Hunter Biden's exes are called as witnesses in his federal gun trial

  • Canadian Press

Hunter Biden, left, arrives at federal court with his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- Hunter Biden's ex-wife was called Wednesday to testify in his federal gun trial as prosecutors sought to show the depths of his drug problem, which they say was still going on when he filled out a form to buy a firearm.

Hunter Biden and Kathleen Buhle were married for roughly 20 years. They have three children and divorced in 2016 after his infidelity and drug abuse became too much, according to her memoir, "If We Break," about the dissolution of their marriage.

Buhle testified that she discovered her husband was using drugs when she found a crack pipe in an ashtray on their porch on July, 3, 2015, a day after their anniversary. When she confronted him, "he acknowledged smoking crack," she said.

Even before she found it, Buhle suspected that Hunter was using drugs, given that he earlier had been kicked out of the Navy after testing positive for cocaine.

"I was definitely worried, scared," she said.

She is among several Biden family and friends expected on the witness stand in a trial that has quickly become a highly personal and detailed tour of Hunter Biden's mistakes and drug use. The proceedings are unfolding as the 2024 presidential election looms, and allies worry about the toll it will take on the president, who is deeply concerned about the health and sustained sobriety of his only living son. Prosecutors argue that the testimony is necessary to show Hunter Biden's state of mind when he bought the gun.

First lady Jill Biden went to court for the third consecutive day to support Hunter, ahead of her trip to France to meet President Joe Biden, who was in Europe to mark the anniversary of D-Day. She left at midday.

Hunter Biden has been charged with three felonies stemming from the purchase of a gun in October 2018. He's accused of lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false claim on the application by saying he was not a drug user and illegally having the gun for 11 days.

Buhle, who was subpoenaed, was on the stand for about 20 minutes. She spoke matter-of-factly as she detailed how she searched his car about a dozen times for drugs, whenever the children were in it.

"Did you ever see Hunter using drugs?" defense attorney Abbe Lowell asked Buhle.

"No," she replied.

Then prosecutor Leo Wise asked Buhle how she knew Hunter was using drugs.

"He told me," she said.

As evidence of his drug use at the time of the gun purchase, prosecutors showed jurors dozens of pages of Hunter Biden's memoir, "Beautiful Things," written in 2021 after he got sober. They also heard lengthy audio excerpts from the book, which traces his descent into addiction following the death of his brother, Beau Biden, in 2015 from cancer and covers the period he bought the gun, though it doesn't mention the weapon specifically.

Lowell has said Hunter Biden's state of mind was different when he wrote the book than when he purchased the gun, when he didn't believe he had an addiction. And the prosecutors must prove he had a drug problem when he filled out the document at the time of purchase.

Jurors earlier heard from an FBI agent, Erika Jensen, whose job was to establish that Hunter Biden had a drug problem when he purchased the gun in October 2018. Lowell went through a large number of Hunter's texts to establish that there were few messages that involved seeking or using drugs in the weeks before the gun purchase. He also raised questions about how the FBI could prove Hunter Biden was being truthful with family when he texted about seeking or using drugs.

And he pointed out several liquor store purchases in October 2018, the month Hunter Biden bought the gun. Lowell has suggested that references in his memoir to "relapsing" refer to alcohol abuse, not drug use.

Lowell also asked Jensen about text message exchanges that prosecutors say show evidence of Hunter Biden's drug use in 2018 and 2019. But Lowell pointed to a text to sent in November 2018 in which he confessed: "I'm a drunk."

In their follow-up questioning of Jensen, prosecutors tried to push back on the implication that Hunter Biden was making large cash withdrawals to pay for rent, rehab and other expenses.

"Do drug dealers accept credit cards?" prosecutor Derek Hines asked.

"Not in my experience," Jensen replied.

The Delaware trial comes after the collapse of a plea deal with prosecutors that would have resolved the gun case and a separate California tax case and avoided the spectacle of a trial. Hunter Biden has since pleaded not guilty and has said he's being unfairly targeted by the Justice Department, after Republicans slammed the now-defunct plea agreement as a sweetheart deal for the Democratic president's son.

The 12-person panel heard opening statements Tuesday and testimony from Jensen, who read aloud some of Hunter Biden's personal messages, including some that came from a laptop he left at a Delaware repair shop and never retrieved.

In 2020, the contents made their way to Republicans and were publicly leaked, revealing some highly personal messages about his work and his life. He has since sued over the leaked information.

Prosecutors asked whether there was any evidence to suggest the laptop had been tampered with, and Jensen said no. But under questioning from Lowell, she also conceded there was no way to verify whether it had been altered.

Jurors also heard testimony from a former girlfriend, who took the stand under a grant of immunity.

In addition, they will hear from the president's brother James Biden, who is close with Hunter and helped his nephew through rehab stints in the past, and will get details on how Beau Biden's widow, Hallie Biden, became addicted to crack during a brief relationship with Hunter after her husband's death.

Hallie took the gun from Hunter and tossed it into the garbage at a nearby market, afraid of what he might do with it. The weapon was later found by someone collecting cans and eventually turned over to police.

If convicted, Hunter Biden faces up to 25 years in prison, though first-time offenders do not get anywhere near the maximum, and it's unclear whether the judge would give him time behind bars.

The trial is unfolding shortly after Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was convicted of 34 felonies in New York City. The two criminal cases are unrelated, but their proximity underscores how the courts have taken center stage during the 2024 campaign.

Hunter Biden also faces a trial in California in September on charges of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes.


Long reported from Washington.


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