Updated May 25, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden's Justice Department keeps airing his family's dirty laundry

the bidens

President Biden and Hunter Biden during the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House on April 1, 2024. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Details of the turmoil in Joe Biden's famously-insular family keep being made public by the president's own Justice Department.

Why it matters: Some legal experts argue that the level of personal details in the filings ahead of Hunter Biden's criminal trials are meant to embarrass rather than prosecute, a feeling shared by many people close to the president's family.

  • The revelations are particularly painful for a family that prefers family matters to be guarded and can quickly exit people who break the code.
  • Hunter's ex-wife Kathleen Buhle wrote in her 2022 memoir when instructing her mother not to reveal that Beau Biden was sick: "After twenty years with the Bidens, I knew that everything in the family was meant to stay private."

In court filings this week and the original indictments, the special counsel's office said the upcoming trials would include materials from:

  • Hunter's divorce from Buhle
  • Text messages with family members including his daughter
  • Pictures and videos of him smoking crack cocaine
  • Receipts of money spent on clothes and "various women"
  • Tax documents from Lunden Roberts, a woman with whom Hunter had a child, and then he initially denied he was the father.

Zoom in: The trial in Wilmington set for June 3 about lying about his drug use on a gun form will include testimony from Buhle, his sister-in-law and ex-partner Hallie Biden, and potentially Roberts, according to the filings.

  • Weiss also includes texts from Hunter at the depths of his addiction around the time he is accused of purchasing a gun and claiming on the form he was not an addict.
  • One filing on May 20 includes a text message Hunter sent to Hallie on November 3, 2018: "I'm a liar and a thief and a blamer and a user and I'm delusional and an addict unlike beyond and above all other addicts that you know and I've ruined every relationship I've ever cherished."

Between the lines: Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney and a law professor at the University of Michigan, told the Washington Post that the filings were odd.

  • "If Weiss wanted to pressure Biden, he certainly could have shared all of this information with Biden's attorneys without filing it in a public document," she told the paper.
  • "Not sure what he is accomplishing by filing it publicly, other than perhaps prompting the witnesses to urge Biden to plead guilty."
  • John Yoo, a Berkeley Law School professor who worked in George W. Bush's Justice Department, disagreed and told Axios: "The details were certainly eye-catching, but they also show that he was spending money that seemed to exceed his declared income."

What they're saying: A Justice Department spokesperson said they had nothing to add beyond the filings.

  • Hunter's lawyer, the White House, and Buhle declined to comment.
  • Hallie Biden could not be reached for a request for comment.

What's next: Weiss' office said this week they will use documents and messages from Hunter Biden's laptop which the government says they obtained in the months after he left it at a repair store in 2019.

  • Democrats initially labeled the laptop as likely Russian disinformation in the weeks before the 2020 election.
  • But Weiss' office wrote in a filing Wednesday that "the defendant's laptop is real (it will be introduced as a trial exhibit) and it contains significant evidence of the defendant's guilt."
  • Hunter's team has challenged the authenticity of data extracted from the laptop and is expected to do so during the trial.

Weiss' filings reveal some the messy aftermath of Hunter's divorce from Buhle, including during the 2020 presidential campaign.

  • In June of 2019, soon after Biden entered the presidential primary and Hunter got remarried, Buhle filed a suit against Hunter in D.C. "because the Defendant had stopped making spousal support payments and refused to provide financial records," according to the special counsel's indictment last December alleging Biden broke tax laws.
  • She continued the suit throughout 2019 and into 2020 because Hunter "continually stonewalled the production of financial records," according to Weiss.
  • That dispute has not been fully resolved, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to Axios.

The bottom line: Both Buhle and Hallie Biden have kept their distance from the White House during Biden's presidency, even as their children have frequently been present.

Go deeper