Hunter Biden's guilty verdict upends a top Trump talking point (2024)

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump's argument about the "weaponization" of the justice system just ran smack into a Delaware jury's conviction of President Joe Biden's son Hunter.

The result, according to some Republicans, is a major blow to one of Trump's favorite talking points — and a boost to Biden's case that he respects the rule of law.

“Hunter Biden’s conviction definitely weakens the argument,” said Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor who backs Trump and thinks he should be focused on the economy rather than court cases. “To me, the justice system is working.”

The younger Biden, 54, was found guilty Tuesday on three counts related to his illegal purchase of a handgun when he was using narcotics. The elder Biden was a major proponent of the so-called Brady Bill, which made it a crime for addicts to buy guns, and it was a special prosecutor working under his Justice Department who prosecuted his son.

Last month, Trump was convicted by a Manhattan jury on 34 counts related to falsifying business records to cover up hush-money payments to a p*rn-film actress in order to help his 2016 campaign. He faces charges in federal court over his retention of classified documents. And in separate cases in Georgia and at the federal level, he has been indicted on charges related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He has routinely accused Biden — without evidence — of directing a multi-jurisdictional legal campaign to take him off the political battlefield through criminal trials.

“This is all done by Biden and his people,” Trump said in a statement the day after he was convicted in New York. “This is done by Washington. No one has ever seen anything like this.”

His allies on Capitol Hill have called on the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, to testify on July 12 — the day after Trump's sentencing — before a House Judiciary subcommittee on the weaponization of government.

But some Republicans say that it will be hard to convince voters that Biden has turned the justice system into a weapon when his own son has now been struck.

Hunter Biden's guilty verdict upends a top Trump talking point (1)

“It, at a minimum, slows the momentum and the clear-cut argument that the Trump campaign previously had about Biden’s weaponization of the justice system,” said one Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid incurring the wrath of Trump's campaign.

“It’s less of a bumper-sticker than it was before,” the strategist added, concluding that it will be difficult for Trump to make a believable case that Biden put his finger on the scale to target Trump but chose not to save his own son.

That dynamic appeared to create a confusing complication for Republicans, who splintered in their responses to the Hunter Biden verdict.

Kash Patel, a former Defense Department official and a national security adviser to Trump, said that Hunter Biden's trial was just but Trump's was unjust.

"Hunter Biden's guilty verdict is a rare example of constitutional justice, one not where individuals receive biased treatment based on their last name," Patel said. "The jury was able to consider the prosecution and defense evidence in full, in accordance with due process — a right that was single-handedly bastardized against President Trump by the judge, jury and prosecutors in New York."

Patel concluded that "these trials expose the inequities in our legal system based on its weaponization, where political theater supersedes the Constitution" and "Biden's conviction demonstrates a fleeting moment of justice for all."

But Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt called Tuesday's outcome "nothing more than a distraction" from what she said are the "real crimes" committed by Biden and his family. Hunter Biden is still awaiting trial on federal tax charges.

Trump and his allies allege that the president has illegally benefited from Hunter Biden's overseas business dealings. Despite conducting a sprawling investigation into those claims, House Republicans have yet to produce compelling evidence that they are true. One of the witnesses Republicans relied on to advance the probe has since been indicted on charges of lying to the FBI about Joe and Hunter Biden.

Still, Stephen Miller, a top Trump White House official who still advises the former president, stuck to the script Tuesday.

"DOJ is running election interference for Joe Biden— that’s why DOJ did NOT charge Hunter with being an unregistered foreign agent (FARA) or any crime connected with foreign corruption. Why? Because all the evidence would lead back to JOE. DOJ is Joe’s election protection racket," he wrote on X.

But his next post suggested that the jury's judgment would benefit the president — to Trump's detriment — as he accused the Justice Department of running a counterintelligence operation against the public.

"The gun charges are a giant misdirection," Miller wrote. "An easy op for DOJ to sell to a pliant media that is all too willing to be duped. Don’t be gaslit. This is all about protecting Joe Biden and only Joe Biden."

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of the House Republican leadership who is often mentioned as a possible Trump pick for the vice presidential slot on his ticket, portrayed the verdict as less of a distraction and more of a turning point.

"Today is the first step in delivering accountability for the Biden crime family," Stefanik said. "We must and we will continue as House Republicans to investigate the Biden crime family for the corrupt peddling schemes that generated over $18 million in foreign payments to the Biden client family members."

Her view echoed that of Alex Pfeiffer, a spokesperson for the Trump-aligned political action committee MAGA Inc., who said that the legal pursuit of Hunter Biden would lead back "to one man: Joe '10% for the Big Guy' Biden."

Other Republicans quickly took positions that are more in line with gun-rights advocates in Trump's base, some of whom have long viewed the Brady Bill and its prohibition on drug users buying firearms as an infringement on the Second Amendment.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a top Trump ally in Congress, effectively yawned in a post on X.

"The Hunter Biden gun conviction is kinda dumb tbh," he wrote.

Between the Republicans who voiced their doubts about the continued effectiveness of Trump's weaponization-of-justice argument and those who played down the verdict or counterintuitively portrayed Hunter Biden's conviction as a sign of Joe Biden's alleged corruption, the consensus among Republicans seemed to be that the Delaware jury did Trump no real political favor in finding his political rival's son guilty as charged.

"I think this won’t matter a ton, but it undercuts the argument of a two-tiered system of justice,” said one Trump ally who made the case that the former president would be better off letting that line of attack wither. “The more that argument exists and is pushed, the worse it is for Trump. It’s too close to 'threats to democracy' and drives that issue — the only issue where Biden enjoys a lead.”

Jonathan Allen

Jonathan Allen is asenior national politics reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.

Allan Smith

Allan Smith is a political reporter for NBC News.

Katherine Doyle

Katherine Doyle is a White House reporter for NBC News.

Dasha Burns



Hunter Biden's guilty verdict upends a top Trump talking point (2024)
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