Hunter Biden, in full Robert Hunter Biden, (born February 4, 1970, Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.), American attorney and businessman and the sole surviving son of Joe Biden, 46th president of the United States. The Yale-educated lawyer has held an array of positions at law firms, financial institutions, and lobbying firms that have raised questions about whether he has profited from his father’s position. He has admitted to decades-long addictions to alcohol and cocaine. In 2023 the U.S. Justice Department named a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden’s conduct.
Early life and education
Hunter Biden is the second of three children born to Joe Biden and his first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden. On December 18, 1972, Neilia Biden and infant daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident while on the way to pick out a Christmas tree. Hunter and his elder brother, Joseph Robinette (“Beau”) Biden III, who was known as Beau in the family, were critically injured. Among other injuries, Hunter suffered a broken skull and brain injuries. Joe Biden, who had been elected to the U.S. Senate six weeks earlier, took the oath of office in his sons’ hospital room. In 1977 Joe Biden married Jill Tracy Jacobs, who became Hunter and Beau’s stepmother. Jill and Joe Biden have a daughter, Ashley Blazer Biden, who was born in 1981.
Hunter Biden attended Archmere Academy, a Roman Catholic high school in Claymont, Delaware, following in the footsteps of his father and elder brother. He spent his first year of college at the University of Pennsylvania, then enrolled in Georgetown University in 1988, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1992. After graduation, he moved on to Portland, Oregon, and he served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where he met Kathleen Buhle. Three months into their relationship, Buhle became pregnant; the two were married in July 1993, and their daughter Naomi King Biden was born in December. They had two more daughters: Finnegan, born in 1998, and Maisy, born in 2000. To complete his education, Biden enrolled in Georgetown Law. After his first year there, he transferred to Yale Law School, where he completed his degree in 1996.
Hunter Biden and his family returned to Wilmington, Delaware, where he had begun working as a lawyer and consultant with MBNA America, a bank holding company, and he quickly rose to the rank of executive vice president. Like most financial service firms, MBNA donated heavily to politicians of both major political parties, including Sen. Joe Biden.
Hunter Biden’s position with MBNA attracted accusations of impropriety and conflict of interest as Joe Biden backed controversial credit card legislation that was opposed by consumer groups but supported by MBNA during Hunter’s time with the company. Hunter Biden left MBNA in 1998 to serve in the Commerce Department under Pres. Bill Clinton, handling e-commerce policy. In 2001 he cofounded the lobbying firm of Oldaker, Biden & Belair. The firm lobbied on a variety of issues, including online gambling. Hunter Biden stopped lobbying when his father became Barack Obama’s vice presidential running mate in 2008.
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In 2006 Hunter Biden and his uncle James Biden purchased a hedge fund group called Paradigm Global Advisors. During the four years that the Bidens owned the fund, it was connected to several allegations of fraud, including a Texas businessman convicted of running an enormous Ponzi scheme. The Bidens denied wrongdoing, never faced charges, and liquidated the fund in 2010.
Hunter Biden’s business dealings, however, continued to raise questions about the extent to which he used his family name to secure deals. Devon Archer, a former business partner of Hunter Biden’s, testified in 2023 before a congressional committee that the younger Biden used “the illusion of access to his father” to attract potential partners.
In 2013 Hunter Biden accompanied his father, then the vice president, on an official trip to China, where he met with the chief executive of BHR, a Chinese private equity firm. Biden received an unpaid seat on the company’s board of directors shortly after the meeting. He would ultimately take a 10 percent ownership stake in the firm.
Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine were even more complex and made problematic by his father’s role in leading the Obama administration’s relationship with Ukraine. In 2014 Hunter Biden accepted a seat on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, for which he was paid as much as $1.2 million a year. During this period, Vice Pres. Biden was pressuring the Ukrainian government to replace the country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was widely viewed as corrupt.
The Ukrainian parliament ultimately removed Shokin from power in 2016, but members of the Republican Party have said that Shokin’s ouster was the result of pressure from the senior Biden because Shokin had been investigating Burisma. Some critics have alleged that both Bidens received multimillion-dollar payouts from Burisma executives in exchange for actions resulting in Shokin’s removal. No proof of criminal wrongdoing by either Biden has ever surfaced pertaining to the Burisma matter. Hunter Biden left the Burisma board in 2019.
In 2019 Pres. Donald Trump tried to withhold aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into the debunked allegation against Joe Biden. In a phone call with newly elected Ukrainian Pres. Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump insinuated that he would release the funds he was withholding as soon as Zelensky announced an investigation into the Bidens. President Trump was later impeached for this conduct.
Hunter Biden’s struggles with drugs and alcohol have been well documented and date to the early part of the 21st century and his tenure at his lobbying firm. In 2003 he underwent treatment for alcoholism and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. He relapsed several times and in 2014 was discharged from the U.S. Navy Reserve, to which he had received an assignment the year earlier, when he tested positive for cocaine.
In 2015 Beau Biden died of brain cancer, and his death sent Hunter Biden’s life into a downward spiral. Hunter and Kathleen Biden’s marriage had been failing, and in October 2015 they formally separated. They were divorced in 2017.
Also in 2017, news reports surfaced that Hunter Biden was in a romantic relationship with Hallie Olivere Biden, Beau Biden’s widow. Their relationship would end two years later. During this time Beau went through multiple periods of alcohol and drug binges followed by rehab efforts. In 2018 Hunter Biden fathered a daughter, Navy Joan Roberts, with Lunden Alexis Roberts of Arkansas. In his 2021 memoir, Beautiful Things, Hunter Biden wrote that he had “no recollection” of his encounter with Roberts. In May 2019 Biden married Melissa Cohen, a South African filmmaker. The couple had a baby boy in 2020. Hunter Biden took up painting as a form of therapy while recovering from his addictions. He credits Cohen for his sobriety.
Current legal troubles
In 2020 Hunter Biden disclosed that the Justice Department has been investigating him since late 2018. The investigation was led by David C. Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, and involved potential criminal violations of tax and money-laundering laws. In June 2023 Hunter Biden agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of failing to pay his 2016 and 2017 taxes on time. He also accepted conditions that would avoid his being prosecuted on a felony charge that he lied when he said he was sober when buying a handgun in 2018. But the plea deal collapsed when the judge in the case refused to be what she called “a rubber stamp” on the agreement that some said reflected preferential treatment of the first son.
In August U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that Weiss had been named the special counsel in charge of the investigation, and prosecutors filed court documents saying that they expected the Biden case to go to trial.
In September 2023 Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy announced that committees of the House of Representatives would begin impeachment hearings into Joe Biden. The committees would investigate, among other issues, whether the president benefited from Hunter Biden’s business dealings.