In a chaotic day of political theater on Capitol Hill Wednesday, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee advanced a contempt of Congress resolution against the president’s son, Hunter Biden.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced its own contempt resolution earlier the same day. The two committees are involved with the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, along with the House Ways and Means Committee.
The full House will vote on the contempt resolutions as early next week.
After a full day of intense debate, beginning at about 10 a.m. and stretching to just before 6 p.m., the Oversight Committee approved the resolution on a party-line vote of 25-21.
After openly defying congressional subpoenas, the younger Biden surprisingly showed up in the Oversight Committee’s hearing room ahead of the contempt vote with two lawyers.
This prompted Democrats to say he should be given a chance to speak publicly. However, after significant shouting by committee members at each other, Hunter Biden and his lawyers left.
The president’s son expects to follow a different set of rules, said Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla.
“He has the gall to come here and show up, and then when the Democrats are saying, ‘Hey, he wants to speak,’ he leaves,” Donalds said. “The man has been subpoenaed by Congress. … He should be held in contempt. There was a subpoena. He did not answer it. Any other American would be held in contempt by Congress.”
The committee was filled with partisan fireworks from the outset.
“You’re the epitome of white privilege, coming into the oversight committee, spitting in our face,” Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said to Hunter Biden shortly after he and his lawyers entered the committee hearing room.
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., leapt to Hunter Biden’s defense.
“We can hear from Hunter Biden right now,” Moskowitz said.
Mace jumped in to say, “Hunter Biden should be arrested right here.”
If approved by the full House, with a narrow Republican majority, the matter will be referred to the Justice Department.
Contempt of Congress is a violation of the law, similar to contempt of court. Last year, two former White House officials under President Donald Trump—Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon—were convicted of contempt of Congress for declining to attend closed depositions by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
Three House committees are conducting an impeachment inquiry into the president over evidence of influence peddling by family members that brought some $20 million from foreign individuals and entities, including from Russia and China, into shell companies owned by Biden family members.
On Dec. 13, the day the subpoena directed him to appear before the Oversight Committee for a closed-door deposition, Hunter Biden instead gave remarks outside the Capitol, defying the subpoena. His lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said his client would appear on his terms and in public testimony only.
That same day, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president “was certainly familiar with what his son was going to say.”
On Wednesday, Jean-Pierre was asked if the president knew that Hunter Biden would show up on Capitol Hill.
“Hunter, as you all know, is a private citizen, he is not a member of this White House, he makes his own decisions, like he did today about how to respond to Congress,” she said.
Democrats on the panel insisted Hunter Biden’s presence proved he was willing to cooperate with Congress.
Committee members shouted over one another.
Hunter Biden and his lawyers walked out of the room when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., began to speak.
“Hunter Biden is terrified of strong conservative Republican women because he can’t even face my words as I was about to speak to him,” Greene said. “What a coward!”
Outside the hearing room, Hunter Biden stood next to Lowell, also accompanied by California lawyer and ally Kevin Morris.
“Hunter Biden was and is a private citizen,” Lowell told reporters as the first son stood silent. “Despite this, Republicans have sought to use him as a surrogate to attack his father.”
Lowell added, “The question there is, what are they afraid of?”
Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., excoriated Republicans on the committee and cast Hunter Biden as a victim in an investigation of the president.
“You can’t go after the principal, so you go after the people around him,” Connolly said. “This is mean-spirited, cruel, and beneath the dignity of this body.”
Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., noted that Democrats who argued Hunter Biden should be able to choose the terms of cooperation with a subpoena did not have the same view in previous investigations.
He first noted that Donald Trump Jr. gave five depositions to congressional committees behind closed doors.
“Let’s talk about precedent for a moment of a president’s son abiding by lawful subpoenas of the Congress,” Waltz said. “Donald Trump Jr. came before this body, he came before the House Intelligence Committee, he came before the House Judiciary Committee, he came before the Senate Intelligence Committee twice, he came before the so-called Jan. 6 Committee, all behind closed doors, where lawyers can sit down, both sides of the aisle, and have a conversation, go through documents, under oath, which is the precedent for any committee.”
Several Democrats on the committee brought up allies of former President Trump who did not comply with the subpoenas of the House Jan. 6 Committee.
Waltz brought up an example to Oversight Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who was also a member of the Jan. 6 Committee: “When Steve Bannon agreed to testify publicly, you argued, sir, that he should have to sit for a closed-door interview, just like every other witness. Somehow, Hunter Biden, because he’s a Biden, should be held to a different standard.”
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Author: Fred Lucas