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    Trump was hoping for a slam dunk. But Hunter Biden’s trial has only highlighted his father Joe’s dignity | Emma Brockes

    By Emma Brockes,

    29 days ago
    Joe Biden embraces his son Hunter after he was found guilty in his federal gun trial on 11 June 2024. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

    If you didn’t know better, you might think the jury that found Hunter Biden guilty this week knew precisely what they were doing. The evidence against the president’s son – that he lied about his drug use on a firearms form six years ago – was overwhelming, but so too was the impression of a trivial, overegged charge. But, by finding him guilty, the jury in this area of solid Democratic support have potentially done more injury to his father’s political rival than if they had found him not guilty on all counts.

    For those of us watching, the entire spectacle has at times been an uncomfortable exercise in flushing out biases. Like the Trump children, Hunter Biden has the demoralised air of a scion struggling to escape his father’s shadow, albeit in a different style. If the Trump boys are chinless dimwits, Hunter has about him the seedy air of a second- or third-tier Hollywood actor, clamped behind aviators and accompanied seemingly everywhere by his much younger wife.

    In September, the 54-year-old will face nine federal tax charges , and the business of the recovered laptop rumbles on (Biden’s laptop, which he accidentally left at a repair shop and the contents of which ended up in the hands of the New York Post, is still the subject of dispute; the Post’s claim that the machine contained evidence of incriminating emails was dismissed by liberals at the time as part of a Russian disinformation campaign – a claim that has never been substantiated ). And yet, when he was found guilty this week, I found myself thinking: poor Hunter, what a ridiculous verdict.

    As an exercise then, I went back over the coverage and tried to read it as if he were one of Trump’s sons. The charges against Hunter Biden were widely regarded as trivial. Still, a lie is a lie and as Biden confessed in his memoir, while addicted to crack cocaine he was an inveterate liar.

    After the verdict, the president wrote that he was proud to see his son “so strong and resilient in recovery” – a pathetic diversion, surely, from the trouble at hand. Hunter Biden, meanwhile, remarked that “recovery is possible by the grace of God, and I am blessed to experience that gift one day at a time” – a clear appeal not only to give him a free pass, but to find him inspiring because he’s an addict. This is a man, remember, who while dating his own late brother’s widow, got her on crack cocaine , too. There’s addiction, and then there’s being an arsehole.

    The odd thing about the business of trashing Hunter Biden this week is that Republicans have largely avoided it. In a plan they must have arrived at through strategic consensus, several leading Republicans spoke after the guilty verdict with degrees of sympathy for the president’s son. Senator Lindsey Graham, of all people – a man who fought for Brett Kavanaugh to be confirmed to the supreme court and has sucked up to Trump relentlessly – said: “I don’t think the average American would have been charged with the gun thing. I don’t see any good coming from that.”

    Matt Gaetz, the Republican congressman from Florida, tweeted: “The Hunter Biden gun conviction is kinda dumb tbh.” And other Republicans twisted themselves inside out to applaud the verdict while maintaining their insistence that the justice system under President Biden is rigged.

    This is the problem they face in the wake of a verdict that, after only three hours of deliberation, came in even quicker than Trump’s 34 guilty counts last month: exactly how to sustain the narrative that US justice is untrustworthy. If Trump’s efforts to get the phrase “Biden crime family” off the ground haven’t flown the way “crooked Hillary” or “lyin’ Ted” did, it is partly because it doesn’t scan, partly because Hunter seems so slight and pathetic a figure, and partly because “Biden” doesn’t have the ring of a dynastic mafia name about it.

    My own efforts to see past my own biases, meanwhile, foundered when the president, who had earlier stated that if his son were found guilty he wouldn’t pardon him , doubled down on Tuesday with the statement that he would “continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal”.

    Gets me every time, Joe Biden’s loving but strong-boundaried support of his son. Hunter Biden has, in some ways, had a very hard life, losing his mother and infant sister in a horrific car accident in childhood, and his brother to a brain tumour in 2015. But when the president stands firmly behind him, urging him on, one understands he is the beneficiary of something Trump’s kids have never had, and that should perhaps increase our sympathy for them: a decent, loving parent.

    • Emma Brockes is a Guardian columnist

    • Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a response of up to 300 words by email to be considered for publication in our letters section, please click here .

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