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Inside Hunter Biden’s New Charm Offensive

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When Hunter Biden spoke about his work to stay sober in a rare interview this week, it marked a new phase of Hunter’s private life affecting his father’s public image.

Four years after a presidential campaign in which he kept out of the spotlight—as his substance abuse battles and business dealings were mocked or scrutinized by Republicans—Joe Biden’s only surviving son is now preparing to be more vocal and aggressive in shaping his own narrative and responding to GOP attacks, according to several sources close to the Biden campaign.

But these sources were clear that this shift was not a deliberate White House or campaign-driven strategy. In fact, Biden’s own staff were not told in advance about Hunter’s interview with Axios, according to a source close to the president.

Instead, Hunter Biden’s increased visibility is part of his son’s own growing eagerness to more directly counter attempts from Republicans to damage his reputation and his father—a tactic that will surely be reprised by Donald Trump and his allies as they seek to win a 2024 rematch for the presidency.

In the view from the president’s orbit, it’s a welcome development.

“Those of us who are out there fighting the battle, including many in the White House, were proud to see him stand up and call bullshit on this stuff,” a Democratic strategist plugged into Bidenworld told The Daily Beast. “It showed not just bravery, but strength. Particularly with Republicans, that’s sometimes the only thing they respond to.”

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How and when Hunter Biden appears in public will be up to him and his team, according to those close to the Biden campaign. Don’t expect him to be enlisted as a frequent presence on the campaign trail anytime soon, for instance, even if he is more vocal in defending himself and his family.

The Biden campaign, meanwhile, will be more proactive than it was in 2020 in combating attacks on Hunter.

While the Biden team does not intend to respond to every Republican jab at the president’s son, they will leverage their rapid-response staff to vigorously push back any time Trump or other high-profile Republicans go after him, according to four sources close to the campaign and White House with knowledge of the strategy discussions.

Advised by an aggressive team fronted by his lawyer, veteran defense attorney Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden has already sought to lead the pushback himself. (A representative for Lowell did not respond to a request for comment for this story.)

In January, he unexpectedly showed up at a hearing for the Republican-led congressional committee that has dogged him the most—the House Oversight Committee—as the panel considered whether to hold him in contempt of Congress for ignoring subpoena requests. His presence sparked embarrassing reactions from GOP hardliners and reshaped the media narrative.

Though Hunter wants to testify publicly on Capitol Hill, he has agreed to a private deposition with Oversight members scheduled for Wednesday.

Moves like his surprise appearance and the Axios interview—or even his lengthy interview on the musician Moby’s podcast last December—represent a markedly different attitude toward the spotlight for Hunter Biden compared to 2020.

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That year, he was almost entirely out of public view and even required an intervention from his father and other family members during the campaign over his drug use; Trump and Republicans taunted “Where’s Hunter?” to highlight his absence from the campaign trail and troll Democrats over the idea he was a toxic political liability.

The new approach is not without its risks, however. Aside from Biden’s advanced age and frustration among Democrats over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, perceptions around Hunter Biden remain one of the re-election campaign’s most sensitive vulnerabilities.

With Biden facing a challenging path to re-election, voter attitudes about his son and their relationship are not insignificant, given how just a few thousand votes could decide the difference between winning and losing critical battleground states in November.

Aside from the patter of embarrassing headlines about him in conservative media, the scrutiny of Hunter’s business dealings has clearly had some impact on public opinion. A recent NBC News poll found 59 percent of voters were concerned about the elder Biden’s awareness or involvement in his son’s ventures in places like Ukraine and China.

Notably, Hunter Biden’s recent interviews have focused barely at all on that backstory and more on his struggles with addiction which, while a political concern, have offered a chance for the Bidens to connect with many millions of Americans experiencing similar family struggles.

But on both of these fronts, 2024 could offer a far more favorable landscape for Hunter Biden and his allies to make their case than 2020 did.

Since taking the House majority last year, Republicans’ efforts to dig up dirt on Hunter—and find a smoking gun that could lead to the president’s impeachment—have largely fallen flat, drawing criticism even from conservatives.

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Republicans were dealt an enormous blow this month when the Department of Justice indicted former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov on charges of making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record regarding his assertions over Hunter Biden’s involvement with Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company.

In 2019, Trump was impeached for pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to dig up dirt on Burisma, focusing on dubious claims that then-Vice President Biden fired a prosecutor who was looking into corruption involving the company. Despite being litigated intensely four years ago, the Burisma storyline became a key plank of the House GOP investigative push.

While acknowledging the Republican obsession with Hunter Biden as a sensitive issue and one deeply personal to the president, sources in the president’s camp are less worried given the GOP’s eagerness to return to many of the exact same talking points from 2020.

“It’s sort of like a bewildering strategy that they would take something which proved to be a failed strategic decision, and doing it over and over again,” the first Democratic strategist plugged into Bidenworld said.

To those in Biden’s corner, it’s an ideal time for Hunter to escalate his efforts to push back. Biden advisers also see the early stages of the general election campaign as an especially opportune time to go on the offensive, as key components of the House GOP’s grounds for impeachment fall apart.

“There has clearly been an increased effort by the White House and campaign to push back on the false GOP attacks on the President and his family, including this latest doozy with the Smirnov indictment,” a senior Democratic strategist close to Biden told The Daily Beast, requesting anonymity to speak on the sensitive issue.

“Bidenworld clearly now sees this as a place where Republicans could face political blowback for their outrageous behavior, since they keep focusing on discredited personal attacks instead of real issues Americans actually care about,” the strategist said.

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Indeed, those close to the campaign described reframing the discussion around Hunter Biden as an opportunity to highlight their argument that Trump and Republicans are running out of actual policies to campaign on. Another source close to Bidenworld said the goal is to remind voters Republicans are preoccupied in attacking the president’s family, without offering much in the way of solutions for Americans’ own families.

If Trump and his allies again go after Hunter Biden’s personal struggles—chiefly his substance abuse—that contrast could become even starker.

In their first 2020 debate, Trump tore into Biden over his son’s addiction, repeatedly interrupting Biden to say “Hunter got thrown out of the military” for using cocaine—falsely claiming it was a dishonorable discharge when it was an administrative one—and how the president’s son “made a fortune in Ukraine, in China, in Moscow and various other places.”

Moderator Chris Wallace tried to intervene five times before Trump finally relented.

Rich Luchette, a Democratic strategist specializing in crisis communications, recalled thinking Trump “was overplaying his hand by going after Hunter Biden” in 2020.

“I think he brought up the president’s son in really callous crude terms during the debates,” Luchette continued. “And I remember that one moment where the president acknowledged that yes, his son had a drug problem, but that he had overcome it. I think his story is a story that far too many American families know.”

Memorably during the debate, Biden defended Hunter by saying his son, “like a lot of people we know at home, had a drug problem. He’s overtaken it. He’s, he’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.”

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Trump did not address the topic at all after Biden’s answer.

The first Bidenworld strategist called Biden’s answer from the first debate “the most powerful juxtaposition of two people who are the polar opposite of one another, and it was a show of strength.”

In his Axios interview, Hunter Biden described maintaining his sobriety as “much bigger than even myself,” crucial not only for his wellbeing but also the “fight for the future of democracy.”

By answering the GOP’s rhetorical question of “Where’s Hunter?” the president’s son might be doing his own part in that fight.

“I feel like by telling his story more proactively, which he did in the Alex Thompson interview [for Axios], which he’s done in podcast interviews, which he did during the Oversight hearing,” Luchette said, “just by showing up, he showed that he was willing to testify and he called the Republicans’ bluff.”

Source: The Daily Beast

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