Hunter Biden’s ex-lover testifies in gun trial of US president’s son

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Hallie Biden told jurors she was “embarrassed and ashamed” as she recounted the sequence of events nearly six years ago that led to criminal gun charges against Hunter Biden, her former brother-in-law and lover.

Her testimony on Thursday represented a vital juncture in a federal trial of President Joe Biden’s son, who faces up to 25 years in prison on three charges that he lied about his drug addiction while purchasing a firearm in October 2018.

It also offered an unvarnished view of the Biden family’s devastation and struggles to cope in the years after Beau Biden — Hallie’s husband and Hunter’s brother — died of cancer in 2015. 

As Hallie Biden told the jury, she began a romantic relationship later that year with Hunter, whom she had known since childhood. As he mourned his brother, Hunter was abusing alcohol and sinking into crack cocaine addiction. 

At times he smoked crack at Hallie’s Delaware house, she said. Soon she would also become addicted to the drug — although she has since recovered. 

“It was a terrible experience I went through. I’m embarrassed and ashamed and I regret that period of my life,” she told the jury, as Hunter looked on from the defence table, occasionally propping his chin against a fist.

Behind him was a collection of friends and family, including his second wife, Melissa, and his aunt Valerie, the president’s sister.

By contrast, Hallie, 50, whose deceased husband was Delaware’s attorney-general and a rising political star, is now outside the Biden clan. She recently remarried and attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Beyond the personal and familial turmoil for the Bidens, the trial has also become bound up in a presidential race dominated by legal turmoil.

The most pressing cases have involved Donald Trump, who last week became the first former US president to be convicted of a crime, and still faces other trials, including over his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

On Thursday, a federal judge also ordered Trump’s close adviser Steve Bannon to surrender within weeks to begin a jail sentence — the latest ally of the former president to face prison time.

Republicans have responded to the legal problems facing Trump by homing in on the affairs of the president’s wayward son. Hunter Biden is also scheduled to stand trial in California on tax fraud charges later this year.

For Biden, whose portrait hangs in the Delaware courthouse and whose justice department is prosecuting Hunter, the trial is a test of his loyalties to his son and his office.

The bulk of Hallie’s testimony on Thursday focused on the pivotal events of October 23 2018. While Hunter slept at her home, Hallie Biden said she searched his truck to clean out any drug paraphernalia before her kids might find it. She discovered the gun in a centre console, put it in a bag, drove to a local market, and tossed it in a rubbish bin.

“I realise it was a stupid idea now. But I was just panicking,” she told jurors.

A series of frantic exchanges with Hunter ensued after he discovered the gun was missing and demanded that she return it. “Are you insane?” he texted at one point. In another message he wrote: “The fucking FBI, Hallie! It’s hard to believe anyone is that stupid.”

The gun was eventually reclaimed with the help of police. The trial’s central question, though, is whether Hunter Biden was using drugs when he bought it earlier that month from a Wilmington gun store. He answered “no” on a federal background form.

His lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has argued that Hunter Biden may have abused drugs before and after — but not on the date in question. He prompted Hallie to concede that she had not seen Hunter in the days before he bought the gun.

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Lowell also tried to minimise the significance of text messages that Hunter sent Hallie around the time of the purchase. On October 12, for example, when she asked about his whereabouts, he replied: “I’m sleeping on a car smoking crack.” Hallie could not be sure, he argued, that Hunter was telling the truth.    

The testimony captured the darkness of the two Bidens’ grief-stricken, drug-marred relationship. At times, Hallie appeared to be obsessively pursuing Hunter, either worried about his safety or suspecting he was with other women. At other times, each tried to help the other get sober — usually with frustrating results.  

“Everyone adores you and wants to feel like you’re safe,” Hallie texted Hunter at one point, pleading with him to return to treatment. “We can do this.”    

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