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Analysis: Years of scrutiny for a president's son culminate in guilty verdict | CNN Politics

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CNN  — 

Hunter Biden has never sought elective office or been part of a presidential administration, but he has loomed large in the American political conversation for years.

His conviction in Delaware, the first federal criminal trial of a president's son in US history, is for allegedly lying on a federal firearms background check and owning a firearm for 11 days in 2018 at a time when he was addicted to drugs and could land him behind bars. It has put a personal drama of addiction and betrayal in the public eye, an unwanted embarrassment for the Biden family.

Read more from CNN's team covering the trial. Hunter Biden's ex-wife, his ex-girlfriend, his brother's widow - with whom he had an affair - and his daughter all testified.

Hunter Biden's conviction will also serve as a sort of foil for former President Donald Trump's conviction for lying on business records in New York.

That's not to equate the two sets of charges or the trials. Trump was convicted for hiding his compensation of hush money paid to keep an alleged affair out of the media during the 2016 presidential campaign. He is also running again in the 2024 presidential election, while Hunter Biden is now an artist.

Hunter Biden also faces tax evasion charges in Los Angeles later this year, another case brought by the former Trump-appointed US attorney turned special counsel whose planned plea deal with Biden to settle both the gun and tax problems imploded last year when a Trump-appointed judge refused to accept it.

Trump feared a Joe Biden candidacy ahead of the 2020 election, and hoping to tarnish Biden's reputation, in 2019 he tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to spin up an investigation of Joe Biden and his son. Trump pushed Zelensky to focus on Joe Biden's dealings with Ukraine as vice president, at a time when Hunter Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma.

Joe Biden was one of many Western leaders who had advocated for the ouster of a prosecutor in Ukraine because he was not pursuing corruption cases. Read a CNN fact check about Trump's Ukraine claims.

Democrats impeached Trump (the first of two times) for improperly dragging a foreign leader into US politics. Trump was acquitted in the Senate.

But that bad experience did nothing to stop Trump or Republicans from making allegations about Hunter Biden.

At the Republican presidential debate in 2020, Trump brought up Hunter Biden's position with Burisma and also alleged that he was "dishonorably discharged" from the Navy Reserve for cocaine use, which is not true. Hunter Biden was administratively discharged, which is standard procedure when an officer fails a drug test. Read a CNN fact check about the discharge claim.

In fact, if you search "Hunter Biden" in the CNN Facts First database, there are many results.

Among them:

Did Hunter Biden have a job before his father became vice president? Yes.

Did Joe Biden profit from his son Hunter's career? There's no evidence.

What is Hunter Biden's relationship with China? He did business with Chinese partners.

The sheer volume of these fact checks is worth noting as proof, if nothing else, that he is so frequently cited by his father's political opponents.

When Republicans narrowly took control of the House of Representatives in January 2023, one of their high-profile moves was to launch an official impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden, most of it built on trying to tie the president to his son's former business career.

While House Republicans have referred Hunter Biden and his uncle James Biden for criminal prosecution for allegedly misleading Congress, the impeachment inquiry has seemingly fallen apart without unanimous support from Republicans and no evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

For Hunter Biden, his name is both a blessing and a curse. It was with help from his last name that he built a lucrative career as an attorney, then lobbyist, who then did business with companies in Ukraine and China. It is because of his name that he has been so scrutinized.

It is a trade-off Hunter Biden has been experiencing for years. When Joe Biden was tapped as Barack Obama's running mate in 2008, they made a point about not consorting with lobbyists. Hunter, then a lobbyist, ended his lucrative lobbying contracts a few months before the election that year.

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