As Hunter Biden’s Trial Nears, President Biden Pulls Him Close

President Biden wakes up every day to a list of concerns he must address as commander in chief. He receives updates from his aides each morning on the war in Gaza and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He calls his advisers to quiz them about the latest polls and headlines.

But at the top of that list, people who know him say, is a concern that nags at him as a father: the legal problems of his son, Hunter Biden.

Hunter Biden, 54, is scheduled to stand trial this week in a federal court in Delaware on charges that he failed to disclose his drug addiction on a form when buying a gun in 2018. His legal team has called the charges politically motivated, and his attorneys intend to challenge the notion that Hunter Biden improperly filled out the form.

The president has weathered years of personal and legal scandals surrounding his son, who has battled alcoholism and addiction, and the trial is the most serious legal problem facing him since Mr. Biden was elected to the presidency. But Mr. Biden has refused to shut out his son or treat him as a political liability — in fact, the president has a tendency to pull his son closer the worse things seem to get.

Father and son were spotted on a bicycle ride and at church on Saturday afternoon in Delaware. Earlier in the week, they were together to mark the anniversary of the death of Beau Biden, the president’s eldest son who died of brain cancer on May 30, 2015. The Biden family had gathered in Delaware when news broke that former President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Biden’s Republican challenger, had been convicted of 34 counts in a federal hush-money trial involving a payoff to an adult film star before the 2016 election.

Hunter Biden has fielded questions from friends who have approached to ask him how he is doing. At a state dinner honoring Kenya in late May, the veteran Democratic operative Donna Brazile, who has known the Bidens since the 1980s, asked him how he was doing. He replied “as best as possible,” she recalled.

The president’s refusal to distance himself from his son has led to some uncomfortable juxtapositions: Hunter Biden was dining yards away from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, whose Justice Department is overseeing the federal charges.

Ms. Brazile added that she was not surprised that the president would invite his son.

“This is a dad who loves his children, and that is part of who Joe Biden is,” she said. “This is a guy who wants to get his life back,” she added of Mr. Biden’s son, “and find a better life and a better way of living so he can take care of his family. That’s who Hunter is.”

Both father and son’s advisers say there is little Mr. Biden could — or should — be doing to publicly defend his son as the trial approaches, according to several people familiar with the proceedings but who were not authorized to speak publicly about them.

Those people say that, unlike the flailing congressional effort to impeach Mr. Biden, during which Hunter Biden was summoned to Capitol Hill to provide testimony as Republicans hunted for evidence, this has little to do with the president.

Over time, Mr. Biden’s personal legal team has also distanced itself from his son, who last year opted to take a more aggressive approach when he dispatched the attorney recommended by the president’s personal lawyer and hired Abbe Lowell, a longtime Washington scandal lawyer known for a more pugilistic approach.

That legal team is now running low on cash as Hunter Biden faces the Delaware trial and another trial over tax evasion charges in California later this year. His attorneys have agreed to take on his case with no guarantee that they will be fully paid, and his longtime benefactor, a wealthy Los Angeles-based attorney named Kevin Morris, has privately fretted about his resources running dry after spending about $7 million to assist Hunter Biden with personal and legal problems.

Mr. Biden is expected to keep up with his habit of speaking with his son daily — as often as two to three times is normal — as the trial unfolds. And he will be monitoring the proceedings from afar, several advisers said, as he is scheduled to leave for a trip to France late next week, around the time prosecutors are expected to begin their arguments. Jury selection is expected to begin on Monday at a courthouse in Wilmington, Del., and continue into Tuesday.

“Being updated and communicating with his son while he’s at another international summit, is not viewed as a challenge or distraction for him,” said Michael LaRosa, who served as Jill Biden’s first East Wing press secretary and was a former special assistant to Mr. Biden. “From what I know and observed during my three years in their traveling bubble, this is a family that communicates daily and directly with each other.”

But Mr. Biden’s critics have questioned some of his recent outreach to family members. Last week, Mr. Biden visited the home of Hallie Biden, Beau Biden’s widow, whom prosecutors are expected to call to testify in the case. Prominent Republicans quickly assailed the president for visiting Ms. Biden, including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who said the visit was akin to “witness tampering.”

“I don’t know the frequency with which Joe Biden visits other members of the family — presidents do that,” Mr. Cruz said on his podcast. “What they don’t do with great frequency is do it right before you do it when you’re meeting with a key witness who is about to testify in the trial against your son.”

Ms. Biden dated Hunter Biden after Beau Biden’s death. In the fall of 2018, she took the gun that Hunter Biden had purchased and threw it in a trash can behind a grocery store. That episode led to Hunter Biden being indicted on federal gun charges five years later. Two people familiar with Mr. Biden’s schedule said that the president had gone to visit his daughter-in-law to mark the anniversary of Beau Biden’s death.

Another expected witness, Kathleen Buhle, was married to Hunter Biden for 24 years, and they have three daughters. Ms. Buhle wrote a memoir in 2022 that chronicled the toll that Hunter Biden’s addiction had on their marriage and the Biden family.

The case will be heard by Judge Maryellen Noreika, who scuttled a plea deal reached between prosecutors and Mr. Biden last summer. In April, Judge Noreika rejected a claim by Mr. Lowell that prosecutors had been motivated by animus against Hunter Biden, saying it was “nonsensical” that the Biden Justice Department would target the president’s son.

As the trial approached, several members of the Biden family, including Hunter Biden, his wife and several of his children, had gathered in the town of Rehoboth Beach, Del. The president and Jill Biden, the first lady, have a house there. In honor of Beau Biden, several Bidens were expected to remain there throughout the weekend.

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