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Hunter Biden conviction puts wrinkle into 2024 campaign

Hunter Biden’s guilty verdict has thrown new ripples into the 2024 election campaign between President Biden and former President Trump ahead of the November presidential election.

For Biden, the ruling undermines Republican claims of a dual justice system and the Justice Department being used as a weapon against the president’s political opponents. But people close to Biden said the personal blow will be huge for someone close to his family, as evidenced by a hastily arranged trip to Delaware to be with his son after the ruling.

David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to the Obama administration, said the biggest issue following the verdict was the psychological impact on Biden.

“Joe Biden has lost two children and watched his son struggle with drug addiction. This is a blow. This is a blow,” Axelrod said on his podcast, “Hacks on Tap.”

But the ruling also delivers a curveball to Trump and his campaign, who must carefully consider how much to attack the president over his son. Trump has previously called for a special counsel to investigate the Bidens and frequently denounced Biden as a “cheater,” but has also spoken openly about his own family’s struggles with addiction.

“It’s a very tough situation for the father. It’s a very tough situation for the brothers and sisters. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, whatever it is, it continues and it’s not going to stop,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday, two days after Hunter Biden’s conviction. “It’s a tough moment for any family that’s involved in this.”

Eleven days after Hunter Biden was convicted, Trump was convicted on very different charges: Hunter Biden was convicted of three federal firearms charges for lying about being a drug addict when buying a firearm, while Trump was convicted of 34 felony counts in a hush-money case, including falsifying business records.

However, the defendants’ reactions to their respective sentences could not have been more different.

Trump has frequently criticized the judge in his own case, often labelling him as “rigged” and directly criticising President Biden, but in Hunter Biden’s case, both Trump and his father said they accepted the jury’s verdict while acknowledging his son Biden’s recovery efforts.

“Politically, [Tuesday] “This speaks to the ultimate character contrast between the two men running for president: a family man and a businessman,” said Michael LaRosa, who served as press secretary to first lady Jill Biden during the 2020 campaign. “While Trump and his family throw tantrums, whine and denounce the judge and the justice system, the president and the Biden family have shown nothing but humility and respect for the process, the jury, the judge and the system, even in the heartbreaking final moments.”

The conflicting rulings have Republicans wondering whether there are any strong arguments Republicans can use against Hunter Biden if he is convicted.

” [Hunter Biden] “The guilty verdict will certainly serve as a ‘but Hunter’ rebuttal to criticism of Trump’s ethics from the left, but the fact that this is over clearly personal conduct, not public conduct, means it’s probably more of a word than an argument,” said Stewart Verdery, who served as assistant secretary of Homeland Security under the Bush administration and is now CEO of Monument Advocacy.

The trial in Wilmington was attended by the president himself as well as several members of the close Biden family, including first lady Jill Biden. After the verdict, Biden made an unscheduled visit to Wilmington before leaving for Italy on Wednesday to see his son.

The personal nature of the Hunter Biden trial is one reason Republicans are reluctant to politicize a Hunter Biden conviction.

One GOP strategist noted that the case deals with gun rights and addiction, two subjects on which Republicans may actually be sympathetic to the president’s son.

“The Justice Department is correct about weaponization,” the Republican strategist said, noting that Hunter Biden initially pleaded guilty to low-level tax evasion and took a plea deal to avoid prosecution on firearms-related charges.

“Republicans don’t care about gun control. It’s not about gun control. It’s never been about gun control,” the strategist said. “It’s about taxes and paperwork and the nexus with overseas activities.”

As Election Day approaches, Hunter Biden is likely to face a new set of legal troubles in the midst of a general election campaign.

The president’s son is scheduled to stand a separate trial in September on federal tax charges, and a sentence in the firearms case is due to be handed down later this year. Trump is also embroiled in three state and federal lawsuits stemming from efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and possible mishandling of classified documents, but those cases are almost certain to reach a jury by Election Day.

Still, when Biden and Trump face off in their first presidential debate in June, the legal battle could come to the forum, potentially offering a glimpse into how each side handles what happens in court.

Biden’s campaign has repeatedly called Trump a “convicted felon” and during the trial Biden mocked Trump for being “free on Wednesdays” – a day when court is not in session.

The Trump campaign has long attacked the Biden family as criminally corrupt, but since Hunter Biden’s conviction, Trump and the Republican Party have been fairly quiet in attacking Hunter and his father.

The personal blow to Biden will also resonate with a broader electorate. In his first statements on his son’s sentence, the president appealed to families struggling with addiction, saying he understood the sense of pride that comes from seeing a loved one recover.

Former White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said people resonated with conversations about the Biden family’s hardships during the 2020 campaign.

“Even people who weren’t all that sympathetic to Biden politically resonated with the way he talked about his family and supported his son,” she told CNN on Tuesday.