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Hunter Biden on his memoir "Beautiful Things" and his struggles with substance abuse

Hunter Biden on his struggles with substance abuse
Hunter Biden on "Beautiful Things" and his struggles with substance abuse 09:44

Hunter Biden was asked by correspondent Tracy Smith, "You've said your dad always saw the good in you through all of this. Was there ever a time when you thought, Okay, there's no way, he's gonna give up on me, I've done it now?"

"Never," he replied. "Never. Not once."

Hunter Biden is the president's second son, a Yale-trained lawyer and a lobbyist, whose well-publicized drug problems, personal scandals and business dealings seem to have kept him in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

"There's a current Department of Justice investigation into your finances," Smith said. "What is it about? Can you say anything?"

"I can't. But I can say this, is I'm cooperating completely. And I am absolutely certain, 100% certain that at the end of the investigation, that I will be cleared of any wrongdoing."

"You're 100% certain you'll be cleared?"

"I'm 100% certain of it. And all I can do is cooperate, and trust in the process."

Hunter Biden. CBS News

From the time he was a toddler, Hunter Biden and his older brother, Beau, were fixtures in Joe Biden's public life, and when they were both hurt in the 1972 car crash that killed their mother and sister, their dad – a newly-elected U.S. Senator – took his oath of office in a hospital room.

But as the Biden sons got older, their paths diverged.

Beau was a war veteran and Delaware Attorney General with his sights set on higher office.

But Hunter, who was kicked out of the Navy Reserve after failing a drug test, grappled with substance abuse for years – and after Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, Hunter said he started binge-drinking vodka so heavily that his father intervened.

"He came to my apartment one time," Hunter recalled. "And this was when he was still in office as vice president, and so he kinda ditched his Secret Service, figured out a way to get over to the house. And I said, 'What are you doin' here?' He said, 'Honey, what are you doing?' I said, 'Dad, I'm fine.' He said, 'You're not fine.'"

He sought, and got, help in rehab, but in time he fell off the wagon, and deeper into the abyss.

Smith asked, "You would wake up some mornings – I shouldn't even say some mornings, 'cause you slept for, like, 15 minutes at a time – and be looking for crack, and just smoke whatever was there?"

"Yeah," Hunter said. "I spent more time on my hands and knees picking through rugs, smoking anything that even remotely resembled crack cocaine. I probably smoked more Parmesan cheese than anyone that you know, I'm sure, Tracy! I mean, I went one time for 13 days without sleeping, and smoking crack and drinking vodka exclusively throughout that entire time."

Hunter Biden's struggle with his personal demons is a big part of his new book, from an imprint of Simon & Schuster (a ViacomCBS company). The title, "Beautiful Things," is a phrase he and his brother shared to remind each other of the good in life.

And, Hunter added, "It was the last thing that he said to me: 'Beautiful things.'"

To hear an excerpt from the audio book of Hunter Biden's "Beautiful Things" about his relationship with his brother Beau during his recovery, click here

Beau's death shook the entire Biden family, but the way Hunter dealt with his grief made headlines when he began dating his brother's widow.

Smith asked, "After Beau died, you started a romantic relationship with Hallie, his widow. When the news of that broke, how did people look at you?"

"I think people were confused by it," he said. "And I understand that. I mean, I really do. To me, it's not something that is difficult to explain. Because it came out of a real overwhelming grief that we both shared. And we were together, and trying to do the right thing. And that grief turned into a hope for a love that maybe could replace what we lost. And it didn't work. It didn't work."

Beau Biden's brother Hunter (top left), son Hunter (bottom left), widow Hallie, Vice President Joe Biden and daughter Natalie look on before a funeral mass for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware June 6, 2015. Bryan Woolstoon/Reuters

"I mean, you said you lost clients over this? You lost business over this? You had to step down from the World Food Programme?" Smith asked.  

"Yeah. Yeah. Well, I made a lot of decisions that I probably shouldn't have made. There was a lot more compassion and understanding from the people that knew me. But it was a horrible time, too."

Gallery Books

And then, in 2014 the younger Biden took a job on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings, at a time when his father (who was then vice president) had an active role in U.S. policy toward Ukraine. It raised eyebrows at the time, but by the 2020 elections, Hunter Biden was the center of a political firestorm.

From the September 29, 2020 presidential debate:

President Trump: "Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged…"
Vice President Biden: "That's not true, he wasn't dishonorably discharged."
Mr. Trump: "… for cocaine use. And he didn't have a job until you became vice president. Once you became vice president …"
Mr. Biden: "None of that is true."
Mr. Trump: "… he made a fortune in Ukraine, in China, in Moscow, and various other places."
Mr. Biden: "That is simply not true."

Smith asked, Hunter, "So, looking back, did you make a mistake taking a spot on that board?"

"No, I don't think I made a mistake in taking the spot on the board," he replied. "I think I made a mistake in terms of underestimating the way in which it would be used against me."

"But you must have seen the optics. Even back then you must have, I mean, how could you not have foreseen that this was gonna look bad?"

"Because I really didn't. I'm being as honest with you as I possibly can. All I know is that not one investigative body, not one serious journalist, have ever accused, has ever come to the conclusion that I did anything wrong, or that my father did anything wrong."

But the rumors lived on: In October 2020 a New York Post article said that emails purportedly showing shady dealings in Ukraine by Hunter Biden were found on a laptop computer that he supposedly left in a Delaware repair shop in 2019. The details were sketchy at best, and last month, a declassified intelligence report said that, before the election, the Russians had launched a smear campaign against Joe Biden and his family.

The report, Smith said, does not specifically reference the alleged Hunter Biden laptop. "Was that your laptop?" she asked.

"For real, I don't know," Hunter replied.

"I know. But you know that, this isn't ..."

"But my point is, I really don't know. The answer is, that's the truthful answer."

"You don't know, yes or no, if the laptop was yours?"

"I don't have any idea. No idea whether or not …"

"So, could have been yours?"

"Of course, certainly," Hunter said. "There could be a laptop out there that was stolen from me. It could be that I was hacked. It could be that it was Russian intelligence. It could be that it was stolen from me."

"And you didn't drop off a laptop to be repaired, in Delaware?"

"No. Not that I remember at all. At all. So, we'll see."

Hunter Biden says he's "rebuilding" now, and sober since he married South African film producer Melissa Cohen in May 2019. If his story means anything, he told Smith, it's that the only thing more powerful than a monstrous addiction or eviscerating grief is a family's love

Smith asked, "Did you say you and your dad talk every night?"

"Every night. Yeah. Yeah. Well, we talk at least every night, yeah," Hunter replied. "By the way, not only does he talk to me every night; he calls every one of my daughters and he talks to each one of them every day. And I know that he talks to me, and I know that he talks to my sister."

"The President of the United States?"

"Yeah, yeah. But by the way, he's always done that. I mean always. He's talked to each one of us. But I'll tell you why: because he's lost … because he, like me, knows what it's like not to be able to pick up the phone and talk to your son."

"And he almost lost you."

"Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's hard," Biden said, tearing up. "I'm a Biden, we cry too much! But, you know, I guess one of the reasons that I'm crying is because, you know, beautiful things, we're here. We're here."

For more info:

Story produced by John D'Amelio. Editor: Steven Tyler.

Tune in to Anthony Mason's interview with Hunter Biden on "CBS This Morning" Monday, April 5.  

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