Hunter Biden sparks chaos in surprise visit to House hearing to hold him in contempt

Hunter Biden left Republicans sputtering after he made a surprise appearance on Capitol Hill as the House Oversight Committee debated whether to advance a resolution holding him in contempt of Congress.

The youngest and only surviving son of President Joe Biden made the unannounced visit to Capitol Hill Wednesday morning, creating a tense confrontation with the GOP-led panels that have been seeking his testimony in connection to their impeachment proceedings against his father.

The younger Mr Biden didn’t respond to questions and was accompanied by his lawyers Abbe Lowell and Kevin Morris. He proceeded to the House Oversight Committee’s hearing room, where Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin, the panel’s ranking Democrat, was delivering an opening statement at the start of the session.

House Republicans called the markup to hold a vote on recommending that Mr Biden, 53, be charged with contempt of Congress in both the Oversight and Judiciary committees.

Mr Biden left the hearing room shortly before 10.30 am, just as Georgia GOP Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene began speaking, calling him a “coward”.

Hunter Biden appeared unannounced at a House hearing on Wednesday, Jan 10 2024 (Reuters)
Hunter Biden appeared unannounced at a House hearing on Wednesday, Jan 10 2024 (Reuters)

Mr Lowell, the veteran Washington attorney who is leading Mr Biden’s defence in the House inquiry, addressed reporters in the corridor after leaving the hearing room with his client.

He reminded the assembled press that Mr Biden — a Yale-educated attorney and former lobbyist turned artist — “was and is a private citizen” and slammed the GOP for seeking to “use him as a surrogate to attack his father”.

“Despite their improper partisan motives, on six occasions ... we have offered to work with the House committees to see what and how relevant information to any legitimate inquiry could be provided. Our first five offers were ignored,” he said. “And then in November, they issued a subpoena for a behind-closed-doors deposition, a tactic that the Republicans have repeatedly misused in their political crusade to selectively leak and mischaracterize what witnesses have said.”

“In the House last fall, Chairman Comer made an explicit offer that people like Hunter ... had ... the option to attend a deposition or a public hearing, whichever they chose – Hunter chose a hearing where Republicans could not distort, manipulate, or misuse that testimony,” Mr Lowell added.

Hunter Biden appeared unannounced at a House hearing on Wednesday, Jan 10 2024 (Reuters)
Hunter Biden appeared unannounced at a House hearing on Wednesday, Jan 10 2024 (Reuters)

“Honouring and then ignoring that invitation, and proving once again, that they cared little about the truth and wanted only to, quote, ‘move the needle of political support’, which was a quote Chairman Comer confessed was his true purpose,” he continued, adding later that the GOP committee chairs had put forth an “unprecedented resolution to hold someone in contempt, who has offered to publicly answer all their proper questions”.

The question there is, what are they afraid of?” he added.

The hearing — technically a markup of the contempt resolution — devolved into chaos at times, with members shouting over each other and interrupting each other at times.

One Democrat on the panel, Representative Jared Moskowitz of Florida, responded to a provocation by Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, who attempted to enter a poster-sized excerpt of a document into the hearing record.

Mr Moskowitz’s reply came by displaying a photo of former president Donald Trump and deceased paedophile Jeffrey Epstein behind his seat on the dais.

He told The Independent: “I brought that in, to point out to my Republican colleagues if that they were if they were going to allow that sort of thing, this could be endless. We could just take photographs and enter in evidence, and so I was merely trying to challenge what Marjorie was trying to do”.

Hunter Biden appeared unannounced at a House hearing on Wednesday, Jan 10 2024 (Reuters)
Hunter Biden appeared unannounced at a House hearing on Wednesday, Jan 10 2024 (Reuters)

The Republican-led Oversight and Judiciary committees are expected the advance their respective contempt resolutions to the House floor, and with the GOP in control of the chamber, both are likely to pass.

Under the portion of the US criminal code laying out how contempt of Congress prosecutions are brought, it will be up to the US Attorney for the District of Columbia to decide whether to present evidence from the House to a grand jury and seek charges against Mr Biden.

According to legal experts, it’s unlikely that such a prosecution will be brought because of Mr Biden’s attorneys’ repeated attempts to engage and negotiate terms with the House panel.

Yet one member of the panel, South Carolina Republican Nancy Mace, argued that the president’s son needed to be arrested then and there as he sat in the committee room.

“Hunter Biden you, are too afraid for a deposition, and I still think you are today,” she said.

“I mean the nerve of him to show up to our committee is the epitome of privilege,” Ms Mace later told The Independent. “He should be held accountable like everybody else.”

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the number-two Democrat on the committee, told The Independent that the younger Mr Biden was trying to comply with the subpoena.

“He's showing up,” she said. “They asked him to show up. He's showing up. He's trying to comply, and they're trying to hold them in contempt of Congress anyway. I mean, the whole story kind of plays out for itself.”

Neither a representative for Mr Biden nor the White House immediately responded to a query from The Independent on whether President Biden was aware of his son’s intention to visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to say whether President Biden had any foreknowledge of Hunter Biden’s actions at her daily press briefing on Wednesday despite being pressed by multiple reporters on the matter.

“Hunter, as you all know, is a private citizen, he's not a member of this White House. He makes his own decisions, like he did today about how to respond to Congress,” she said.

Asked whether the younger Mr Biden stayed overnight at the White House before travelling to Capitol Hill, Ms Jean-Pierre declined to offer a response.

But Mr Biden’s appearance on Capitol Hill drew praise from at least one member of the Oversight panel, Representative Jasmine Crockett.

She told The Independent that Mr Biden’s surprise visit was “great” because it showed how he had “a willingness to deal with people that are unwilling and unruly”.

“If this isn't about putting on a show, they shouldn't be afraid of a transparent conversation with Hunter to ask their questions,” she said.

But the attempt to hold Mr Biden in contempt of Congress comes as the House must pass spending bills to avoid a government shutdown. Amid the hearing, a handful of House Republicans joined Democrats to tank a rule vote.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez said the attempt to hold Mr Biden in contempt is linked to the inability to pass spending bills.

“They're doing it because they can't get a rule on the floor and because they have nothing else to do,” she said.