'Law and order' party keeps quiet after Hunter Biden verdict

By raging against Trump conviction, Republicans have painted themselves into a rhetorical corner

First lady Jill Biden, left, Hunter Biden and his wife Melissa Biden leave court on Tuesday. Getty Images
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The guilty verdict against Hunter Biden for illegally buying a gun while addicted to drugs should have been a banner day for Republicans keen to capitalise on the felony conviction of Democratic President Joe Biden's son.

Here was proof positive that the man they've hounded for years really had done something criminal – a vindication after endless investigations into allegations of wrongful financial involvement with Russia and China, among other things, bore no fruit.

So how did the self-described party of law and order celebrate the legal downfall of their mark? Let's just say it was awkward.

Republicans have spent months claiming, without evidence, that criminal cases against their leader, Donald Trump, are being conducted by a “weaponised” Department of Justice that is in cahoots with Mr Biden, who somehow is directing prosecutions against his rival ahead of the November 5 election. It's classic Trumpian projection, given that he has vowed to go after political rivals if he wins a second term in the White House.

Any legal decision against Trump is met with cries of “rigged” or “fraud” or “fixed” as part of a broad campaign to delegitimise the entire federal justice system.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has felt so attacked by Republicans and conspiracy theorists that he wrote an op-ed on Tuesday lamenting how “heinous threats of violence” have become commonplace against his colleagues in the Justice Department.

Trump's conviction on 34 felony counts last month was evidence of a rogue, “two-tier” Justice Department, conservatives said as they reacted with fury to the unlikely possibility the former president could serve jail time for what he had brushed aside as “book-keeping errors”.

Trump was convicted of falsifying business records during the 2016 election year to cover up an alleged affair with an adult film star.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis even said the man he once challenged for the Republican nomination had been convicted by a “kangaroo court”.

So Tuesday's guilty verdict against Hunter Biden underscored how far conservatives have painted themselves into a rhetorical corner.

Because the case against the President's troubled son was overseen by special counsel David Weiss, a Republican who previously served as the Trump-appointed US attorney in Delaware, any celebration of the verdict would undercut claims of bias in the Justice Department.

And Trump's normally vocal surrogates in Congress couldn't call for Hunter Biden to be thrown in jail for incorrectly filling in a form when he bought a handgun in 2018, as surely that same logic could also apply to a book-keeping error.

Joe Biden last week forestalled another line of attack when he said he wouldn't pardon his son were he to be convicted, though I imagine his calculus might change if Hunter Biden is looking at incarceration.

Republicans couldn't even cheer the application of a little-used law aimed at preventing drug users from owning guns, given that the rallying cry of conservatives is guns for all, and considering Louisiana ruled there can be no such infringement on a person's right to “keep and bear arms” under the US Constitution's Second Amendment – a case the Republican-packed Supreme Court is currently weighing.

An important distinction between the Hunter Biden and Trump convictions is that one case was against a relative of the sitting president and the other is against the man who stands a very good chance of securing a second term in the White House.

One Republican who did respond to Hunter Biden's conviction was Elise Stefanik, a New York congresswoman hoping Trump will pick her as running mate. She echoed a Trump campaign statement that said the case had been a mere “distraction from the real crimes of the Biden crime family”.

Expect to see plenty more attempts to tie Hunter Biden's crimes to vague claims of wrongdoing by his father ahead of the election, when Americans will be treated to the spectacle of a convicted felon running against the father of a convicted felon.

We live in strange times.

Published: June 11, 2024, 10:42 PM