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Old Joe should send Hunter to his room

You might remember the fracas that erupted last year when Hunter Biden, son of the president, appeared at a state dinner for Indian prime minister Narendra Modi just two days after a sweetheart plea agreement with the Justice Department imploded in spectacular fashion.

The disintegration of that plea agreement all but ensured that the president’s son would face prosecution for two misdemeanor offenses involving tax evasion and one felony gun charge. That, and the fact that Hunter’s presence at the dinner compelled Attorney General Merrick Garland to maintain a comically wide berth from the alleged offender in attendance, cast a pall of sordidness over the affair. Even if Hunter Biden cannot be expected to observe the kind of propriety that might have compelled him to stay home that night, his father should have summoned the good judgment necessary to keep him away.

Apparently, no lessons were learned from that episode. The very same thing happened again last night, at a state dinner for Kenyan president William Samoei Ruto, where the president was joined by Hunter as well as his administration’s chief law-enforcement officer, who is nominally overseeing the president’s son’s prosecution. Hunter was also present for a Rose Garden event earlier this week for a White House Jewish Heritage celebration, though he was careful to avoid photographers.

As many observers have noted, it should not be hard to acknowledge the powerful emotional inducements that have led Biden to ignore the political optics of his evident closeness to his only surviving son. Some things are more important than politics — family perhaps foremost among them. But if the president wanted to be liberated from the demands of public life, he should have withdrawn from it. Joe Biden is not immune from the consequences of his own unsound judgment. And those consequences could be quite real if the president insists on keeping his son close when Hunter’s trials begin next month.

The president and the first lady seem set on doing just that. Although there are “no formal plans for the White House or the 2024 team to mount a rapid response operation during Hunter Biden’s legal proceedings,” NBC News reported, the president’s advisers understand that Hunter’s trial exposes his father to political jeopardy.

Biden, who will be traveling overseas during a portion of the trial, will be monitoring it foremost as a concerned parent, not as an incumbent seeking re-election during a critical stretch of the campaign, according to three people familiar with the president’s thinking. His advisers will be watching, in part, for any instances where the president is referenced during the proceedings, and they plan to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to react in real time, according to two people familiar with the plans.

That potential for political peril is only compounded by the degree to which the president feels emotionally compelled to keep his son close. The Biden reelection team will face perils in coping with evidence that his administration put its thumb on the scales of justice to safeguard Hunter against the legal repercussions associated with his actions.

As James Lynch reported yesterday, IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley provided the House Ways and Means Committee this week with testimony alleging that the CIA was involved in a scheme designed to shield Hunter from prosecution for tax violations. In addition, his former colleague and fellow whistleblower, Joseph Ziegler, turned over documents — including text messages — that purport to undermine the veracity of testimony Hunter gave to congressional investigators and further enmesh his father in his son’s seedy dealings. “The new text messages appear to corroborate an extensive collection of evidence and testimony indicating that Joe Biden was at the very least tangentially involved in Hunter’s influence-peddling schemes,” Lynch’s report read.

At the very least, prudence would dictate that the president should maintain an arm’s-length relationship with his son while the administration he leads is attempting to convict Hunter of criminal offenses. That is a level of detachment Joe Biden seems incapable of achieving. While the president’s contempt for the conditions that should keep him and his son apart is perfectly understandable, it’s not just Biden’s family in the balance. The president’s indifference to the politics of his family’s legal drama could become detrimental to the Democratic Party’s prospects in November. Democrats would be wise to ask themselves today, while they can still do something about it, if their investment in Biden’s political successes is reciprocal.

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