How timing of Hunter Biden trial could overlap with Joe Biden's re-election campaign

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WASHINGTON – Hunter Biden’s indictment on federal gun charges Thursday sets up the potential for a trial overlapping with his father’s re-election campaign.

Best case scenario? The charges are resolved quickly.

Worst case scenario? Hunter Biden is found guilty shortly before voters decide whether to give President Joe Biden a second term.

While the legal timeline is difficult to predict, Hunter Biden’s attorney doesn’t appear to be aiming for a quick resolution.

Usually, a trial date is set about 100 days from an indictment. Abbe Lowell has named several ways he plans to fight the indictment, making it unlikely his client would assert his right to a speedy trial.

Lowell argues the charges are barred under a plea agreement that fell apart in July.

He also asserts the charges − based on Biden allegedly possessing a revolver despite restrictions against people addicted to narcotics owning firearms − are unconstitutional. And Lowell said there’s evidence, which he declined to identify, that will exonerate Hunter Biden “when and if there is a trial.”

“On the facts, we think we’ll have a defense,” Lowell said Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden arrive at Fort McNair, Sunday, June 25, 2023, in Washington.
President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden arrive at Fort McNair, Sunday, June 25, 2023, in Washington.

Given the pretrial motions expected to be filed, the case may not get resolved until next spring or summer, said former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani, president of West Coast Trial Lawyers. It could go into the fall, though stretching it past the November elections might be challenging.

“I don’t know if it could get quite past the general election,” Rahmani said. “You either want to resolve it now or push it past it.”

But William Bike, a communications expert and author of a how-to guide called “Winning Political Campaigns,” is doubtful delaying the case beyond the election would help President Biden’s political future.

“Conservative media and the Republicans will continue to bring up every legal motion and court ruling in that intervening time to keep the issue in front of the public,” he said.

Bike said the federal charges against Hunter Biden are definitely a problem for his father and go hand-in-hand with the impeachment inquiry launched this week by House Republicans. Even if that inquiry fizzles out, it could still generate enough headlines, along with developments in Hunter Biden’s criminal case, to give the impression to voters that where there’s smoke, there must be fire.

“And so the Biden advantage over (Donald) Trump on the honesty issue itself goes up in smoke,” he said.

It’s Trump, however, who will be spending significant time in a courtroom. The former president, and frontrunner for the GOP nomination, faces six criminal and civil trials during the next year. The first, a civil trial in New York against Trump’s company, could start next month.

On Jan. 15, the same day as the Iowa caucuses, Trump is due in court to determine damages in E. Jean Carroll's defamation lawsuit.

In March, Trump’s trial on federal charges he conspired to steal the 2020 election is tentatively scheduled to begin.

Republicans, including those vying with Trump for the nomination, have denounced the charges against him, accusing Democrats of “weaponizing” the Justice Department.  They’d also attacked the defunct plea agreement between Hunter Biden and federal prosecutors as a sweetheart deal.

Now that that the Justice Department has filed charges against Hunter Biden that could land him in jail, that diminishes the weaponizing argument and takes away charges of favoritism, said Todd Belt, professor and director of political management at George Washington University.

“In a strange way, it actually reflects much more positively on (President) Biden,” he said.

While the president would obviously have preferred not to deal with the indictment of his son, Belt added, voters have traditional been able to disentangle the actions of a candidate from those of friends and family members.

“The number one issue going into the election will be the issue that is in every election,” he said, “and that is the economy.”

Contributing: Bart Jansen.

The charges Hunter Biden indicted on federal gun charges for allegedly lying about drug addiction

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hunter Biden trial timeline may collide with father's 2024 campaign