WASHINGTON — House Republicans will vote Wednesday to authorize their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, a move that could set them up to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress if he fails to appear for a closed-door deposition this week.
Republicans are still preparing to depose the president’s son on Wednesday morning, even though they’re uncertain he’ll appear.
The two sides have traded letters related to the pending deposition, with Biden’s lawyer Abbe Lowell offering that his client participate but only in a public setting. Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., and Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, have said they are open to Biden appearing in a public hearing but only after he sits for a closed-door transcribed interview. The two warned Hunter Biden that if he fails to appear on Wednesday, they would quickly move to hold him in contempt of Congress.
Biden’s legal team has been insistent that he is the improper target of a congressional subpoena but that they are willing to cooperate if it is an open setting so that portions of Biden’s testimony won’t be clipped and used out of context.
“We will want Hunter to answer, as he has indicated, every pertinent and relevant question, but he should do so in a forum in which the people can hear the tactics of the Republicans and hear his answers and see that they cannot go behind closed doors and do what they’ve done a dozen times, which is to manipulate the evidence for a false narrative,” Lowell said in an interview Monday on MSNBC.
Republicans have countered that they will make public the full transcript of the deposition as soon as it is completed and able to be released.
Lowell has yet to say definitively if his client will appear on Wednesday as the president’s son wrestles with the legal and political risks. A source familiar with the committees’ work said that as of Tuesday morning, the panels have not heard from Hunter Biden’s team about whether he will appear, but that they are prepared for the deposition. Cameras are set up to film the deposition and lawyers have prepared hundreds of questions, the source said.
Lowell has argued that the subpoena is illegitimate because the inquiry itself has not been authorized by the full House of Representatives. But Republicans aim to fix that Wednesday. In addition to the vote on the impeachment inquiry, they will put a resolution on the floor that will explicitly state that any subpoenas issued prior to the vote, including for Hunter Biden, fall under the authorization of the inquiry.
Formalizing the impeachment inquiry serves two purposes for House Republicans. In addition to erasing the legal argument that the lack of a vote delegitimizes the subpoenas they’ve issued, it also gives them more ground to stand on when it comes to holding Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress.
Holding him in contempt would ultimately require a vote of the committee and then the entire House. If Hunter Biden does not appear Wednesday, the committee would need to give a three-day notice before taking up a contempt resolution, meaning that it would be unlikely to be taken up until the new year as Congress is set to recess for the holidays on Thursday.
“Chairmen James Comer and Jim Jordan have been clear: Hunter Biden must appear for his deposition on December 13 at 9:30a or they will initiate contempt of Congress proceedings,” a House Oversight Committee spokesperson said in a statement.
A contempt of Congress charge would add another legal headache for Hunter Biden, who was hit with a new round of tax charges last week, after being indicted on gun charges in September. His team filed four motions Monday seeking to have the gun charges dismissed.
The committees have also been probing into that federal investigation into Hunter Biden, which is being led by special counsel David Weiss. The panels have suggested they are particularly interested in bringing in two Justice Department attorneys who worked on the case, Jack Morgan and Mark Daly, for depositions.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department said that it “has already made six supervisory employees available to speak to the Committee for dozens of hours regarding allegations about the scope of Mr. Weiss’s authority. The Department has also authorized unprecedented testimony from the individual best positioned to speak to Mr. Weiss’s authority: David Weiss. Mr. Weiss confirmed that he is, and has been, the decision-maker on this case.”
Ultimately, Hunter Biden’s legal team has argued that he is a private citizen who is being roped into the impeachment inquiry only because he is Joe Biden’s son and that the committee has yet to deliver any evidence that connects Hunter Biden’s business activities to his father.
“I can’t get the president, so I’ll be besmirch his son in a way to suggest that there’s something going on between the two of them,” Lowell said of the House GOP. “That’s why it is because his last name is Biden, because of his proximity to his dad, who has been a supportive father to his son through all the best and worst parts of Hunter’s life.”