WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s son Hunter is willing to testify on Capitol Hill, but not in the closed-door setting that Republicans requested.
Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, skewered the House Oversight Committee’s investigation of the Biden family in a Tuesday letter to House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), saying a closed deposition would be used to “distort the facts.”
Comer quickly rejected the offer, saying Biden has to testify in private before he can get a public hearing.
“Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules instead of following the rules required of everyone else,” he said in a statement. “That won’t stand with House Republicans.”
Republicans have favored private depositions over public testimony this year in their impeachment inquiry against President Biden, whom they have accused of involvement in his son’s foreign business schemes.
“We have seen you use closed door sessions to manipulate, even distort the facts and misinform the public,” Lowell wrote. “We therefore propose opening the door.”
The letter responds to Comer’s subpoena earlier this month for a private deposition on Dec. 13. Lowell said Hunter Biden would testify that day “or any date in December that we can arrange.”
Comer also requested interviews with the president’s brother, along with other family members and business associates connected to Hunter Biden. The Kentucky Republican has said he prefers depositions to public hearings, which become grandstanding platforms for committee members, who each get five minutes to question witnesses.
The Oversight Committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), said it was ridiculous for Comer to refuse public testimony from the person he’s accused of corrupting the government with a criminal “influence peddling” operation.
“What an epic humiliation for our colleagues and what a frank confession that they are simply not interested in the facts and have no confidence in their own case or the ability of their own Members to pursue it,” Raskin said in a written statement.
The committees considering impeachment haven’t held a public hearing as part of their inquiry since an Oversight Committee hearing in September where Republicans’ own witnesses said Republicans hadn’t uncovered enough evidence to impeach the president. At a previous hearing in July, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) displayed compromising photos of Hunter Biden that had been taken from his hard drive.
After a private deposition with Devon Archer in July, a former business associate of Hunter Biden’s, Republicans emerged from the room claiming Archer’s testimony proved that Joe Biden had lied about not being involved in his son’s business. Democrats said the testimony proved just the opposite.
Comer released the transcript days later, and it revealed that Archer said he witnessed Hunter Biden put his dad on speakerphone in the company of their business partners about 20 times over the course of their 10-year partnership — but that the conversations were never about business. (Other deposition transcripts have not been released.)
“I think you have to understand that there was no business conversation about a cap table or a fee or anything like that. It was, you know, just general niceties and, you know, conversation in general, you know, about the geography, about the weather, whatever it may be,” Archer said. He suggested that the conversations helped Hunter Biden burnish his “brand” with their clients.
Comer said Hunter Biden could still have a public hearing, but he has to sit for the private deposition first. That’s the pattern Democrats used in their impeachment inquiry against then-President Donald Trump in 2019.
“Our lawfully issued subpoena to Hunter Biden requires him to appear for a deposition on Dec. 13,” Comer said. “We expect full cooperation with our subpoena for a deposition but also agree that Hunter Biden should have opportunity to testify in a public setting at a future date.”
As it happens, Comer himself criticized the “unfair, closed-door, hyperpartisan impeachment inquiry process being conducted by House Democrats” in October 2019.
In his letter, Lowell said a public hearing would prevent selective leaks and one-sided press statements about what was said.
“If, as you claim, your efforts are important and involve issues that Americans should know about, then let the light shine on these proceedings,” Lowell said.