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Takeaways from Day 6 of Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial

<i>Bill Hennessy via CNN Newsource</i><br/>
Bill Hennessy via CNN Newsource

By Marshall Cohen and Holmes Lybrand, CNN

Wilmington, Delaware (CNN) — The jury in Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial began deliberations on Monday after the defendant declined to testify in his own defense and both sides presented closing arguments in the historic case against the president’s son.

Special counsel David Weiss’ prosecutors urged the jury to bring back three guilty verdicts because, even though the evidence was “personal” and “ugly,” it was also “overwhelming” that Biden bought and possessed a firearm while abusing drugs.

Later, Biden’s defense attorney argued that the prosecutors’ case was similar to a “magician’s trick,” and accused Weiss’ team of trying to inflate the evidence and win convictions based on “suspicion and conjecture” alone.

If convicted, Biden could face up to 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000, though first-time offenders like him rarely receive the maximum penalty. He pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

Here are takeaways from Day 6 of the historic trial.

‘No one is above the law,’ prosecutors say

In the first seconds of Leo Wise’s closing arguments, he referenced the VIPs from the Biden family that have been filling the front row of the courtroom pews each day, often including first lady Jill Biden, who was in attendance on Monday.

“The people sitting in the gallery are not evidence,” Wise said. “You may recognize some of them from the news or from the community … but respectfully, none of that matters.”

The first three rows of court were completely filled with Hunter Biden’s friends and family, and a Secret Service agent could barely fit at the end of the front-row bench, with so many people trying to squeeze in. Jill Biden sat flanked by her son’s wife on one side, and the first lady’s daughter Ashley Biden on the other.

As Wise continued, he returned to a theme that his colleague raised in opening statements: that “no one is above the law.” Jurors, he said, shouldn’t treat this case differently “because of who the defendant is.”

Evidence was ‘ugly’ but ‘overwhelming,’ prosecutors say

Wise went on to explain to the jury – which includes many people whose loved ones are struggling with addiction – why the prosecution went into so many excruciating details about the defendant’s spiral into crack cocaine abuse.

“The evidence was personal, it was ugly, and it was overwhelming. It was also absolutely necessary,” Wise said. “There is no other way to prove the use of drugs or addiction to drugs than through the kind of evidence that you saw.”

He noted, accurately, that the judge’s instructions don’t require the Justice Department to prove that Biden used drugs on a specific day, but only that he was “actively engaged” in drugs around that time.

Recalling key testimony from earlier witnesses, Wise highlighted Biden’s ex-girlfriend who testified that she saw him smoking crack in September 2018, less than two weeks before he bought the gun.

Furthermore, he pointed out that Biden’s rehab stints shortly before and after buying the firearm speaks to his “pattern” of drug use around that time.

“You could convict on those facts alone,” he said.

‘It’s time to end this case,’ defense says

During his nearly 90-minute closing argument, defense attorney Abbe Lowell forcefully made the case that prosecutors hadn’t met the high burden to prove Biden’s guilt, pointing to the issue of whether he knowingly violated the law.

Lowell repeatedly said that prosecutors showed no direct evidence that Biden was using illegal drugs during October 2018, when he bought the firearm, comparing their case to a slight-of-hand deception.

“Have you ever seen the magician’s trick of having you look at this hand, while in the other hand is where the trick is being done? Look at this – and then see that in the hand that matters, there is nothing there,” Lowell said, invoking a motif that he raised several times during closing arguments.

In order to reach a guilty verdict, prosecutors need to prove that Biden was “conscious and aware” of the law and how he was violating it, Lowell argued.

“With this very high burden, it’s time to end this case,” Lowell said.

Poking holes in key witness testimony

The defense attorney also said there were serious flaws with the testimony from three of Biden’s exes who testified in the case.

Lowell noted that Hallie Biden couldn’t remember key details from the day she found Biden’s firearm in his truck. Lowell also questioned the veracity of claims from Zoe Kestan – who met Biden at a gentleman’s club where she worked – noting the immunity deal she reached with prosecutors beforehand.

Lowell said Kestan met with prosecutors many times “to rehearse” her testimony – instantly drawing an objection from the special counsel’s team. Lowell also pointed out that Kestan took many pictures of Biden with drugs when they were together, but none from the critical month when he bought the gun.

Lowell also attacked the prosecutors’ case as based on “suspicion” and “conjecture,” phrases that he repeated many times, perhaps hoping to sow some doubt among the jurors.

“There was no actual witness to the drug use in this period of time,” Lowell asserted.

Clash over Naomi Biden’s testimony

The two sides clashed over the testimony of Naomi Biden, who was called as a defense witness on Friday.

In his closing arguments, Lowell said prosecutors were “extraordinarily cruel” to Biden’s daughter by asking her during their cross-examination if she ever used cocaine. They posed that question while trying to establish that, because she doesn’t do drugs, it was likely her father who left crack remnants in their shared truck.

Lowell glared directly at prosecutors as he criticized the prosecutors, raising his voice and banging his fist on the lectern. But after he was done, prosecutors quickly shot back, telling the jury that they believed Naomi Biden’s testimony actually hurt her father’s defense.

“Who called the defendant’s daughter as a witness in this case? Not us,” prosecutor Derek Hines said during his rebuttal. “… And you saw up there on the stand how uncomfortable she was. The anguish sitting there knowing she was testifying as a defense witness, but she had to tell the truth.”

He argued that “she couldn’t vouch for the defendant’s sobriety throughout that month of October” 2018 when he bought the gun because she swore to tell the truth and could be prosecuted if she lied.

Hunter Biden doesn’t testify

As last week’s proceedings wrapped up on Friday, Lowell told the judge the defense team was still making the decision over whether their client would testify in his own defense.

That would’ve been an extremely risky move that could have opened the president’s son up to intense and potentially expansive questioning from the special counsel prosecutors.

Ultimately, however, Lowell said Monday that Biden would not testify and instructions to the jury were adjusted to make it clear they aren’t allowed to hold that decision against him in their deliberations.

The jury will continue its deliberations Tuesday morning.

CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz, Macayla Cook, Paula Reid and Casey Gannon contributed to this report.

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