Hunter Biden book – live: ‘Dad saved me’, president’s son recalls alcoholism and how marriage to wife ended

Hunter Biden opens up about relationship with brother Beau’s widow

Hunter Biden, the son of US president Joe Biden, publishes his new memoir Beautiful Things on Tuesday in which he recounts his long-running battle with drink and drugs, the grief of losing his mother and infant sister as a child and later his elder brother Beau and the attacks he suffered from Donald Trump and his conspiracy-minded supporters.

In its opening chapters, Mr Biden recalls his sibling’s tragic death from a brain tumour in 2015, aged just 46, and Barack Obama’s foresight in a eulogy in which he appeared to predict the coming of Trumpism in declaring: “Anyone can make a name for themselves in this reality-TV age, especially in politics. If you’re loud enough and controversial enough, you can get some attention. But to have that name mean something, to have it associated with dignity and integrity – that is rare.”

In his latest interview to promote the book, Mr Biden told the BBC of his fight against alcoholism and crack cocaine: “There’s something at the centre of each addict that’s missing, that they feel that they need to fill… Nothing can possibly fill it. And so you numb yourself.”

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Chapter 6 is where many in Trump World will turn first in Mr Biden’s memoir.

Hunter describes the episode that landed him at the heart of the decade’s “biggest political fable” as being remarkable for its “epic banality”, and its lacking of “criminal sexiness” except in what was “cooked up” by Trump and Giuliani and their “circle of bandits”.

He writes that his involvement in Burisma, one of the largest natural gas companies in Ukraine, stems from the circumstances surrounding Beau’s illness. The money from Burisma allowed him to spend more time with Beau and less time on the road and in meetings.

The story begins in 2013 with a visit to China in which Hunter travelled with his daughter and Joe Biden on Air Force Two. During the trip, he met with Jonathan Li, an investor in the Rosemont Seneca fund, which saw the vice president briefly shake hands with him in a hotel lobby.

Hunter maintains he was unpaid and the trip raised $4.2m for the company — not the $1.5bn that Mr Biden is accused of walking out of China with as told by Trump et al.

Oliver O’Connell6 April 2021 19:28


‘Dad saved me’

Joe Biden had “had enough” after a month of Hunter as a recluse and showed up at his front door with his security detail and was “aghast” at what he found.

“You need help,” said the vice president.

Hunter says that there was “no drama, no fireworks” and two later he was at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

“Dad saved me,” writes Hunter. “When he knocked on my door he jolted me out of whatever state I was in and saved me by making me want to save myself. Left on my own, I’m certain I would not have survived.”

He adds that Joe Biden was persistent in his mission to not let his son disappear.

Oliver O’Connell6 April 2021 19:07


‘Physical pain caused by not drinking’

On his return to DC he resumes his downward spiral: “drinking to avoid the physical pain caused by not drinking” and eventually shifting to drinking directly from the bottle and not answering the phone. He worried if he stopped drinking he would die.

His work was “on pause” but he paid bills with legacy contracts and a “substantial monthly fee from Burisma, the energy firm in Ukraine whose board I’d joined in early 2014”.

Oliver O’Connell6 April 2021 18:49


Pulling out of ‘free fall’

Pulling out of this “free fall” just once, Hunter travels to the Middle East for the World Food Program to lobby King Abdullah II of Jordan on behalf of Syrian refugees.

The mission was a success (he also writes about his other work with the WFP) as the King met with him out of respect for his father — “I guess you could chalk it up to nepotism, in the best possible way”.

He describes having to regulate his drinking: “walking the tightrope between being debilitated by the DTs because I didn’t drink enough, and drinking too much to be effective.”

Oliver O’Connell6 April 2021 18:39


‘I was drowning myself in alcohol’

A decision by Kathleen restricting their daughters’ time with Hunter in the run-up to Christmas, including the anniversary of his mother and sister’s deaths on 18 December, triggers him to start secretly drinking again.

He writes that he now understands her thinking and describes her as “brave in these moments” for protecting their children.

After Christmas with his family, he begins drinking heavily every day until the end of January for 12 to 16 hours at a time.

“I was drowning myself in alcohol,” he writes.

Oliver O’Connell6 April 2021 18:30


Joe Biden opts out of 2016 run

When Joe Biden stepped back from running for president in 2016 he talked about the impact of Beau’s death on the family, but Hunter notes that he didn’t mention the dynamic of it being “Hillary Clinton’s turn” in the mind of many in the party.

He doesn’t know if his struggles with addiction figured in the decision, but he encouraged his father to run.

Oliver O’Connell6 April 2021 18:12


Kathleen refused to have Hunter at home until he was 100 per cent sober.

As he underwent treatment he eventually moved into an apartment alone in Washington, DC and only saw his daughters outside of the family home.

During this time he spent more time with Beau’s children and Hallie, his sister-in-law.

He resolves that he will get better, but no longer beg Kathleen to be her husband.

Oliver O’Connell6 April 2021 18:02


Hunter was blindsided by the end of his marriage

A traditional anniversary walk for Hunter and Kathleen, a mile for every year of their marriage, ends with two very different takes on their honest and frank conversation.

In a couples therapy session the next day, Hunter says he saw it as cathartic and hopeful. Kathleen counters that he could apologise for the rest of his life, but that it wouldn’t matter and she would never forgive him.

Hunter writes that it felt like Kathleen had made the decision after Beau had died.

He bought a bottle of vodka, drained it, and within weeks was back in rehab.

Oliver O’Connell6 April 2021 18:00


A national calamity follows a family tragedy

Shortly after Beau’s funeral, a retreat to South Carolina was planned. The family arrived in the state days after the massacre at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Joe Biden attended the memorial with President Obama, but then also went back for the regular Sunday service that week with Hunter.

He notes that strong bond between his father and the late South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn — who went on to become a key figure in Joe Biden’s success in the 2020 Democratic Primary.

Hunter writes about his father’s speech that day, the mourners, and loved ones of those lost, and cross-commiseration with their own loss of Beau.

On his relationship with his father after his brother’s death, he says: “If we weren’t the three of us anymore, what were we?”

Oliver O’Connell6 April 2021 17:49


Once again, Beau was there for him

Beau is described as “always supportive, never judgmental” and never asked Hunter, “Why?” when it came to his addictions.

Hunter writes that Beau made his recovery part of his own daily routine, attending AA meetings with him and planning biking, kayaking, and climbing vacations to motive him further.

Beau’s death rocked every relationship in the family, and cracks began to form in Hunter’s marriage to Kathleen. Hunter describes his father as quiet and sad during this period, but that he “soldiered on” as vice president.

Oliver O’Connell6 April 2021 17:29

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