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Column: Addiction is messy, as the Hunter Biden trial proves

Hunter Biden and attorney Abbe Lowell
Hunter Biden, left, arrives with attorney Abbe Lowell at the O’Neill House Office Building at Capitol Hill for a deposition in a Republican-led investigation into the Biden family on Feb. 28.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
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Hello, and happy Tuesday. There are 153 days until the election, and today we’re talking guns, drugs and optics — in the courtroom and at the border.

President Biden is expected to make an announcement Tuesday that will curtail the ability of immigrants to claim asylum in the United States.

We won’t know the details until later. But what’s being floated is that Border Patrol will count the people who cross illegally each day, and if it exceeds a certain number, likely around 2,500, the U.S. will shut down the whole asylum thing — even at legal entry spots — until the number drops below 1,500.

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Those numbers are somewhat arbitrary but designed to garner Republican support, because they are far below the number of people crossing daily now.

There are a ton of problems with this plan, which I am going to dive into Thursday when we have all the details. But for now, here’s the takeaway: Donald Trump has successfully weaponized racism to the point that it has become a generally accepted (but false) fact that hordes of brown people are coming in with drugs, guns and the frightening intent to murder, rape and vote.

Because of that, we are giving up reform in favor of the optics of a closed border.

But optics matter in campaigns, and Biden has to do something to keep voters from freaking out.

Which brings us to Hunter Biden.

First trial of a sitting president’s son

President Joe Biden hugs first lady Jill Biden, his son Hunter Biden. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
President Biden hugs First Lady Jill Biden, son Hunter and daughter Ashley after being sworn in as president Jan. 20, 2021.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Trump’s historic trial is over (guilty!), but next up at the defense table is Hunter Biden, who has been under federal investigation for about six years. The jury was chosen Monday, and opening statements will likely start Tuesday.

Like Trump, the president’s son is charged with lying. For Hunter, it comes down to a “no” answer on a federal form — which translates to three felonies.

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Hunter bought a Colt Cobra revolver (that’s a .38 special) on a lovely Delaware evening in October 2018, a period in which he was either recovering from addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine or still going at it, depending on whom you ask.

At issue is an answer he provided on a federal form that evening certifying he wasn’t using or addicted to illegal drugs. He had recently gotten out of rehab but also really liked crack. And the prosecution says it has evidence indicating he was using in the days around the purchase.

If convicted, he likely wouldn’t serve jail time (but, of course, could).

But man, this story is messy. And yes, it does involve the infamous laptop.

The gun at the grocery store

Basically, Hunter’s girlfriend found the gun a few days after he bought it and threw it in the trashcan at a fancy grocery store. And by the way, the girlfriend was Hallie Biden, the widow of Hunter’s brother Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015 — a plot point I think they stole from a telenovela.

Anyway, Hunter got super-duper mad and made Hallie go look for the gun. But an old guy who collected cans from the garbage had found it and taken it home.

But Hallie didn’t know that and asked the store manager if she knew anything about the weapon, and police were called. Because that’s what you do when the president’s daughter-in-law is standing near the vegetable section talking about lost guns.

Cops opened a gun-theft case against Hallie because, technically, she had stolen Hunter’s gun.

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Oh, honey. Just put it in the closet next time.

Police found the trash-picker who had taken the gun home. Hunter declined to press charges against Hallie, and the whole thing seemed to end.

But then the feds got involved and dug up the form, and here we are. Hallie will likely be a witness, as will Hunter’s ex-wife, to whom he was married when he started the affair with Hallie. Pictures and emails from the laptop may make it into evidence as well, and anyway, Marjorie Taylor Greene blasted those sexually explicit photos all over Congress during an oversight hearing last year. ’Cause she’s classy.

Of course, all of this is salacious but really Hunter’s problem. The right-wing media, however, are using it as evidence of their “Biden crime family” conspiracy.

And though I in no way think there is a “Biden crime family conspiracy,” Hunter is making this really, really hard for democracy and really, really easy for Fox News.

But that’s not all

That’s not Hunter’s only trial. In September, the prodigal son will be in a Los Angeles federal court on tax evasion charges — which are more serious and, believe it or not, more salacious.

Turns out Hunter made a lot of money during his crack years but spent it on everything except the IRS. In fact, he failed to file his taxes for a bunch of years — in 2018, his ex-wife found their 2016 return in the trunk of his car, checks still attached. Crack, it turns out, is not great for your memory.

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Court documents in that case are filled with fun facts like these: Between 2016 and 2019, Hunter spent $683,212 for “payments — various women.” During the same period, he spent $188,960 on “adult entertainment.”

And of course, you’ve heard of the slightly shady-sounding international business deals Hunter was involved in, all of which will come up at this trial — and on the campaign trail. In fact, President Biden and Trump may be debating just as that trial starts.

And that makes the tax trial even worse for the president than the gun-and-drugs mess.

Because while many people addicted to drugs flame out and cause harm to loved ones at some point, Hunter had the means and opportunity to do it spectacularly. Honestly, we are talking endless bad decisions that would be fascinating and comical if they weren’t so devastating.

It’s clear Hunter capitalized off the Biden name.

You can bet that in those final weeks before the election, Trump’s team will pound mercilessly on the idea that Joe is corrupt and somehow involved in all of them.

And of course, he is — as a father.

“I am the president, but I am also a dad,” Biden said in a statement Monday, adding that he had “boundless love” for Hunter. “A lot of families have loved ones who have overcome addiction and know what we mean.”

And that’s where I’ll leave it. At least four people sitting on Hunter’s jury know someone who has struggled with addiction — as do most of us. From alcohol to fentanyl, addiction changes everything and everyone it touches.

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So I have a lot of compassion for Hunter and his family. The things people do while addicted are often painful to witness and painful to remember.

But the things Hunter Biden did may be especially painful in November.

What else you should be reading

The must-read: For Hunter Biden, a dramatic day with his brother’s widow led to charges
The TK: Biden Is Expected to Sign Order Letting Him Seal Border With Mexico
The L.A. Times Special: Elon Musk, America’s richest immigrant, is angry about immigration. Can he influence the election?

Stay Golden,
Anita Chabria

P.S. Last week, I worked with my colleague Jessica Garrison on this wild story about a California police department that coerced an innocent man into confessing that he killed his father — but his dad wasn’t even dead. They even threatened to euthanize his dog!

You can read the story here.

Thomas Perez Jr.
Surveillance camera image from 2018, when Fontana police interrogated Thomas Perez Jr. for 17 hours until he falsely confessed to the murder of his father.
(Fontana P.D. via Law Office of Jerry L. Steering)


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