Two House committees on Wednesday recommended holding Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for flouting subpoenas last month when he didn’t appear for a closed-door deposition.
In party-line votes, the House Oversight and Accountability and House Judiciary committees each approved reports outlining the contempt of Congress case against the president’s son, saying his refusal to comply with the subpoenas was a “criminal act.” The reports also say the matter should be referred to a U.S. attorney’s office for prosecution.
The Oversight panel approved its report in a 25-21 vote, while the Judiciary committee approved its in a 23-14 vote.
The Oversight panel markup spun into political drama shortly after starting. Hunter Biden, who had agreed to appear for a public hearing, made a surprise showing at the meeting as Democrats tried to push the committee into letting him answer questions.
Hunter Biden wasn’t offered a chance to address the committee and left the meeting just as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene started to give her remarks. Greene, R-Ga., accused him of being afraid of strong Republican women and said he was a coward.
Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., said it was “ironic” that Greene would complain about Hunter Biden leaving when it was Greene who showed nude photos of the younger Biden at a previous hearing.
Lawmakers spent large portions of the House Oversight meeting hurling partisan arguments at each other.
Republicans said Hunter Biden defied subpoenas and wanted special treatment over how he gives testimony.
Democrats said that comments from House Oversight Chairman James R. Comer indicated the committee would accommodate Hunter Biden for a committee hearing.
“We will not provide Hunter Biden with special treatment because of his last name,” Comer said at the meeting. “All Americans must be treated equally under the law, and that includes the Bidens.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the Oversight and Accountability Committee, said Comer repeatedly refused offers from Hunter Biden and his attorney to meet with the chairman, his staff and members of the committee.
“We are here today because the chairman has bizarrely decided to obstruct his own investigation and is now seeking to hold Hunter Biden in contempt after he accepted the chairman’s multiple public offers to come answer the committee’s questions,” said Raskin, D-Md..
Raskin also said Republicans have stood by House colleagues who didn’t comply with subpoenas from the now-disbanded House select panel on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The committees in part sought to get testimony from Hunter Biden as part of House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, an investigation Democrats have lambasted as baseless.
Last month, Hunter Biden was a no-show at the scheduled deposition. Instead, he came to Capitol Hill and challenged the lawmakers to a public hearing, saying that Republicans didn’t want an open process.
House Republicans, who have aimed for months to connect the president with his son’s business dealings, have been investigating alleged influence peddling from Hunter Biden when Joe Biden was vice president.
Republicans have opened an impeachment investigation against the president, but so far no evidence has been provided that definitively proves Joe Biden took bribes in exchange for official actions.
Hunter Biden’s appearance Wednesday added fuel to what was already expected to be a testy meeting, with Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., brushing off Hunter Biden’s appearance as a stunt. She also confronted the younger Biden directly.
“You are not above the law, at all. The facts in this case are crystal clear,” she said.
Over in the House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said lawmakers have “no choice but to hold Mr. Biden in contempt.”
But Democrats highlighted Jordan’s past failure to comply with a subpoena from the now-disbanded Jan. 6 committee.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., even showed a ticking laptop clock with the words: “Jordan’s subpoena evasion.”
“And you want us to take this proceeding seriously? Where you have an issue with somebody else’s compliance with a subpoena? Somebody who actually is willing to come forward publicly, something you are not willing to do,” Swalwell said.
The committee votes marked the latest in an extended clash between House Republicans and Hunter Biden over whether he would sit for a deposition.
In his comments last month outside the Capitol Building, Hunter Biden went after conservative Republicans, saying they have ridiculed his struggle with addiction and tried to dehumanize him to embarrass his father.
His attorney, Abbe David Lowell, has said a public hearing would avert manipulated transcripts, selective leaks and press statements that were one-sided.
Outside the markup on Wednesday, with Hunter Biden by his side, Lowell said they offered to work with the House committees on six different occasions since February 2023 to see “what and how relevant information to any legitimate inquiry could be provided.”
Lowell said the first five offers were ignored. “Hunter Biden was and is a private citizen. Despite this, Republicans have sought to use him as a surrogate to attack his father,” Lowell said.
The committees sought to address transparency concerns by assuring that the transcript would be released shortly after the deposition, and the sitting would be recorded on video, according to the report advanced by the Oversight committee Wednesday.
The report also said the panels told the younger Biden they were willing to allow public testimony later on.
The deposition setting, according to the Oversight panel report, allows for direct and cross examination and can involve hour-long periods of questioning from both sides of the aisle. That’s in stark contrast to public hearings, which often involve each lawmaker having an allotted amount of time to give statements or ask questions.
Depositions, according to the report, lead to a “deeper understanding of the matter and more fulsome assessment of the relevant facts.”
K. Sophie Will contributed to this report.