Politics

Jill Biden Leaves France to Attend Hunter Biden’s Trial


Jill Biden, the first lady, left President Biden’s side in France on Thursday to make the trans-Atlantic trip back to Delaware, where Hunter Biden is standing trial on gun charges.

The first lady is then scheduled to return to France for a state visit on Saturday, according to her communications director, Elizabeth Alexander.

The departure of the first lady from a high-profile foreign trip was perhaps the most dramatic illustration yet of the Biden family’s personal priorities, which lie some 3,600 miles away from France, in Courtroom 4A of the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building in Wilmington, Del.

Hunter Biden is on trial on charges of lying about his drug use on a form to buy a gun in October 2018, and of illegally possessing the weapon.

The boomerang trip also says something about the resolve of the first lady, who is not a blood relative of Hunter Biden but who is the woman who raised him since he was a small child. Over time, she has become her family’s protective backbone.

“I’m his mom,” she said in an interview in 2022, when Hunter Biden was the subject of a federal investigation surrounding his purchase of the gun. “I mean, I have to support him and love him, and, you know, I’m constantly talking to him, sending him texts; ‘How you doing?’ Because it’s tough.”

A plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean shows just how tough.

The first lady is expected to be in the courtroom again on Friday after spending three days there so far this week. On Monday — her 73rd birthday — she followed hours of mundane interviews with dozens of prospective jurors. At breaks, she offered hugs to Hunter Biden. She comforted her daughter, Ashley Biden, who has also been a fixture in court this week and has at times grown emotional as her brother’s struggles have been cataloged. The first lady’s eyes stayed dry.

The Bidens like to stress that they deal with many of the same challenges — namely, addiction — that most Americans face, but this week, the family’s singularly complicated dynamics have been on display.

On Wednesday, the first lady stepped out of the room for the testimony of Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle, with whom she is said to have an icy relationship. On Thursday, she missed testimony from her former daughter-in-law, Hallie Biden, who dated Hunter Biden after the death of his older brother, Beau.

Because their relationship darkened and descended into drug use, Hallie Biden was a key witness for the prosecution: She had disposed of Hunter Biden’s Colt Cobra gun in a trash can outside a grocery store. The collapse of a plea deal between Mr. Biden and prosecutors last year led to charges that he had lied on a federal application while purchasing that gun.

Dr. Biden will want to be present when defense attorneys begin to call members of the Biden family. The list includes Naomi Biden, the first couple’s eldest granddaughter and a vocal defender of her father, and James Biden, the president’s brother, who was the Biden tasked with trying to bring his wayward nephew back from the grip of addiction.

Hunter Biden and the first lady, whom he calls mom, have a close relationship, according to people who know them. But the nature of their bond is different than the one Hunter Biden has with others in the family — namely Valerie Biden Owens, his aunt. She was the Biden who first moved in to raise Mr. Biden’s boys after his first wife, Neilia, and infant daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident in December 1972.

Hunter and Beau Biden were attached to Ms. Biden Owens, and their uncle, James Biden, who had also stepped in to raise the boys before their father started dating Jill Biden in 1975. The Bidens married in 1977.

Growing up, it was Beau Biden, Mr. Biden’s elder son who died in 2015, who shared her sense of humor. Hunter Biden wrote in his memoir, “Beautiful Things,” that he at times felt left out of their jokes. But he also praised her “for doing a great job, especially with everyone watching.”

In her own memoir, “Where the Light Enters,” Dr. Biden wrote that Hunter Biden was the Biden son “more like me.”

“He didn’t want to talk about his feelings as much,” she wrote, “and he didn’t always know how to express them as a kid, but he would always show you with his actions — he was warm and loving.”

Decades later, he would clash explosively with Dr. Biden when she helped lead a family effort to get him clean. In early 2019, when Hunter Biden was again reeling from addiction, Dr. Biden called him and invited him for dinner at the family home in Wilmington. It turned out to be an intervention. Hunter Biden stormed out of the house and left for California, where he continued to use, he wrote in his memoir, until he met his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden.

The extent of his addiction problems was not made public until the contents of a laptop he had left at a repair shop were publicly disseminated on conservative websites ahead of the 2020 election.

In the tumultuous years since, the first lady has tried to keep him close and telegraph her support by including Hunter Biden and his family, who live in Los Angeles, in East Wing events like the White House Easter Egg Roll. After he took up painting, she hung one of his pieces in her East Wing office.

She also publicly asserted his innocence as Hunter Biden was investigated for the gun purchase and tax evasion issues, the source of another round of charges for which he will stand trial later this year.

“Everybody and their brother has investigated Hunter,” the first lady told NBC News in the fall of 2022. “They keep at it, and at it and at it. I know that Hunter is innocent. I love my son, and I will keep looking forward.”

That is now for a jury to decide.



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