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House GOP pauses push to hold Hunter Biden in contempt

Committees renewed discussions about a closed-door deposition of the president’s son

Chairman James Comer, right, and Rep. Scott Perry talk last week before a House Oversight and Accountability Committee markup on a resolution to recommend the House find Hunter Biden In contempt of Congress.
Chairman James Comer, right, and Rep. Scott Perry talk last week before a House Oversight and Accountability Committee markup on a resolution to recommend the House find Hunter Biden In contempt of Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans on Tuesday halted plans to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress, with the head of the House Rules Committee saying conversations between lawmakers and attorneys for the president’s son were ongoing.

The panel was scheduled Tuesday to tee up for floor action two measures that recommended the House hold the president’s son in contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas last month, when he failed to appear for a closed-door deposition.

But House Rules Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., on Tuesday said the panel would not be taking testimony on the reports, one from the House Oversight and Accountability Committee and another from the House Judiciary Committee.

“I understand that conversations between Mr. Biden’s attorneys and the Oversight and Judiciary committees are ongoing, and we will not meet tonight on this matter while discussions about this compliance remain open,” Cole said. “However, should those conversations not prove successful, our Rules Committee may reconvene this week to consider those reports.”

The pause extends the showdown between House Republicans and Hunter Biden over whether he will sit for a deposition. House Republicans have aimed for months to connect the president with his son’s business dealings and have investigated alleged influence peddling from Hunter Biden when Joe Biden was vice president.

In a letter dated Friday, Hunter Biden’s attorney informed lawmakers that his client would comply with a deposition if a “new proper subpoena” was issued, and lawmakers over the weekend said they are prepared to issue subpoenas for a deposition.

Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe David Lowell, argued in the letter that the two subpoenas at issue were “legally invalid” and said they were issued before the House passed a measure that formalized an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Lowell also argued that the two committees voted to recommend Hunter Biden be held in contempt of Congress, despite the president’s son “offering repeatedly that he would answer all pertinent and relevant questions you and your colleagues had for him at a public hearing.”

“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,” Lowell said in the letter.

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and House Oversight Chairman James R. Comer, R-Ky., issued a letter Sunday in response, saying both panels “welcome Mr. Biden’s newfound willingness to testify in a deposition setting under subpoena.”

The letter stated that the lawmakers “are prepared to issue subpoenas compelling Mr. Biden’s appearance at a deposition on a new date in the coming weeks.”

“To be clear, the issuance of these subpoenas does not in any way suggest or imply that the Committees believe the assertions in your January 12 letter to have any merit,” the letter read. “Our willingness to issue these subpoenas is rooted entirely in our interest in obtaining Mr. Biden’s testimony as expeditiously as possible.”

The committee reports, both of which outlined the contempt of Congress case against the president’s son, argued that Hunter Biden’s defiance to comply with the subpoenas was a “criminal act” and said the matter should be referred to a U.S. attorney’s office for prosecution.

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