As Trump's trial nears an end, the Bidens prep for a month in legal purgatory

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If May was the month of former President Donald Trump's legal troubles, June will be President Joe Biden's crucible as he watches his beloved son, Hunter Biden, face two criminal trials as the 2024 White House campaign rematch accelerates between the two men.

Though the White House and Biden's campaign team has stoically refused to discuss what they call an internal family matter, it is brutally apparent that President Biden is extremely protective of his youngest son.

"If you're in the White House, I think you simply put it at arm's length," said Doug Sosnik, who was Bill Clinton's senior advisor in the White House. "However, presidents are human beings as well, things impact them as normal human beings. Anytime you have a relative, sibling, child, brother, anybody in the family of the President who has got legal issues, it's gonna have some impact on the President, at least emotionally, but it's largely kept at a distance from the operation and the staff."

Hunter Biden's trial on federal charges that he had a gun when he was using narcotics, including allegations that he submitted a form falsely stating he was not using illegal drugs when he bought the revolver in 2018, begins in Delaware on June 3. The trial is expected to last a week, with a verdict possible before Father's Day.

A second trial, where he faces nine tax charges that carry a combined maximum penalty of 17 years in prison, is scheduled to begin June 20. That's just a week before the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden in Atlanta.

Together, the trials create more than a month of potential distractions for President Biden on the campaign trail and during preparations for the first presidential debate June 27.

Hunter Biden's lawyers are aware of the politics in the case. In a recent court filing they proposed asking potential jurors about how closely they are following the 2024 presidential election, how they feel about President Biden and what he has accomplished in the White House and how closely they follow news about Trump. Hunter Biden has accused Republicans of weaponizing his history of drug addiction to attack his father, and has called the charges against him, which are rarely brought, politically driven.

President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden attend the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on on April 1, 2024 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden attend the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on on April 1, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Trevor Parry-Giles, a University of Maryland political communications professor, said he expects the White House to continue remaining silent about the trials while Hunter Biden is in court, just as they largely did while he was under investigation by House Republicans over the last year.

"They've sort of bracketed off all of the Hunter Biden stuff off to one side and, I don't know that they want to get into a back and forth on it. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and it certainly doesn't make political sense for them to elevate that story or narrative when they're trying to elevate a whole lot of other things," he said.

Similarly, Parry-Giles said he thought the Biden campaign would be wise to tell the president to stay focused on reelection.

"Working with campaigns, the worst problem you get into is when somebody in the candidate's family is involved in something," Parry-Giles said. "I know that the campaign professionals are saying 'wait, we need to wall that off and keep our head in the game on the political stuff, on the campaign stuff, on the stuff that really matters, and not try and contaminate anything with all of this junk that's going on in the trial.'"

How much Biden can bracket off the chance his surviving son could face prison-time remains to be seen. Three Biden advisors told Politico recently that they are concerned about the toll the case will take on the president. The aides told Politico that there is no plan for a war room or response operation from within the White House.

The White House and Biden campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Every president since Jimmy Carter has had to deal with a family member flirting with legal trouble while they are in office. George H.W. Bush would "talk about unconditional loyalty and unconditional love" for his kids when his son George W. Bush had run-ins with law enforcement while drinking in his early 20s, a phrase the younger Bush then used when his daughter was caught drinking underage while he was president, Bush biographer Bill Minutaglio said.

Biden's well quoted commitment to his family, strengthened by the death of his first wife and infant daughter, might seem like a campaign trope or political spin to some people, Minutaglio said, but "there's a sense of unquestioning and deeply committed loyalty" between Biden and Hunter Biden.

"You can see that it gets under his skin when people come at Hunter and at the family," Minutaglio said.

Trump's trial in New York has been the focus of an otherwise quiet 2024 campaign for several weeks with the first ex-president to face criminal charges has been required to be present in the courtroom, usually four days a week. He is charged with falsifying business records to cover up hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels on his behalf ahead of the 2016 election.

Trump's defense rested its case Tuesday. Closing arguments are expected to take place May 28, with a possible jury decision soon after. Beyond the occasional snarky joke, the Biden campaign has ignored Trump's trial.

The Trump campaign is primed to lambast Biden over the Hunter Biden trial for weeks, especially during the first presidential debate, Parry-Giles said. House Republicans spent months holding hearings and making broad, unrelated accusations about Hunter Biden's business dealings and love life, which ultimately produced nothing. At one point, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., held up poster sized photos of Hunter Biden naked during a congressional hearing.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) during The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability hearing to Markup: 1 H.Res. Recommending that the House of Representatives find Robert Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Committee on Oversight and Accountability on Jan. 10, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

"I suspect that Trump won't be able to restrain himself," Parry-Giles said. "If past is prologue, they're gonna just scattershot this. Everything in there. Everything under the sun is going to be coming out and front and center."

William F.B .O’Reilly, a Republican strategist from New York, said Republicans will use the trials to attack both the media and the Bidens in “a told-you-so kind of way.”

“They'll argue that Hunter Biden was protected by the press in 2020,” said O’Reilly. There will also be comparisons of trial coverage of Hunter Biden vs. Donald Trump as a relentless drumbeat, he said.

This is the first time in the Internet era that the child of a president will face trial. That will make managing the trial narrative much more difficult for the Biden camp, he said.

“It's about to be open season on Hunter,” he said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hunter Biden’s criminal trials near as president preps for a busy June