Hunter Biden reversed course Friday and said he would agree to give closed-door testimony to Congress if the House Oversight and Judiciary committees issue new subpoenas.
Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, made the offer in a letter Friday to Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the two Republicans who have led the investigations into the Biden family and an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
“You have not explained why you are not interested in transparency and having the American people witness the full and complete testimony of Mr. Biden at a public hearing. If you issue a new proper subpoena, now that there is a duly authorized impeachment inquiry, Mr. Biden will comply for a hearing or deposition. We will accept such a subpoena on Mr. Biden’s behalf,” Lowell wrote.
President Biden’s son had previously offered only to testify in a public setting, and he defied a subpoena to appear for a closed-door deposition last month.
Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, center, with attorneys Kevin Morris, left, and Abbe Lowell, right, during a House Oversight Committee markup on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. (Graeme Sloan/Bloomberg)
That prompted Republicans to advance a resolution to hold him in contempt of Congress — after a surprise appearance from Hunter Biden as one of the panels debated the measure.
A full House vote is scheduled for next week, after which the Department of Justice could decide whether to bring charges against Hunter Biden.
Lowell argued that the original subpoenas from the Judiciary and Oversight committees, issued in November, were invalid because the House did not formally vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry into Biden until December.
In a joint statement later on Friday, Comer and Jordan defended the legality of their subpoenas from November and said they plan to move forward with holding Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress — “for now.”
“House Republicans have been resolute in demanding Hunter Biden sit for a deposition in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. While we are heartened that Hunter Biden now says he will comply with a subpoena, make no mistake: Hunter Biden has already defied two valid, lawful subpoenas,” Comer and Jordan said in the statement.
They added, “While we will work to schedule a deposition date, we will not tolerate any additional stunts or delay from Hunter Biden. The American people will not tolerate, and the House will not provide, special treatment for the Biden family.”
Oversight Committee ranking member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), in his own statement, called on Republicans to end the push to hold Hunter Biden in contempt.
“Hunter Biden is giving Republicans exactly what they have been demanding this week. In a letter today he has offered to appear for a ‘hearing or deposition.’ It is time for Chairs Comer and Jordan to call off this truly absurd and wasteful contempt proceeding and finally take yes for an answer, which Chair Jordan already said he would ‘certainly’ do,” Raskin said.
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The panels regularly assert when they issue subpoenas that they have the right to seek information for any legislative reason, and Comer has said the Oversight Committee is hoping to craft legislation to combat “influence peddling” by family members.
Both Republicans and Democrats in recent years have shifted arguments about whether an impeachment inquiry needs a House vote to be valid.
When former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) moved to open an impeachment inquiry into former President Trump without an initial vote in 2019, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the White House Office of Legal Counsel under Trump argued that such an inquiry was invalid without a vote. A full House vote came about a month later.
But then, as Speaker, McCarthy moved in September 2023 to put various House GOP probes into the Biden family’s foreign business dealings and how the Department of Justice handled a tax crimes investigation into Hunter Biden under the umbrella of an impeachment inquiry without a vote. The House later formalized the inquiry with a vote in December after the White House, citing the Trump-era Office of Legal Counsel opinion, responded to requests for information saying the inquiry was unconstitutional.
Lowell cited the same Trump-era legal opinion in his letter.
Lowell argued in the letter that the younger Biden said “repeatedly that he would answer all pertinent and relevant questions you and your colleagues had for him at a public hearing.”
“Rather than accepting Mr. Biden’s offer to voluntarily sit for a public hearing, you are now seeking to have the full House find him in contempt based on subpoenas for a deposition that you issued on November 8 and 9, 2023,” he said, arguing that the “subpoenas were and are legally invalid and cannot form a legal basis to proceed with your misdirected and impermissible contempt resolution.”
Hunter Biden earlier this week made a surprise appearance at a markup of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee on Wednesday before the panel was set to approve the resolution to hold him in contempt of Congress, in order to make a point about his willingness to testify publicly.
At the Oversight hearing Wednesday, Hunter Biden was joined by Lowell and Kevin Morris, an associate and entertainment lawyer who is scheduled to appear before for his own deposition related to his financial assistance to Hunter Biden next week.
They exited the room minutes later, just as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was beginning to speak.
In sparring with the House GOP panels ahead of the contempt move, Lowell had noted a previous media statement from Comer saying that witnesses in the probe could come in “for depositions or committee hearings, whichever they choose.”
But Republicans said a public format, with rounds of questioning cycling between members on the panel, was insufficient for poring over reams of financial documents. They offered a public hearing at a later date, and to release the transcript of the deposition. The Republican leaders noted that initial closed-door testimony is standard for such inquiries.
Rather than appearing for a scheduled deposition, Hunter Biden delivered a statement to the press on the Senate lawn, asserting that his father was not financially involved with his business.
Updated at 4:01 p.m.
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