Hunter Biden appears on Capitol Hill as House GOP prepares for contempt vote

Hunter Biden, the president’s son, surprised Republicans on the House Oversight Committee Wednesday morning when he appeared briefly in the hearing room as they were poised to vote to hold him in contempt of Congress for failing to take a private deposition.

The arrival of the younger Biden, who repeatedly offered to testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry against President Biden but refused to be interviewed behind closed doors, wreaked havoc on the proceedings as Democrats and Republicans argued over whether to allow him to be listened to. .

The exchange pitted some of former President Donald J. Trump’s staunchest supporters against his successor’s son and chief political rival, underscoring the bitter polarization that is driving the impeachment inquiry.

Democrats on the committee urged the Republicans who control it to let Biden testify then, but GOP representatives insisted that he must undergo a closed-door deposition as their subpoena ordered.

As Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, was beginning to speak out against the younger Biden, he and his entourage left the room minutes after he arrived, prompting Ms. Greene to label him a “coward.” .

“Hunter Biden is terrified of strong, conservative Republican women because he can’t even face my words,” said Ms. Greene, who had shown nude photos of Biden during an earlier committee hearing.

Representative Robert Garcia, Democrat of California, called his actions “shameful” and argued that Mr. Biden was justified in walking away as he spoke.

“She is the person who showed the naked photos of Hunter Biden in this committee room,” he said.

The show was the younger Biden’s latest attempt to undermine Republicans’ case that he failed to comply with their subpoena by demonstrating that he was making himself available to testify publicly. He did not address the jury on Wednesday, but he has previously said he did not want to be interviewed behind closed doors because he fears Republicans would selectively leak his testimony in an attempt to misrepresent it.

Hunter Biden is under federal indictment and faces charges of tax crimes related to his overseas business interests. Republicans are hunting for evidence that his father was improperly involved in his foreign affairs, and are working to build a case to charge the president with bribery and corruption, but so far they have found no evidence of either.

At a news conference on Capitol Hill last month, the day Republicans hoped to oust him, Biden acknowledged his personal failings, described in scandalous detail in the indictment against him, but said they had nothing to do with his father and that his father had no financial involvement in his business.

Republicans reacted angrily to Mr. Biden’s appearance, and one, Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina, said he should have been arrested and jailed on the spot.

“You are the epitome of white privilege, walking onto the oversight committee, spitting in our faces, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed,” Ms. Mace told Mr. Biden as he sat in the audience. “What are you afraid of? “You don’t have the balls.”

“If the lady wants to hear from Hunter Biden, we can hear from him now,” said Rep. Jared Moskowitz, Democrat of Florida.

The oversight committee’s scheduled action on Wednesday would send the contempt charge, which accuses Biden of violating his subpoena, to the full House. The Justice Committee also met Wednesday to consider an identical charge and is expected to approve it. If the House were to approve the indictment, it would be up to the Justice Department to decide whether to bring criminal proceedings against him.

“We will not give Hunter Biden special treatment because of his last name,” said Rep. James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the committee.

Outside the committee room, a circus-like atmosphere greeted Biden and his legal entourage as they exited the hearing, with a crowd of cameras jostling for position and reporters shouting questions. Abbot Lowell, his lawyer, accused Republicans of engaging in a “political crusade” that included selective leaks. He said Mr. Biden has offered to testify in public at least six times.

“Republican presidents today are imposing an unprecedented resolution to hold someone in contempt who has offered to publicly answer all of their appropriate questions,” Lowell told reporters. “The question is: what are they afraid of?”

Mr. Biden made only brief comments to reporters, at one point answering a question about why he put his father on speaker phone during his calls with business partners.

“Do you have a dad?” she asked the reporter. “Calls you? Answer the phone?”

The younger Biden had appeared on Capitol Hill on Dec. 13 to offer to testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry, but insisted he would not appear for a private deposition that House Republicans had scheduled despite his refusals.

That offer fell short of the Republicans’ subpoena demands, and they said they wouldn’t take it.

“Let me state this as clearly as I can,” Hunter Biden said at the time. “My father was not financially involved in my business – neither as a practicing lawyer, nor as a member of the board of directors of Burisma, nor in my collaboration with a private Chinese businessman, nor in my investments at home or abroad and certainly not as an artist.”

They also note that a contempt case has never been filed against a witness who repeatedly offered to give public testimony.

In the last Congress, when Democrats controlled the House, the House voted to defer four recalcitrant witnesses for contemplating charges after they failed to cooperate with the House special committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Unlike Hunter Biden, however, none of these four witnesses – all Trump allies – had offered to testify publicly.

The U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., ultimately indicted two of those witnesses, Stephen K. Bannon and Peter Navarro, both of whom were convicted but are appealing. The criminal charges carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison, as well as a fine of up to $100,000.

The January 6 committee did not plan to consider all the witnesses who defended its subpoenas. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, for example, was among the Republican members of Congress who received a subpoena but did not cooperate with the investigation.

The committee on Jan. 6 decided instead to refer Jordan and three other Republican lawmakers to the Ethics Committee for an investigation.

On Wednesday, Moskowitz said he would vote in favor of the contempt citation against Hunter Biden if Republicans added the names of GOP members of Congress who failed to comply with subpoenas during the last Congress.