‘The system is fair’: Pa. voters unlikely to be bothered by Hunter Biden conviction

There appears to be little fanfare after a guilty verdict came down in the second most high-profile felony case of a political figure during the 2024 race for president.

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Hunter Biden entering the courtroom

Hunter Biden arrives at federal court, Tuesday, June 4, 2024, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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In the 2024 presidential race, it’s not just campaign promises making headlines. With President Biden’s son, Hunter, snagging a federal conviction hot on the heels of former President Trump’s state charges in New York, it seems the candidates’ family rap sheets are the latest must-read.

How will the latest verdict impact the election in a state where the margins can swing on just about any political news? According to Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, it probably won’t mean much.

“People will talk about it but the idea that the president’s son’s legal problems would have a major impact on voters’ preferences in the race seems quite limited,” Borick told WHYY News.

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The younger Biden was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice and convicted on three counts that stem from his purchase of a firearm in 2018, for which he had to fill out a form in which he declared that he was not using illegal drugs. Hunter, however, has a history of addiction to crack cocaine and the jury determined he was lying.

The trial consisted of difficult testimony by family members, including Hunter’s daughter, Naomi Biden, who was asked about her father’s drug use and his neglect.

Hunter is facing up to 25 years in prison.

Republican politicians in Pennsylvania have largely been silent. The Trump campaign’s national press secretary called it “nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden crime family, which has raked in tens of millions of dollars from China, Russia and Ukraine.”

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Borick argues that the verdict will likely blunt the claim by Trump and other Republicans that the system is rigged.

“Having the president’s son, while the president’s in office, be convicted of crimes and face punishment allows Democrats, including the Biden campaign, to claim that the justice system is fair and it works and it provides treatment across the political spectrum,” he said.

However, while President Biden said that he accepted the verdict and would not pardon Hunter, the White House press secretary did not rule out a commutation, which Borick said would be a mistake.

“If the president were to intervene in any way, I think there would be political repercussions and just absolutely feed into the case that former President Trump likes to make,” he said. “I think it would be costly for the former president, as much as he may want to support his son.”

The legal troubles are not over for either of America’s two most famous recently convicted felons. Hunter Biden is still facing nine federal tax charges in a second case brought by the same special counsel, David Weiss. Donald Trump faces charges that he illegally retained classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort and on obstructing the results of the 2020 election.

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