Hunter Biden Appears on Capitol Hill as House G.O.P. Votes for Contempt


The House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday along party lines to hold Hunter Biden, the president’s son, in contempt of Congress, hours after he surprised Republicans by appearing unannounced on Capitol Hill, prompting a partisan free-for-all.

The 23-to-14 vote sends the matter to the full House, which is controlled by Republicans. The measure accuses the younger Mr. Biden of failing to sit for a private deposition in the impeachment inquiry against President Biden. It came as the House Oversight Committee continued a lengthy and at times vitriolic meeting on an identical resolution, which also was expected to be approved along party lines.

“We will not provide Hunter Biden with special treatment because of his last name,” said Representative James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the oversight panel.

The day began with a dramatic twist: the unexpected arrival of the younger Mr. Biden, who has repeatedly offered to testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry but refused to be interviewed behind closed doors, in the Oversight Committee’s hearing room. Democrats and Republicans immediately began bickering about whether to allow him to be heard.

Democrats on the panel urged the Republicans who control it to let Mr. Biden testify right then and there, but G.O.P. lawmakers insisted he must submit to a closed-door deposition as ordered by their subpoena.

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

As Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, was beginning to lecture the younger Mr. Biden, he and his entourage left the room just minutes after arriving, trailed by a gaggle of journalists who had gathered to watch the G.O.P.’s latest move. That prompted 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 displayed nude photos of Mr. Biden during a previous committee hearing.

Representative Robert Garcia, Democrat of California, called her actions “shameful” and argued that Mr. Biden was justified in leaving as she spoke.

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

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

Hunter Biden is under federal indictment facing accusations of tax crimes related to his overseas business interests. Republicans are hunting for evidence that his father was inappropriately involved in his foreign business dealings, and are working to build a case for charging the president with bribery and corruption, but have so far turned up no proof of either.

At a news conference on Capitol Hill on the day Republicans hoped to depose him last month, Mr. 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 on Wednesday, and one, Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina, said he should be arrested and jailed on the spot.

“You are the epitome of white privilege, coming into the Oversight Committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed,” Ms. Mace said to Mr. Biden as he sat in the audience. “What are you afraid of? You have no balls.”

“If the gentlelady wants to hear from Hunter Biden, we can hear from him right now,” Representative Jared Moskowitz, Democrat of Florida, shot back.

Should the House endorse the contempt charge, it would be up to the Justice Department to decide whether to pursue a criminal case against Mr. Biden.

Outside the Oversight Committee room, a circuslike atmosphere greeted Mr. Biden and his legal entourage as they made their way out of the meeting, with a throng of news cameras jostling for position and journalists shouting questions. Abbe Lowell, his lawyer, accused Republicans of engaging in a “political crusade” that included selective leaks. He said Mr. Biden has offered at least six times to testify in public.

“The Republican chairs today then are commandeering an unprecedented resolution to hold someone in contempt who has offered to publicly answer all their proper questions,” Mr. Lowell told the reporters. “The question there is what are they afraid of?”

Mr. Biden made only brief comments to reporters, at one point responding to a question about why he had put his father on speakerphone while speaking to business partners.

“Do you have a dad?” he asked. “Does he call you? Do you answer the phone?”

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

That offer fell short of the demands of the Republicans’ subpoena, and they said they would not accept it.

“Let me state as clearly as I can,” Hunter Biden said at the time. “My father was not financially involved in my business — not as a practicing lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma, not my partnership with a Chinese private businessman, not in my investments at home nor abroad and certainly not as an artist.”

Democrats contend that Mr. Comer should have accepted Mr. Biden’s offer to testify publicly, noting that he had previously offered to let witnesses testify at either a deposition or a public hearing, “whichever they choose.”

In the last Congress, when Democrats controlled the House, the chamber voted to refer four recalcitrant witnesses for contempt charges after they did not cooperate with the special House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Unlike Hunter Biden, however, none of those four witnesses — all allies of Mr. Trump — had offered to testify publicly.

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

The Jan. 6 committee did not refer for contempt every witness who defied its subpoenas. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the Judiciary panel, for example, was among the Republican members of Congress who received a subpoena but did not cooperate with the investigation.

The Jan. 6 panel decided instead to refer Mr. Jordan and three other Republican congressmen to the Ethics Committee for investigation.

On Wednesday, Mr. Moskowitz said he would vote for the contempt citation against Hunter Biden if Republicans would add the names of the G.O.P. congressmen who failed to comply with subpoenas during the last Congress.



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