Jun 7, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Daughter's testimony rocks Hunter Biden trial

Naomi Biden, in sunglasses, leave the courthouse.

Naomi Biden (center), daughter of Hunter Biden, leaves the federal courthouse in Wilmington, Del., on Friday. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

WILMINGTON, Del. — If Hunter Biden's defense team thought that putting his daughter Naomi on the stand would make him a more sympathetic figure in his trial on felony gun charges, they miscalculated.

Why it matters: Hunter's oldest daughter, 30, clearly wanted to help her father convince jurors that he wasn't taking drugs when he bought a gun in 2018 and signed a federal form swearing he wasn't a drug user.

  • But probing questions and old text messages presented by the prosecution Friday made the president's son look more like an erratic dad than a good father who was getting sober in the week after he bought the gun.
  • Hunter's team scrambled in the aftermath of Naomi's testimony and unexpectedly withdrew a witness — likely the president's brother Jimmy, who was at the courthouse and was on the defense's list of possible witnesses.

Driving the news: Naomi testified that when she visited Hunter while he'd been going to a California rehab center in August 2018, he appeared the "clearest" he had been since his brother, Beau, had died of brain cancer in 2015.

  • She recounted telling her father that she was "proud" of him and that when she saw him again in mid-October, he seemed "great" and "hopeful."

But text messages introduced by prosecutors contradicted her description of seeing him at that time, just days after forms show he had bought a gun in Delaware and claimed he wasn't using drugs.

  • Hunter's defense team has acknowledged that he was an addict but has tried to prove he had a period of sobriety from crack cocaine — not alcohol — around the time he bought the gun on Oct. 12, 2018.

Zoom in: Prosecutors revealed texts between Hunter and Naomi from when he was in New York City that week. Naomi was attending law school there.

  • Hunter texted his daughter to swap Joe Biden's black Cadillac for Hunter's Ford Raptor truck that Naomi had borrowed one evening. But Hunter was unresponsive to texts from his daughter until midnight and 2 a.m., the texts showed.

After a few days of back-and-forth, they switched vehicles but then Naomi asked if she was going to be able to see her father soon:

  • "So no c u!?," she texted, adding a sad emoji.
  • According to the text read aloud in court, she added: "I can't take this...I just miss you so much. I just want to hang out with you."
  • Hunter replied: "I am sorry I've been so unreachable. It is not fair to you."
  • Naomi, who admitted to being "nervous" and had a bottle of water brought to her after coughing, said she didn't recall certain texts but acknowledged that her meetings with Hunter then were often brief.

Between the lines: Hunter's lawyers, led by Abbe Lowell, appeared surprised by the text messages even though they were from within days of when Hunter allegedly bought the gun.

  • Many Biden family members were present for the testimony including Joe and Jill's daughter Ashley Biden, the president's sister Val Biden, her husband Jack Owens, their daughter Missy Owens, and more.
  • First Lady Jill Biden had flown back from the D-Day ceremonies in France to be in attendance Friday after appearing in court earlier in the week.

When the court broke for lunch after Naomi's testimony, Biden family members looked shaken and crowded into a small room for the defense team, which was so full of people they struggled to close the door.

  • Naomi hugged her father on her way out of the courtroom and held hands with her husband, Peter Neal, appearing to wipe away tears as she returned to the witness room.
  • When she came out minutes later, she was wearing large black sunglasses under the fluorescent lights.

Reality check: Some people close to the family thought it was a bad idea for Hunter's team to call his daughter to testify in a trial that included his relationships with strippers and extensive details of his drug addictions.

  • But Naomi was willing to participate and vouch for her dad.

What's next: Hunter's uncle Jimmy Biden, who had helped get Hunter to a rehab facility in August of 2018 and was expected to testify about him getting clean, was waiting in the witness room when the defense team suddenly announced it wouldn't call another witness for the day.

  • The defense team hasn't decided whether Hunter will testify.
  • The trial is expected to end next week.
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