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Hunter Biden's gun trial began a week ago. Where do things stand at this point?

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We could find out today if Hunter Biden will testify in his gun trial in a Delaware federal court.

ROB SCHMITZ, HOST:

The president's son is charged with three felonies for allegedly lying about his drug use when he bought a gun in October 2018.

MARTIN: NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has been in the courtroom every day. He will be there again today. But first, he is with us now. Good morning, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So the trial began a week ago today. Where do things stand at this point?

LUCAS: Well, things have moved pretty quickly. The government presented its case in chief - about 10 witnesses for the prosecution - before resting on Friday morning. The jury then heard three defense witnesses. The last one was Hunter Biden's daughter, Naomi Biden. That was an emotional bit of difficult testimony for her and her father. She talked about Hunter's downward spiral into addiction after his brother Beau died in 2015. The defense had considered calling President Biden's brother, Hunter's uncle, James Biden as well, but they appeared to have reconsidered on Friday, and so court broke early for the weekend.

MARTIN: So remind us of what the government's case is against Hunter Biden.

LUCAS: Well, of the ten witnesses that the government presented, there are three that stand out in particular, in part for their testimony, in part just because of who they are. This is Hunter's wife - ex-wife Kathleen Buhle, and ex-girlfriend, Zoe Kestan, and then his brother's widow, Hallie Biden - all three of them were romantically involved with Hunter at some point in time. Kestan and Hallie Biden, in particular, testified about Hunter's crack addiction, his drug use, about how he would buy drugs, and Kestan even told jurors that she sat next to Hunter when he was mixing and cooking his own crack.

MARTIN: And people who've been following the trial may have heard this, that prosecutors also used Hunter's own memoir as evidence of his addiction?

LUCAS: Right. They played audio excerpts, lengthy ones, from his memoir in which Hunter talks about his crack addiction over about a four-year period ending in 2019. But prosecutors have also shown jurors Hunter's text messages in which he's talking about smoking crack, talking about buying guns, that includes one in which he says he's sleeping on a car smoking crack. He sent that text two days after he bought the gun. And that timing matters because in the government's view, it's evidence that Hunter was a drug user when he owned the gun. And remember, one of the charges is illegal possession of a firearm by a drug user.

MARTIN: Well, as you just told us, the defense started its case on Friday. Has the defense been able to undermine the government's case at all?

LUCAS: Well, Hunter's attorney Abbe Lowell has certainly tried to sow doubt about aspects of the government case. Lowell has admitted that Hunter struggled with addiction, no dispute there. And the jury has heard testimony that Hunter several times went to rehab and then relapsed. And so what Lowell has tried to do is to get the jury to focus almost exclusively on the 11 day period that Hunter owned the gun. Jurors have seen receipts that Hunter completed a rehab program a little over a month before he bought the gun - so Lowell trying to plant the idea that Hunter was clean for the period that he bought and owned the weapon before he then relapsed again. On cross examination, he got Buhle and Kestan and Hallie Biden all to say to the jury that they never saw Hunter use drugs during the time that he owned the gun. There's still though, that Hunter text that I mentioned in which he says when he owned the gun about smoking crack, Lowell has tried to diffuse that with testimony from Hallie Biden that sometimes Hunter would lie about where he was in his text messages and lie about what he was doing.

MARTIN: Any sense of when we're likely to have a verdict?

LUCAS: Well, if Hunter doesn't testify, we could get to closing arguments today or tomorrow unless something unforeseen happens, then that it's up to the jury, but we could have a verdict by midweek.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Ryan Lucas. Ryan, 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.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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