those jurors had family members who suffer from addiction. Most Americans know somebody or are related to someone who suffers. So from this. It's an incredibly universal problem that Americans deal with. For the President of the United States to be dealing with the fallout of that is relatable.


Katie, I think it makes sense to end this conversation where we began, which is grappling with the fact of these two criminal convictions, not just of Hunter Biden, but of Hunter Biden and Donald Trump. When Hunter Biden was convicted, it struck me, at least, that if we're being really honest with ourselves, both Donald Trump and Hunter Biden would probably never have been put on trial for these particular charges, a gun charge, in the case of Hunter Biden, a hush money payment. In the case of Donald Trump, had they not been President or been the President's son. That just feels like an objective reality. Trump came into the crosshairs of a Democratic district attorney. Hunter Biden came into the crosshairs of a Trump appointed US attorney. What does all of this say about the way that our legal system is now interacting with our political system?


Well, essentially, Essentially, we've entered an era where politicians are trying to use the legal system to their benefit and where the courts are going to feel more pressure to carry out their wishes. To be clear, that doesn't mean all of these cases are without merit or are going to be without merit, but they're now going to be carried out in this environment where politics, at the very least, will be the backdrop or at the most will a major factor. To me, it's looking a bit like it's the price of admission to presidential politics. As we're seeing with future cases against Hunter Biden and Donald Trump, this is clearly a phenomenon Americans are going to have to keep grappling with.


Right. Their politicians and even their politicians' children on trial.




Katie, thank you very much. We appreciate.


Thanks for having me.


Hunter Biden is likely to be sentenced in the next few months. He faces up to 25 years in prison. But because he is a first-time non-violent offender, the judge in the case may choose a more lenient punishment. We'll be right back. Here's what else you need to know today. In secret recordings made last week, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito told a woman posing as a conservative Catholic that compromise in America between the left and the right might be impossible.


One side or the other. One side or the other is going to win because there are differences on fundamental things that really can't be compromised on us. It's not like we're going to split the difference.


At another point, Alito told the woman who in real life is a liberal activist that he agreed with her claim that the United States must return return to a place of godliness. People in this country who believe in God have got to keep fighting for that to return our country to a place of godliness.


I agree with you.


The unguarded remarks made at an annual dinner attended by Supreme Court justices, reinforces Alito's reputation as a committed social conservative, intend on safeguarding the place of Christianity in American life, and they are likely to intensify questions about Alito's impartiality. Alito is already under fire for allowing two flags associated with the January sixth riots at the US Capitol to fly over his homes at various times following the 2020 election. Today's episode was produced by Shannon Lynn, Stella Tan, and Will Reid. It was edited by Devon Taylor, contains original music by Dan Powell, Marion Lozano, and Alisha Ba-Etube, and was engineered by Alyssa Moxley. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Lansberg of WNDYRLE. That's it for the Daily. I'm Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.