President offers love and pride for his son’s addiction recovery after Hunter Biden’s guilty verdict

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden kept his distance from the courtroom where his son Hunter stood trial on felony gun charges to avoid any appearance of meddling but his quick statement reacting to the jury’s guilty verdict Tuesday spoke to where his heart has been all along.

“Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today,” Biden wrote. “So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.”

After the verdict was announced, the White House canceled press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s scheduled briefing and announced that Biden would spend the evening in Delaware.

Biden aides and allies have privately worried about the toll a guilty verdict would take on the 81-year-old president, for whom personal loss has been closely intertwined with his public life. They say the president is less worried about any personal political cost he might incur, than concerned as a father for a son who is only a few years removed from the throes of severe drug addiction.

The verdict came shortly before the president was scheduled to give a speech on his administration’s efforts to limit gun violence and toughen enforcement of gun laws at a conference hosted by the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund in Washington.

From there, Biden is traveling to his Delaware home on Tuesday afternoon, where he was expected to gather with his family, including Hunter, before departing for Italy on Wednesday morning to attend the Group of Seven summit. Biden spent more time than usual in Wilmington while the trial was under way, part of a family show of support for Hunter.

First lady Jill Biden was in the courtroom nearly every day — and made a 24-hour commute back from France to be there for testimony on Friday — but she just missed being there when the verdict came down on Tuesday. She arrived back to the courthouse just minutes after the foreperson three times intoned “guilty.” A collection of other family members were there throughout the trial.

The president himself did not attend court, but was closely following the proceedings, with updates often coming from the first lady. Yet, every day as Hunter arrived to the courthouse, he passed a portrait of his father hanging on the wall as he walked through the doors.

Hunter Biden, in his own statement, like his father spoke to family ties and the process of recovery.

“I am more grateful today for the love and support I experienced this last week from Melissa, my family, my friends, and my community than I am disappointed by the outcome,” Hunter Biden said in a statement, mentioning his wife first. “Recovery is possible by the grace of God, and I am blessed to experience that gift one day at a time.”

The trial was a highly personal tour of Hunter Biden’s drug use and mistakes. Jurors listened to hours of testimony from Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, a former girlfriend and his brother’s widow, who between them painted a picture of strip club trips, infidelity, habitual crack use and their failed efforts to help him get clean. Jurors saw images of the president’s son bare-chested and disheveled in a filthy room and half-naked holding crack pipes. And they watched a video of his crack cocaine being weighed on a scale.

Prosecutors argued the evidence was necessary to prove to jurors that the 54-year-old was in the throes of addiction when he bought the gun, and therefore lied on a gun-purchase form when he said he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs.

“The evidence was personal. It was ugly, and it was overwhelming,” prosecutor Leo Wise argued. “It was also absolutely necessary.”

Wise encouraged jurors during deliberations to weigh the evidence. Then he swept his hand across the room, directing them to look at the gallery and the clutch of Biden family members seated in courtroom.

“All of this is not evidence,” he said. “People sitting in the gallery are not evidence.”

Even Republican critics acknowledged the pain for the Biden family.

“Anybody who has a child, I have children of my own, anybody who has children, this is devastating to them,” said Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa.

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AP’s Dan Huff contributed to this report.

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