Top two presidential candidates, relatives facing legal woes as 2024 voting starts

Former President Trump’s trials will have a “significant impact on his campaign,” but whether the impact is “positive or negative is to be determined," said Caleb Burns, partner at Wiley Rein LLP.

Published: January 11, 2024 11:00pm

Updated: January 11, 2024 11:32pm

The top two 2024 presidential candidates are running with lawsuits looming over them, as former President Donald Trump has multiple trials he faces this year while President Joe Biden’s son is having his own legal troubles.

On Thursday, both Trump and Hunter Biden were in court at opposite ends of the country, with the former president in New York and the first son in Los Angeles. Trump’s trial is a civil case brought by the state attorney general regarding alleged business fraud while Hunter Biden was in court for alleged tax fraud.

The former has denied any wrongdoing as the latter pleaded not guilty in court.

Both Trump and President Biden are viewed as the frontrunners in their respective political parties for the presidential nominations.

Trump is currently up nearly 50 points above the runner-up in the GOP presidential primary according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, while Biden is up nearly 62 points above the runner-up in the Democratic presidential primary, per the RCP average.

In a general election matchup between Trump and Biden, the former is currently leading the latter by one point, according to the RCP polling average.

Trump has at least six trials this year, while Hunter Biden has had two over the past year and a congressional interview that he received a subpoena for but didn’t precisely follow. 

Trump is facing two civil lawsuits in New York, with one brought by the state attorney general over alleged fraud with his business and the other regarding E. Jean Carroll’s claims of defamation and sexual assault.

He also has four criminal trials, resulting in 91 felony charges: one is by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, which are felony charges over alleged hush money for porn star Stormy Daniels that was allegedly falsely reported as business records; another is by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, which includes 18 other codefendants and is a racketeering case over allegedly attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election; one is by Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith over the alleged mishandling of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort; and another by Smith is over Trump’s alleged attempt to stay in power following the 2020 presidential election.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all the criminal cases while denying any wrongdoing in the civil cases.

Hunter Biden is being investigated by Justice Department Special Counsel David Weiss, who has charged the first son with nine felony and misdemeanor tax charges in federal court in Los Angeles.

Weiss has also brought firearms charges against Hunter Biden in federal court in Delaware. Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty in both cases brought by Weiss.

The first son is also the subject of a House hearing regarding whether he is in contempt of Congress for not properly responding to a subpoena. Instead of allowing Congress to interview him, as the subpoena specified, Hunter Biden wanted to do a public hearing.

Caleb Burns, a partner at Wiley Rein LLP, told Just the News on Thursday that he believes Trump’s trials will have more of an impact on his campaign than Hunter Biden’s will for the president.

Burns predicted that the “presumptive Republican presidential nominee will likely soon be campaigning in the midst of multiple criminal trials.”

He added that Trump’s trials will draw national media attention and that the former president could use his formidable skills with free media to his political advantage.

However, Burns said that Hunter Biden’s legal issues won’t “be as front and center for the Biden campaign, unlike the Trump trials” given that Hunter Biden’s legal proceedings are not yet directly focused on the President.

Burns said that “for the Biden campaign, unless things change, Hunter” and his issues “are a tolerable nuisance.”

As for the congressional hearings regarding both the president and Hunter Biden, Burns said they are still in a relatively preliminary stage, whereas Trump will soon be going to trial.

Ultimately, he concluded, there is “no denying” that Trump’s trials will have a “significant impact on his campaign.”

Whether the impact is “positive or negative is to be determined," Burns said. "Hunter Biden’s legal issues aren't at that level, at least not yet.”

Presidential historian and President Reagan biographer Craig Shirley told Just the News on Thursday that the top two candidates (or their families) facing trials amid a presidential election cycle “is unprecedented.”

Shirley explained that “problems seem to bounce off of” Trump because he’s the “anti-government corruption candidate.”

“Almost everyone in America has had problems with the government at some point in their lives,” Shirley said, which is how many Trump supporters view him. He added that Trump supporters see that Trump is also facing “problems with corrupt government,” which is why they support him.

However, since Biden is the pro-big government candidate and the head of the government, his son’s legal problems “rebound badly on” him.

Phill Kline, director of the Amistad Project, told Just the News on Thursday that the legal troubles of the top two presidential candidates is “reflective of a dangerous turn in political tactics towards mutually-assured destruction.”

He explained that this is “destroying” Americans’ “faith in government, faith in elections, and it's harmful.”

"What we’re dealing with is all sides are weaponized not towards substantive issues, but destroying persons to win elections — far beyond what we’ve seen in the past in this country because the tools to do it are much more pervasive,” Kline said.

He added that the Biden Administration is meeting with local prosecutors to coordinate regarding investigations against the head of opposing political party for questioning an election, which “should cause deep concern with every American.”

He also noted that the “law” is being used as “a tool to get what you want, rather than a line of demarcation that you cannot cross.”

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