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Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, sits with his attorney Abbe Lowell as he makes a surprise appearance at a House Oversight Committee markup and meeting to vote on whether to hold Biden in contempt of Congress for failing to respond to a request to testify to the House last month, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2024. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
USA-BIDEN HUNTER-HOUSE Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, sits with his attorney Abbe Lowell as he makes a surprise appearance at a House Oversight Committee markup and meeting to vote on whether to hold Biden in contempt of Congress for failing to respond to a request to testify to the House last month, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2024. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Image: KEVIN LAMARQUE

Washington — Hunter Biden made an unexpected appearance on Wednesday at a US House of Representatives hearing where Republican legislators were pushing for a vote to hold him in contempt of Congress for not testifying in their impeachment inquiry targeting his father, Democratic President Joe Biden.

The younger Biden entered the hearing without speaking to reporters, and sat quietly in the gallery with his attorney, causing pandemonium, with members of the House oversight committee arguing with each other and scolding him for the surprise.

“It does not matter who you are ... who your father is or your last name. Yes, I’m looking at you, Hunter Biden. You are not above the law,” Republican representative Nancy Mace said. “Hunter Biden, you are too afraid to show up for a deposition. And you still are, today.”

House Republicans allege that the president and his family improperly profited from policy actions in which Biden participated when he was vice-president from 2009-2017. The White House and Hunter Biden deny wrongdoing.

Hunter Biden faces his own legal troubles. He is due to appear in a Los Angeles federal court on Thursday to face criminal charges of failing to pay $1.4m in taxes. He also been charged in Delaware with lying about his drug use while buying a handgun. He has pleaded not guilty to the Delaware charges.

Democratic representative Jared Moskowitz asked why the committee would not take the 53-year-old Biden’s testimony then.

“The witness accepted the chairman’s invitation. It just so happens the witness is here,” Moskowitz said. “Let’s vote. Let’s take a vote. Who wants to hear from Hunter right now, today?”

The younger Biden left the hearing shortly after.

His attorney Abbe Lowell made a brief statement to reporters afterward.

“We have offered to work with the House committees to see what and how relevant information to any legitimate inquiry could be provided,” Lowell said. “Our first five offers were ignored. 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 mischaracterise.”

House Republicans had issued a subpoena for Hunter Biden to appear for a closed-door deposition on December 13 as part of the inquiry. Hunter Biden said he would be willing to testify publicly, but legislators rebuffed that offer, saying he needed to submit to a private deposition in addition to any public testimony.

On the day the deposition was scheduled, Hunter Biden appeared outside the Capitol and made public remarks, but did not appear for the closed-door interview.

The full House generally holds a vote to direct the certification of contempt to a US attorney after a committee holds its vote, according to the Congressional Research Service. Enforcement of contempt statutes issued by Congress is generally done by the justice department.

According to the CRS, the House has held 10 people in contempt of Congress since 2008, but the department has sought the indictment of only two: Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro, advisers to Republican former president Donald Trump.

Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison, though he appealed. Navarro was convicted in September 2023.

There is no record of a sitting president’s family member being held in contempt of Congress, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service that includes contempt resolutions dating back to 1980.

Contempt of Congress is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment for one to 12 months.

Reuters 

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