Biden Defense Attorney Throws Hallie Biden Under the Bus

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

When your client has admitted, in writing, that he was regularly abusing cocaine during the same time period when he purchased a firearm at a gun shop, there aren't a lot of good options for a defense attorney... even one as highly paid as Abbe Lowell. During opening arguments in Hunter Biden's trial on federal gun charges, Lowell made clear his strategy: create enough doubts in the minds of jurors so that at least one of them refuses to convict, even if that means throwing other members of the Biden family circle under the bus. 

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During the opening statements, Lowell tossed out a number of claims designed to cast doubt on the government's version of events; arguing that perhaps the salesman at the gun store shouldn't have proceeded with the sale because Biden had only a passport, not a driver's license or government-issued ID;  Biden didn't consider himself an addict or an unlawful user of drugs when he purchased the revolver; and even suggesting that Hallie Biden is to blame for the drug residue found on the pouch holding the revolver. 

Defense lawyer Abbe Lowell walked jurors through the day of Oct. 23, when Hallie Biden found the gun, put it in a bag that she had taken from her house and dropped it in a dumpster behind a high-end grocery store.

The bag was then found, Lowell explained, by Edward Banner, who was going through the trash and took it home. In a box at Banner’s home, police later found Hunter Biden’s gun and a second gun Banner said he was saving for a friend.

Lowell made clear that from Oct. 12 to Oct. 23, Hunter never loaded the gun, carried it around or used it. When police took possession of the gun and the pouch it was in, Lowell said, they found white residue that tested positive for cocaine.

Lowell went on to suggest that the drug residue could have come from anyone who came in contact with the pouch, including Hallie Biden, who was Hunter's sister-in-law and, after the death of brother Beau, his romantic partner as well. 

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As NBC News reported, "It seems clear Lowell is throwing Hallie Biden, Beau Biden's widow, under the bus here." 

DOJ attorneys have said that Hallie Biden will testify against Hunter after being granted immunity, and her own drug use is expected to come up, according to prosecutor Derek Hines. 

“Hallie will testify about her own crack use” with Hunter, Hines said, acknowledging that the testimony will be “embarrassing.”

Hines revealed that both Hallie Biden and Zoe Kestan, a woman who was romantically involved with Hunter Biden, will be testifying under immunity agreements.

The prosecution will also call Kathleen Buhle, the ex-wife of Hunter Biden who shares three daughters with him and who did not use drugs herself. Buhle will not be testifying under any immunity agreement.

Laying out the three charges against Hunter Biden, Hines emphasized that on the third count, concerning his possession of the gun for 11 days, Biden did not get rid of the gun by choice. “The only reason he had the gun for 11 days is because Hallie took it from him,” he said.

Lowell's not trying to convince the jury that Hunter Biden never bought a gun, or that he's never touched cocaine in his life. Instead, his goal is to chip away at the government's evidence; raising questions about every assertion prosecutors will make in the hopes of putting reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.

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It's probably the best option available to him absent a plea deal that spares Hunter Biden from doing any time behind bars, but I think it's still going to be a challenge to overcome the weight of the government's evidence. Lowell, for example, argued in his opening statement that Biden was in "deep denial" about his drug use, and did not consider himself an addict when he bought the firearm. The problem with that is the Form 4473 actually asks if the buyer is "an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance". Hunter might not have considered himself an addict, but that's not really the issue. It's his drug use that resulted in charges, and if prosecutors can provide evidence that he was regularly using cocaine around the time he purchased the revolver it really doesn't matter if Biden believed he was an addict or not. 

Whether or not that should be the standard is another question altogether. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held in a case called U.S. v. Daniels that the statute in question was unconstitutional as it applied to defendant Patrick Darnell Daniels. The appellate court ruled that there is a historical tradition of prohibiting people from possessing or using guns while they're under the influence, but the tradition isn't so broad that it prohibits everyone who uses an intoxicating substance (legal or illegal) from possessing or purchasing a firearm. 

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I think the Fifth Circuit got it right, but both U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that Biden can only challenge the constitutionality of the statute during an appeal, not the trial itself. That helps to explain Lowell's strategy, but it's not going to make the Bidens' Fourth of July holiday get-together any less awkward, and it remains to be seen how effective it will be with the six women and six men who'll soon decide Hunter Biden's guilt or innocence. 

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