(WASHINGTON) — It seems clear from his comments over the years that the fatherly relationship Joe Biden has with his son Hunter outweighs concerns about appearances and political implications.
Biden has long maintained he was confident Hunter, 53, one of his two surviving children, had done nothing nefarious amid a federal investigation into the younger Biden’s tax affairs and overseas business dealings.
“First of all, my son’s done nothing wrong,” Biden told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle last month as prosecutors neared the end of their probe. “I trust him. I have faith in him. And it impacts my presidency by making me feel proud of him.”
On Tuesday, Hunter Biden agreed to plead guilty to a pair of tax-related misdemeanors, potentially bringing an end to the probe. The younger Biden will acknowledge failure to pay taxes on income he received in 2017 and 2018, and struck a deal with prosecutors regarding a felony charge related to illegal possession of a firearm.
The development comes just as President Biden has begun campaigning for a second term, and as congressional Republicans attempt at every turn to paint the first family as corrupt.
The charges are unlikely to satisfy those in the GOP who’ve been laser-focused on targeting what they call, without providing evidence, the “Biden crime family” and those lashing out at what they perceive to be a two-tiered system of justice in the wake of Donald Trump’s indictments.
The White House had largely avoided commenting on the investigation carried out by U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a Trump appointee, but maintained the president and his son never discussed the latter’s business dealings.
After news broke Tuesday of Hunter Biden’s plea agreement, White House spokesperson Ian Sams released a short statement.
“The President and First Lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life,” Sams said. “We will have no further comment.”
The administration had previously emphasized neither President Biden nor the White House had discussed the probe with the Justice Department, and Attorney General Merrick Garland said as recently as March prosecutors were operating free from any interference.
“That’s a matter that’s going to be decided by the Justice Department, by the legal process,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain said on ABC’s This Week in April 2022. “It’s something that no one at the White House has involvement in.”
The investigation began in 2018 and became public in December 2020, just after Biden became president-elect. At the time, Biden’s transition team released a statement saying Biden remained “deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger.”
The president commented on the issue only a handful of times since then, each time coming to the younger Biden’s defense and occasionally bristling at questions and accusations about his son’s conduct.
“I’m confident that he is — what he says, and does, are consistent with what happens,” Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper in October 2022. “And, for example, he wrote a book about his problems, and was straightforward about it. I’m proud of him.”
In his 2021 memoir Beautiful Things, Hunter Biden detailed his struggle with drug addiction (which he said entered a darker phase after the death of his brother Beau Biden from brain cancer in 2015) his relationships with his family and his attempt to build a successful business career while sharing a name with his influential father.
Hunter Biden described when his father came to check on him during one of his benders, writing: “”He looked aghast at what he saw. He asked if I was okay and I told him, sure, I was fine. ‘I know you’re not fine, Hunter,’ he said, studying me, scanning the apartment. ‘You need help.’ I looked into my dad’s eyes and saw an expression of despair, an expression of fear.”
Hunter Biden has been visible at recent White House events, appearing at his father’s side at a state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron and at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington. He also accompanied President Biden during his trip to Ireland.
When asked by CBS News’ 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley last September if any of Hunter Biden’s troubles have caused “conflicts for you or for the United States,” Biden said no.
“I love my son, number one. He fought– an addiction problem,” Biden responded. “He overcame it. He wrote about it. And no, there’s not a single thing that I’ve observed at all from th– that would affect me or the United States relative to my son Hunter.
It remains to be seen how the charges against him will impact President Biden’s reelection bid.
House Republicans have used their majority to launch an investigation and hold various hearings into Hunter Biden’s private dealings. House Oversight Chair James Comer, R-Ky., vowed Tuesday to continue those efforts.
Trump — who faces multiple legal troubles of his own, including federal charges for his alleged mishandling of classified documents — on Tuesday alleged Hunter Biden was slapped with “a mere ‘traffic ticket.”
“Our system is BROKEN!” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
President Biden’s last presidential campaign, too, faced swirling questions about his son and then Republicans were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempt to tie Biden to his son in the minds of voters.
In an effort to diffuse scandals burgeoning during the 2020 presidential campaign, the younger Biden gave some personal interviews discussing his addiction struggles and his past relationships, including one with his brother’s widow Hallie.
Hunter Biden, in a 2019 sit down with ABC News, defended the ethical implications of his private business dealings but conceded a misstep in failing to foresee the political implications on his father’s career.
“In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part. Is that I think that it was poor judgment because I don’t believe now, when I look back on it — I know that there was — did nothing wrong at all,” Hunter Biden said. “However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is…a swamp in many ways? Yeah.”
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