Hunter Biden, in new memoir, offers lurid details of addiction but sidesteps some political scandals

The president's son became a political flashpoint during the 2020 campaign.

April 2, 2021, 5:05 AM

After a year of withering attacks from President Donald Trump and his allies during the 2020 campaign, Hunter Biden has emerged with a new memoir that seeks to reframe some of the scandals that nearly derailed his father's presidential bid -- but he almost entirely ignores others, leaving questions about the nation's First Family unresolved.

In "Beautiful Things," out next week, Hunter Biden charts a life defined by tragedy, addiction and scandal -- all in the shadow of a doting and concerned father, Joe Biden, whose ascent to the White House came during some of his son's darkest moments.

The account marks Hunter Biden's most extensive commentary to date on topics that emerged as fodder for his father's political foes during the presidential campaign, including his struggles with substance addiction and his efforts to make a profitable career while navigating the challenges and benefits of sharing his name with a powerful father. His dealings in China and his seat on the board of a Ukrainian oil and gas firm during his father's tenure as vice president became an obsession of Trump and his allies, with Trump's drive to find dirt on Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine leading directly to his first impeachment trial.

While Biden opens up on some of those topics, the book makes no mention of an ongoing federal investigation into his taxes, contains no new details about his controversial investments in China, and makes no meaningful nod to the mystery surrounding his infamous laptop -- the contents of which were dumped online and weaponized by Trump and his supporters in the waning weeks of the presidential campaign.

"Where's Hunter? I'm right here. I've faced and survived worse," he writes. "I've known the extremes of success and ruin … I come from a family forged by tragedies and bound by a remarkable unbreakable love. I'm not going anywhere."

For what it lacks in clarity on some subjects, Biden's memoir makes up for with lurid and deeply troubling detail on others, most notably his repeated relapses into drug and alcohol abuse. The connective tissue for the story he tells is his older brother, Beau Biden, whose battle with brain cancer, Hunter writes, served as the impetus for his decision to take work with the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma in 2014.

"I want to be clear: Beau's health problems didn't prompt me to do something I wouldn't have done otherwise. The money was helpful, but I could've figured out another way to make it," Hunter Biden explained. "I wasn't desperate. Yet it did provide me the ability not to work as hard at continuing to develop clients … that gave me more time to tend to Beau."

"I'm not saying I would not have taken Burisma's offer if Beau hadn't gotten sick -- the money helped," he continued.

In many ways, the book picks up where Biden left off following a handful of deeply personal interviews he gave during the presidential campaign to try and diffuse the burgeoning scandals.

As he did in his 2019 interview with ABC News, Hunter Biden displays defiance about his work in Ukraine and China, discarding allegations of wrongdoing as a "political fable" and "conspiratorial delusion" intended to discredit his father's political ambitions.

He insists that his only mistake was in failing to anticipate the onslaught of attention his role with Burisma would attract from Trump, his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and "their circle of bandits." In defending his overseas work, Biden points the finger back at the Trump family, who faced allegations of using the White House as a platform to bolster their business brand.

Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden attend the Duke Georgetown NCAA college basketball game in Washington, Jan. 30, 2010.
Nick Wass/AP, FILE

"I became a proxy for Donald Trump's fear that he won't be reelected," Biden wrote. "He pushed debunked conspiracy theories about work I did in Ukraine and China, even as his own children had pocketed millions in China and Russia and his former campaign manager sat in a jail cell for laundering millions more from Ukraine" -- an apparent reference to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who in 2018 was found guilty of tax and bank fraud related to business transactions conducted prior to his work on Trump's 2016 campaign, and was later pardoned by Trump.

But Trump's political allies weren't the only ones scrutinizing Hunter Biden's business dealings during the campaign. Government ethics watchdogs also took issue with the son of a high-profile politician creating the appearance of a conflict of interest by taking on overlapping work.

Both Hunter Biden and his father -- who, as vice president, played a key role in conducting U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine and China at the time -- have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

"There's no question that my last name has opened doors, but my qualifications and accomplishments speak for themselves," Hunter Biden wrote. "That those accomplishments sometimes crossed my father's spheres of influence during his two terms as vice-president -- how could they not?"

Throughout the book, Joe Biden is cast in a recurring role as Hunter Biden's lifeline, guiding him through moments of seemingly insurmountable difficulty in his relationships and his drug addiction. During one of many alcohol-fueled benders depicted in the book, Hunter Biden describes the then-vice president arriving at his Washington, D.C., apartment to check in on him.

"The last thing I wanted was Dad showing up in front of my apartment building with his massive security detail. But almost a month in, he'd had enough. He reduced his security to a minimum and knocked on my door. I let him in," Hunter wrote. "He looked aghast at what he saw. He asked if I was okay and I told him, sure, I was fine. 'I know you're not fine, Hunter,' he said, studying me, scanning the apartment. 'You need help.' I looked into my dad's eyes and saw an expression of despair, an expression of fear."

