The mistake of conflating historic criminal convictions: Donald Trump and Hunter Biden are not equal

Two different juries may be pointing to the same coming reckoning for both Biden and Trump

By Brian Karem


Published June 13, 2024 9:21AM (EDT)

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

Tuesday was an odd day at the White House. Press secretary Karine-Jean Pierre originally scheduled a press briefing for 2:30 p.m. However, a short time after the noon hour, she canceled it. We were told that President Biden’s scheduled speech at the Washington Hilton about matters grave and somber precluded the need for a briefing that day – though originally both were scheduled to occur.

It was no big deal we were told. Situation normal. Nothing to see here. Move along. The truth was President Biden’s son, Hunter, had just been found guilty of the felony purchase of a handgun that morning, and there was no way the press secretary wanted to face an hour’s worth of questions about that.

The president didn’t either. When he showed up in public, though he spoke for more than 15 minutes, he made no mention of it and took no questions from the in-town press pool. Fox News, Newsmax and every Republican congressman on Capitol Hill (in no particular order) called the president and his administration a bunch of cowards for failing to address the historic turn of events; a son of a sitting president found guilty of a felony. These were the same people who, just last week, didn’t want to talk about the historic turn of events that led to a former president being found guilty of a felony. But since hypocrisy is as common as narcissism in D.C., it is no longer newsworthy to point this out – though we should.

I made it to the briefing room Tuesday only to find Jeanne-Pierre had canceled the briefing, so I headed to the Upper Press offices of the president to find out why. I offered my usual cheerful greetings and turned to see the press secretary at her desk eating something. “Good afternoon,” I said, and before I could ask for a response to the administration being called cowardly by its opponents, a young press assistant jumped up, and closed the door to the press secretary’s office.

Meanwhile, less than five minutes after a jury convicted Hunter Biden of a felonious purchase of a firearm, Second Amendment enthusiasts were dropping me texts and emails.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg with the Biden clan. They’re the most crooked family to ever take power in the United States,” one person wrote. 

“This is all a smoke screen for Biden crimes,” another said. 

“He should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” one Republican Hill staffer told me.

As misguided as some of the reactions to Trump’s and Hunter Biden’s convictions in the last week have been, we are witnessing the seeds of a revolution against the extremely wealthy and powerful that could bring about universal justice and usher in an era of equal rights for everyone.

It is, without a doubt, the first time I’ve ever heard a Republican wanting to send someone to prison for purchasing a firearm. Hell, they defend murderers and child molesters who purchase firearms. Maybe if Hunter’s last name had been Rittenhouse, they’d have been on his side.

Curiously none of them wanted to talk about Donald Trump being a convicted felon. All of them wanted to claim that the Justice Department’s prosecution of Hunter was for the purpose of going after the Biden “crime family” while simultaneously being controlled by the Bidens as part of a “False Flag” event that is hiding the Biden “Crime syndicate and its plans to go after Donald Trump.”

While it is tempting to wonder which comic book influenced their lives the most, and equally tempting to point out the absurdity of holding up two incongruous events as an indication of a dystopian reality that doesn’t exist, I must confess I grow bored with this particular low-rent comedy. I was never a comic book fan, I demand vetted facts and I’m positive there is something of greater interest going on.

Make no mistake, these people do care about their country. They do believe in the idea of the Constitution – they just don’t know what it is and how it works.

Both Donald Trump’s and Hunter Biden’s convictions are indicative of a deeper problem. Like Peter Finch in the movie “Network,” people are mad as hell and they don’t want to take it anymore. But most of them still can’t figure out what they’re really upset about, so they focus their anger on people of a different color, religion, sex or sexual orientation. It’s easier. But it’s wrong.

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Both Donald Trump and Hunter Biden have excellent cases to review for an appeal. Trump’s boils down to the statute of limitations, and whether or not the felony charge is correct.

