By Kevin Liptak, Arlette Saenz and Jeremy Diamond, CNN
(CNN) — For months, as the Justice Department’s investigation into Hunter Biden intensified, his father made little attempt to distance himself from his son.
Hunter Biden was a regular part of family events at the White House, including his daughter Naomi’s wedding on the South Lawn last November. He was also a visible and constant presence on President Joe Biden’s trip in April to Ireland.
And even pieces of Hunter Biden’s art were put on the walls in the White House, a sign of the Bidens’ deep commitment to family, even amid controversy.
On Tuesday, when federal tax and gun charges against Hunter Biden were unveiled, that approach appeared to change little.
“I’m very proud of my son,” Joe Biden said Tuesday in response to a shouted question from a reporter at an event in California.
Earlier, White House spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement, “The president and first lady love their son and support him as he continues to rebuild his life. We will have no further comment.”
For the Bidens, Hunter’s expected guilty plea on two tax misdemeanors and his deal with federal prosecutors regarding a felony gun charge amount to an evolution in a troubled stretch that has tested the strength of family ties.
When the charges against Hunter Biden were unveiled, the president was in California on a three-day fundraising swing. He was planning to meet with technology leaders later Tuesday to discuss advances in artificial intelligence.
The White House has maintained that President Biden did not involve himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into his son. Upon taking office in 2021, he kept in place the US attorney in Delaware conducting the probe to avoid the appearance of interference.
Throughout the president’s career, including during Biden’s time as vice president, Hunter has acted as an important sounding board and informal adviser, according to people familiar with their dynamic. While he accompanied his father on some officials trips, he has never held a formal role inside the White House.
But the president has sought to keep his son close, hosting him and his family for visits at the White House and weekends at Camp David. Hunter Biden was a guest at a state dinner honoring French President Emmanuel Macron last year and was on hand as his father mingled with the crowd at the annual White House Easter egg roll in April.
The father and son were last seen in public together in mid-May, sitting with their family in bleachers at Hunter’s daughter’s graduation at the University of Pennsylvania.
His descent into drug addiction – as detailed in his memoir – hampered Hunter’s ability to play a major role in the early days of father’s 2020 presidential campaign. The experience was wrenching for the president and first lady, along with the rest of the Biden family, who were still grappling with the 2015 death of Beau Biden.
The family attempted to stage an intervention at their Wilmington home as the campaign was getting underway; it descended into screaming, tears and a long embrace between father and son.
In recent years, some Democrats close to the White House have privately voiced concern at having Hunter involved in his father’s political or government activities, worried he could prove to be a distraction. But the president and first lady have shown fierce loyalty to their son, and made clear family ties outweigh any political considerations.
Few, if any, advisers would feel comfortable raising their concerns about the president’s son directly to Biden, according to one adviser, because of the deep family loyalty at play. Biden also trusts his son implicitly and sometimes relies on his support.
During Biden’s visit to Ireland in April, Hunter Biden assumed one of his more visible roles since his father took office, accompanying him on many of his stops meant to explore family roots.
He also acted as a steadying presence for his father, helping him at moments to navigate the enthusiastic crowds.
“I’m proud of you,” Biden told his son during a meeting with family members in Dandalk, asking him to stand for a round of applause.
Jill Biden has similarly offered only public support.
“I love Hunter, and I’ll support him…in any way I can. And that’s how I look at things,” she told CNN during an interview in Africa when asked whether Hunter’s legal issues would complicate her husband’s reelection bid.
Still, Hunter Biden’s legal issues have previously caused a certain degree of anxiety among Biden’s advisers, including after his lawyers’ decision to pursue a more aggressive legal strategy amid intensifying Republican scrutiny earlier this year, people familiar with the matter told CNN.
Yet Biden himself has been unwavering in his support for his son.
“First of all, my son has done nothing wrong,” Biden said in an interview with MSNBC in May. “I trust him. I have faith in him.”
Last year, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Biden similarly voiced confidence in his son.
“This is a kid who got – not a kid, he’s a grown man – he got hooked on, like many families have had happen, hooked on drugs. He’s overcome that. He’s established a new life,” Biden said.
“I’m confident that he is – what he says and does are consistent with what happens,” the President said. “And for example, he wrote a book about his problems and was straightforward about it. I’m proud of him.”
And the Bidens have navigated Hunter’s position as a frequent target for Republicans and former President Donald Trump dating back to the 2020 presidential campaign. In a recent interview, the first lady said she tries to tune out the GOP’s attacks on her family.
The White House has refrained from commenting on matters relating to the Justice Department’s investigation into Hunter Biden, but officials have quietly kept tabs on Hunter Biden’s case and his legal defense.
The president’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, has stayed in touch with Hunter’s attorneys as the case has evolved. And senior White House officials have also kept apprised of the case and Hunter’s evolving legal defense.
White House officials grew anxious late last year after Hunter hired the notoriously aggressive Washington attorney Abbe Lowell and pivoted to a more aggressive legal strategy that included firing off letters demanding investigations into Biden’s opponents and filing a federal lawsuit.
Those anxieties led to a meeting between senior White House officials, other Democrats and Lowell late last year that led to more open lines of communication between Lowell, the White House and Bauer, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A senior Biden adviser said those open lines facilitate communication in both directions, but insisted that the president’s advisers “don’t direct or advise” Hunter’s legal team on what to do.
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