The intimate details Hunter Biden shares in the book offer a glimpse into the personal and political challenges he created behind the scenes for his father as the longtime senator sought the White House. But for the Biden family's critics, "Beautiful Things" will do little to explain some of the more troubling allegations Hunter faced during and after the campaign.

In many cases, Hunter spares no detail in recounting difficult moments from his past, but glides over others -- including his discharge from the U.S. Navy Reserves in 2014 after cocaine appeared in a failed drug test.

World Food Program USA Board Chairman Hunter Biden speaks on stage at the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony in Washington, April 12, 2016.
Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images, FILE

The most notable omission, perhaps, is any mention of the ongoing investigation into Hunter Biden's taxes, which he revealed in December after his father's electoral victory was sealed.

ABC News has also reported that federal investigators in Delaware are looking into Hunter's business dealings in China -- another topic light on new details in the memoir.

Hunter Biden's account of his work in China matches previous comments he's made on the matter, including in his 2019 interview with ABC News. He describes taking a 2013 trip to Beijing with his father and daughter, Finnegan, on Air Force Two, introducing his father to a Chinese business associate, and helping launch a fledgling investment firm.

"And that was that," Hunter wrote, "until Trump declared I walked out of China with $1.5 billion" -- a figure Hunter has repeatedly disputed, claiming that the fund once aspired to raise that amount, but at the time had only scraped together $4.2 million. Hunter claims he bought a 10% stake in the firm after his father left the vice presidency.

Another strange interlude from the election is also missing from "Beautiful Things": neither a denial that the incident occurred nor an explanation of the laptop Hunter Biden allegedly discarded at a Wilmington, Delaware, computer repair shop that later made its way into the hands of Giuliani. The contents of the laptop -- which included emails, text messages, and photos purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden -- were first reported by the New York Post. ABC News was not able to verify the contents of the laptop.

The memoir also omits any mention of a former business partner who accused the Bidens of misleading the public about their overseas business dealings.

Tony Bobulinski, in a remarkable moment of political theater, held a hastily organized press conference moments before the second presidential debate in October to accuse Joe Biden of lying about his knowledge of Hunter's foreign business dealings. Bobulinski’s accusations were based on unverified emails from May 2017 -- after Joe Biden had left the White House.

At the time of his accusations, Bobulinski was being advised by a former counsel from the Trump administration who was later on the payroll of the Trump Organization, sources told ABC News.

Bobulinski told reporters his allegations were "corroborated by emails, WhatsApp chats, agreements, documents, and other evidence," including three cellphones he said he would be handing over to Senate Republicans later that week.

Copies of the documents Bobulinski gave to Congress were obtained by ABC News, which was unable to verify their authenticity. But they did not do what Biden's critics alleged: provide conclusive evidence that Joe Biden was aware of, or benefited from, any deal.

On the night of the Bobulinski press conference, Trump incorporated the fresh allegations against Biden into his attacks on the debate stage. Biden denied the charges and fired back with an impassioned defense of his son, which Hunter recounted in an epilogue written as a posthumous letter to his brother, Beau.

President Donald Trump and Joe Biden converse during the U.S. presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 22, 2020.
Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

"Dad countered artfully, empathetically, indelibly," Hunter wrote. "'My son,' he said, ignoring Trump while looking straight into a camera, 'like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem. He's overtaken it, he's fixed it, he's worked on it. And I'm proud of him. I'm proud of my son.'"

"Those words not only disarmed Trump but gave comfort and hope to millions of Americans," Hunter continued. "I felt nothing but pride. You would've too."

The memoir is filled with anecdotes about Hunter Biden's cycle of addiction, recovery and relapse that consumed his life for years, including a time in 2018 when he "holed up" at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and spent six weeks smoking crack -- and learning to cook crack -- with his drug dealer and his prostitute girlfriend.

"I never slept. There was no clock. Day bled into night and night into day," he wrote. "I came to dread sleep. If I rested too long between hits on a pipe, I'd be thrown into a panic."

Hunter Biden ultimately explains how he managed to crawl out from the "black hole of alcoholism and drug abuse," in no small part due to the support of his wife, Melissa, whom he married after only a brief courtship, in 2019.

The two now have a baby, Beau, who is featured multiple times in the book -- as are his three older daughters.

But other family matters are handled clumsily -- notably his fifth child, Navy, who is largely missing from the book. Navy was the subject of a paternity case in Arkansas after Hunter refused to pay child support to the baby's mother; he settled the suit for an undisclosed sum in March 2020 after a paternity test found with "certainty" that he was the father.

"Beautiful Things," scheduled for release on April 6, is being published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.