Why Republicans are left disappointed by Hunter Biden's conviction

The Trump campaign reportedly thought it would be a fundraising bonanza for them if Hunter Biden was acquitted

By Heather Digby Parton


Published June 12, 2024 9:51AM (EDT)

Hunter Biden and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Hunter Biden and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden's son Hunter was found guilty in federal court of failing to properly fill out a form to buy a gun that he had in his possession for 11 days and never fired. Fair enough. What he did was against the law and a jury of his peers found him guilty. The case was solid. Biden was a drug addict back in 2018 at the time of his crime and he should have admitted it on that form. But people in the midst of an addiction crisis make bad decisions and often get on the wrong side of the law.

Hunter Biden's response to the verdict was to say that he was more grateful for the support of his family, friends and community than he was disappointed in the verdict. And he added, "recovery is a gift from God and I am blessed to receive that gift one day at a time." Joe Biden reiterated that he loves his son and always will and that he is proud of his recovery. He also said that he respects the outcome of the case and the judicial system. Both Bidens were restrained and solemn in the face of a serious legal outcome which, until recently, was simply expected from a president and his family. 

Some Democrats and legal observers wondered about the prosecutorial discretion in bringing the case which is very seldom done in circumstances like this,(as did a couple of the jurors) but across the board, they all respected the verdict and the judicial system. Nobody threatened anyone or vowed to take vengeance on them. Nobody accused the prosecutors, the judge or the jurors of being corrupt. Nobody said the proceedings were rigged. 

Well, actually, a lot of people said it was rigged — but they were all Republicans who simply couldn't take "guilty" for an answer. You can understand why. They've been sobbing and whining and rending their garments for weeks now over Donald Trump's guilty verdict in his Manhattan hush-money trial insisting that the Biden Justice Department (DOJ) had implemented a two-tiered system of justice to target Republicans, specifically Trump. And here you have that same DOJ prosecuting the president's only living son over a crime that Republicans insist is a violation of the Second Amendment. In fact, if it had been anyone else, much less the son of a GOP president, the NRA would have been holding vigils outside the courthouse. If Republicans still required logic and consistency to persuade their voters this whole thing would have been terribly confusing for them. Lucky for them, all they need is lies and demagoguery. 

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It's pretty obvious that talking points were prepared in advance considering the uniformity of most of the commentary. The main complaint was that the trial was orchestrated as a "distraction" from the real crimes of the "Biden Crime Family" and the nefarious deeds of the "Big Guy", President Biden. The same phrases were repeated by one Republican after another. The responses were not quite as hysterical as the ones we were subjected to in the wake of the Trump conviction but they came close. Former Trump administration official Stephen Miller slammed the verdict and the DOJ as "Biden’s election protection racket," a sentiment echoed by Republicans in Congress 

Trump himself has not made a comment as of late Tuesday night (although he did fire off one of his rambling, disjointed attacks on the Manhattan district attorney and remonstrated against his own conviction. ) But his campaign put out a statement immediately after the verdict:

"This trial has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family, which has raked in tens of millions of dollars from China, Russia and Ukraine. Crooked Joe Biden’s reign over the Biden Family Criminal Empire is all coming to an end on November 5th, and never again will a Biden sell government access for personal profit. As for Hunter, we wish him well in his recovery and legal affairs."

Minutes later they sent a corrected version striking that last sentence. We don't know who may have been upset by that small gesture of human decency but it's not hard to guess. 

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The fact is that President Biden could have replaced the prosecutor in the case, David Weiss, when he took office as he did all the other U.S. Attorneys and as is customary at the beginning of any new administration. He could have ordered the case be withdrawn or he could have pre-emptively pardoned his son. He did not do any of that so as to avoid any appearance of conflict and to allow the Justice Department to maintain its independence as it has been tasked to do for the past half-century. He didn't do it out of respect for the rule of law, something that the Republicans under Trump have completely abandoned, not that they ever had a surfeit of it to begin with. 

Taking a page from their leader's political manual, right-wing media and GOP officials at every level have adopted a manic, overwrought posture that's verging on demented. Obviously, it's hard for them to rationalize this guilty verdict in light of their recent frenzied insistence that Biden is rigging the judicial system to take down Trump but you'd think they would have at least tried to maintain a tiny bit of dignity. But then, they've completely abandoned any pretense of that as well, haven't they?

According to the New York Times, the Trump campaign is disappointed in the guilty verdict because they thought it was going to be a fundraising bonanza for them if Hunter Biden was acquitted. Even their loyal followers aren't likely to open their wallets over an alleged two-tiered system that just convicted the president's beloved son on federal gun charges. How disappointing for them.

Having convinced themselves that Joe Biden is a basket case, they were doubtless even more disappointed that he didn't break down as they expected him to do. Immediately after the verdict was reached, Biden gave a scheduled speech before gun safety advocates (a coincidence since they couldn't know the verdict would come down at the same time.) He was composed, professional and strong despite the fact that he was talking about the pain of losing loved ones and had to emotionally grapple with the fact that his troubled son was facing even more challenges to his sobriety, something that any parent dreads. 

All the Republicans got was this hug:

Normal people find that to be a sign of love and empathy. The MAGA cult sees it as a sign of weakness. They are wrong. 

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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Commentary Doj Elections 2024 Gop Hunter Bide Joe Biden Justice Department Republicans Trump