WASHINGTON — Hunter Biden arrived on Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning to attend in person congressional committee meetings called to hold him in contempt of Congress — setting up an unprecedented standoff on live television between the son of the president and House Republicans who have long sought his testimony as part of their impeachment inquiry into his father.
Hunter Biden was accompanied by his attorneys Abbe Lowell and Kevin Morris and did not initially respond to questions.
House Republicans on the Oversight and Judiciary Committees were holding separate committee votes on Wednesday recommending that Hunter Biden be charged with contempt.
Hunter Biden is at odds with Republicans over their demand that he be deposed behind closed doors. The president’s son, who is facing two separate criminal indictments, has pressed to testify publicly, an offer Republicans have refused, continuing to insist that the interview be held privately.
During the Oversight Committee’s markup Wednesday morning, Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., called for Hunter Biden’s arrest on the spot for defying the congressional subpoena.
“Hunter Biden you are too afraid for a deposition, and I still think you are today,” she said.
“Play stupid games, win stupid prizes,” she added.
Hunter Biden and his legal team left the hearing shortly before Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., delivered remarks at the Oversight hearing in which she called him a “coward.”
Outside the chamber, Lowell said committee Republicans were motived by “improper partisan motives.” He said he and his client had offered to work with Republicans on the committees on a half dozen occasions since February of last year, including on Wednesday, to see “how relevant information to any legitimate inquiry could be provided,” but their offers were ignored. He called a GOP subpoena in November for a closed-door deposition “a tactic that the Republicans have repeatedly misused in their political crusade to selectively leak and mischaracterize what witnesses have said.”
“The Republican chairs today then are commandeering an unprecedented resolution to hold someone in contempt who has offered to publicly answer all their proper questions,” Lowell added. “The question there is, what are they afraid of?”
Asked by NBC News shortly after leaving the Oversight hearing whether he would testify today if asked, Hunter Biden replied “yes.” He and his team left the building afterwards.
In a separate contempt markup by the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., mentioned Hunter Biden’s unexpected appearance on Capitol Hill before moving to adjourn the meeting in order to have the president’s son testify in public given his presence down the hall at the time. The motion failed in a roll call vote.
Hunter Biden did not attend the Judiciary panel’s meeting.
During his leadership news conference Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said he was aware of Hunter Biden’s surprise appearance and called for “accountability” in response to his defiance of “a lawful” congressional subpoena.
“So I support the Oversight and Judiciary Committee efforts to hold him in contempt,” he told reporters. “We have to do this. This is our role. It’s our responsibility. We’re not taking any pleasure in this, this is not political.”
Biden’s surprise appearance comes a day before he is due to plea not guilty at his first appearance in court on separate tax charges in Los Angeles, and is the latest in an escalating back and forth between himself and House Republicans. In correspondence with the Republican-led House Oversight Committee in the fall and in a news conference in front of the Capitol last month on the day he was compelled to be interviewed, Biden said he would comply with the subpoena but only in public testimony, citing both the Judiciary and House Oversight chairmen’s own previous comments that it could take place in public.
Biden and his attorneys have maintained that House Republicans’ claims of illegal conduct are baseless and have argued that they will selectively leak or mischaracterize his comments for partisan purposes if it takes place during a closed-door deposition. House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, have said Biden must first testify behind closed doors, and in a report released Monday stated that “Mr. Biden’s flagrant defiance of the Committees’ deposition subpoenas — while choosing to appear nearby on the Capitol grounds to read a prepared statement on the same matters — is contemptuous, and he must be held accountable for his unlawful actions,” the reports read.
The top House Democrat on the committee, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, previously said in a statement “there is no precedent” for the House to hold a private citizen in contempt of Congress who has offered to testify under oath publicly and on a day chosen by the committee.
Biden’s attorney Lowell previously told NBC News in a statement: “It’s clear the Republican Chairmen aren’t interested in getting the facts or they would allow Hunter to testify publicly.
“Instead, House Republicans continue to play politics by seeking an unprecedented contempt motion against someone who has from the first request offered to answer all their proper questions. What are they afraid of?”
As part of the impeachment effort, Comer and Jordan asked the White House last month to provide any communications it has had with Hunter Biden’s legal team, telling White House counsel Edward Siskel that they seek to determine whether the president had a role in his son’s decision to defy their subpoena.