Biden has the more interesting avenue. The statute under which he was charged for a felony is vaguely written and there is a great chance it could end up as an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court on claims that the state charge undermines the rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment. I will simply laugh and watch heads spin as the NRA and Trump supporters may have to shelve their hatred for Biden to support their God-given right to bear arms with bare arms. 

Then again, they won’t. They will contort and twist the facts and claim it was all Biden’s evil genius plan to thwart the Second Amendment by being convicted of a felony. It's the same lack of logic that they employed when a few Trumpers sent me text messages saying Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election on purpose so the Democrats could impeach Donald Trump. 

In both of the recent criminal convictions it is doubtful either case would have made it to trial if the defendants had different surnames. Lying about drug use on an application to purchase a handgun that was thrown in the trash 11 days later is nothing compared to the people who do far worse every day while purchasing and even using a handgun. Lying about hush money to a porn star wouldn’t get you arrested unless you’re running for president and have years of lying and grifting in your past.

Two juries found them guilty. I trust the process in both cases. I trust the grand juries and the petit juries, the prosecution and the defense. Both men are now convicted felons. I do not believe either should be punished too severely for their convictions. I still think Trump should stand trial for his far worse affronts to the law – and if found guilty should never be allowed outside of a cage for the remainder of his life. Justice would be served.

The deeper issue in all this, and what we rarely talk about is that people are simply fed up with the rich and powerful getting away with everything and they do not know how to vent their wrath. I know most Trumpers believe they are screwed by the “Deep State.” I’ve heard them say the rich get away with everything and the poor pay the price. Their flaw is they believe Trump can deliver them from the evil of which he is a part. That’s kind of like asking a cannibal to become a vegetarian. It ain’t gonna happen. And I’m not talking about the evangelicals or those rich supporters of Trump’s. One group believes their soul is invested in Trump, and the others have their wallets invested in Trump.

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President Biden should see this as an opportunity and with the right spin on it, he could politically profit from this. 40 years of Reaganomics has produced an angry class of voters. The chants of “Make America Great Again” resonate with millions for a good reason – it’s just that Trump is exploiting those voices for his own gain while the Democrats have given up trying to reach those voters because the Democrats believe those voters have lost their souls to Trump.

There are many Democrats who believe Biden has, thus far, led a vapid and lifeless campaign against Donald Trump. The Democrats say Donald Trump “kills everything he touches” while the Republicans believe Biden puts them to sleep — a sentiment even some Democrats embrace. James Carville is among those who didn’t want Biden to run for a second term, but he is nonetheless supporting the president for a very good reason: Biden has been effective and he’s not a seditious clown.

There is good reason to believe that both sides of the political divide will forever lose themselves in deciding who is more corrupt, who is the greater danger to America and forgetting the greater existential threat to humanity. Authoritarians are thriving in Russia, China, North Korea, parts of Europe, Africa and South America. It is the age-old battle between the haves and the have-nots. We face both the increased chance of a nuclear conflagration as well the threat of a technological Dark Ages where only the rich have access to anything they want and the rest of us are left fighting over scraps.

For one moment stop and consider the battles over health care, education, abortion rights and contraceptives. Does anyone doubt that the rich will have access to the best of all of those no matter what laws we enact or who is in power? 

Perhaps, as misguided as some of the reactions to Trump’s and Hunter Biden’s convictions in the last week have been, we are witnessing the seeds of a revolution against the extremely wealthy and powerful that could bring about universal justice and usher in an era of equal rights for everyone. There’s a thought for a politician to run with – if they dare.

Or, it could just be we are seeing nothing more than the continuation of the destruction of justice, with Hunter Biden paying a steep price he shouldn’t have to pay, and Donald Trump getting away with whatever he wants with a wrist slap, while anyone who opposes the rich and the powerful suffers for their insolence.

Man, I sure wish the White House was more communicative about all of this.

By Brian Karem

Brian Karem is the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy. He has covered every presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, sued Donald Trump three times successfully to keep his press pass, spent time in jail to protect a confidential source, covered wars in the Middle East and is the author of seven books. His latest is "Free the Press."

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