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Jury selection has begun for Hunter Biden gun trial

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Jury has been selected in federal court in the Hunter Biden trial on gun charges. The case against the president's son was brought by Justice Department special counsel David Weiss. It's the first of two trials that the president's son faces this year as his father runs for reelection. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has been in the courtroom in Delaware today. Here there, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hey there.

KELLY: OK. So I want to hear about jury selection in a sec, but start - scene at the courtroom, what did it look like?

LUCAS: Well, at the courthouse here in Wilmington, Del., there's a lot of security out on the street, police cars, police trucks in front of the courthouse blocking off part of the road. There are U.S. marshals, court security officers and Secret Service personnel inside the courthouse as well, on the floor - with the courtroom where this is all taking place.

Hunter Biden's wife was in the front row of the courtroom today for jury selection. She was there all day. Jill Biden showed up in the afternoon. They ended up sitting together in the front row with their security detail. There's obviously a lot of interest in this case. You can see that from the bank of cameras and news media that's actually stationed outside...

KELLY: Sure.

LUCAS: ...The front entrance. So it is a bit of a scene.

KELLY: OK. And the order of business today was to get a jury selected. Sounds like they got that done?

LUCAS: They did. They moved pretty quickly. They started around 9:00 A.M. This morning, and Judge Maryellen Noreika got a jury seated, plus four alternates, by basically 4: 30 today. Almost all, if not all of the potential jurors unsurprisingly had heard of this case in some way. One juror actually said, this is Delaware. You can't swing a dead cat in Delaware and not hear something about this case.

Some of the jurors even knew the Bidens socially, I would say. One man, for example, had known Hunter's late brother Beau, said their kids had played sports together. A lot of the jurors also had friends or family who had experience with either drug or alcohol addiction, which is a central part of this case. Ultimately, though, the judge and both sides were able to whittle the jury pool down to the 12 jurors plus four alternates. The ones who were selected said that they could set aside what they already knew, and they could judge the case based on the facts and the evidence as they're - in court.

KELLY: Okey-doke (ph). Now, just remind us. These are three charges that have been brought against Hunter Biden, and they are...

LUCAS: That's right, three charges. They all relate to a Colt Cobra revolver that he bought in October of 2018. There are two counts of making false statements when purchasing the gun. Prosecutors say that Hunter lied on a federal background check form that he had to fill out when he was purchasing the weapon. That form has a question that asks whether you use illegal drugs or are addicted to drugs. Now, prosecutors say that Hunter lied on that form by checking the no box. In other words, saying that he wasn't using illegal drugs, and prosecutors say that at the time he was. Then there's also the third count, and that is for the unlawful possession of a firearm by a drug user or addict.

KELLY: Just to state the staggeringly obvious, while those TV cameras are lined up outside, this is the president's son on trial. The president is running for reelection. How could this trial impact Joe Biden's campaign?

LUCAS: Well, it certainly comes at an inopportune moment for the president. Republicans have in the past tried to play up Hunter's legal troubles, his international business dealings to try to damage President Biden. There's every reason to think that they'll look to use this trial for that political gain again. But it is worth remembering that Hunter is the one on trial, not President Biden. Hunter isn't running for president. President Biden did put out a statement today saying that he loves and supports his son Hunter and that he is not going to comment on the case while this is ongoing.

KELLY: And real quick, what comes next?

LUCAS: Well, since we wrapped up jury selection today, we're going to start tomorrow morning with opening statements. And this whole thing should last up to two weeks.

KELLY: Alrighty (ph). NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.