Republicans pause Hunter Biden contempt push amid new talks for testimony

House Republicans are putting plans to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for defying congressional subpoenas on hold amid new negotiations to bring in the president’s son for questioning.

The House Rules Committee was scheduled to consider contempt resolutions from the House Oversight and Judiciary committees Tuesday afternoon, setting up a vote for later in the week.

But those resolutions were removed from the schedule amid the new talks, which come after Hunter Biden’s attorney said last week he would agree to give testimony if Republicans issued new subpoenas; Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) then responded over the weekend that they would do so.

“Following an exchange of letters between the parties on January 12 and January 14, staff for the committees and lawyers for Hunter Biden are working to schedule Hunter Biden’s appearance,” a House Oversight Committee spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“Negotiations are ongoing this afternoon, and in conjunction with the disruption to member travel and canceling votes, the House Rules Committee isn’t considering the contempt resolution today to give the attorneys additional time to reach an agreement,” the Oversight spokesperson said.

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A spokesperson for Jordan had previously indicated that the plan to hold Hunter Biden in contempt could change depending on developments in new talks.

“If they agree to genuinely cooperate and we can work out a deposition date, the Chairman will recommend to Leadership that we hold the floor vote on contempt in abeyance for now,” the Jordan spokesperson said Monday.

House Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.), though, indicated that moving on on the contempt resolutions was not completely off the table.

“Should those conversations not prove successful, the Rules Committee may reconvene this week to consider those reports,” Cole said in the hearing Tuesday.

Republicans have long probed Hunter Biden’s overseas businesses and the Department of Justice’s handling of a tax crimes investigation into him, searching for any improper connections to his father, President Biden. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declared those investigations to be under the umbrella of an impeachment inquiry in September, and the House formally voted to approve the impeachment inquiry in December.

Hunter Biden defied GOP subpoenas from the Oversight and Judiciary panels in December, saying that he would appear in a public hearing format but not for a closed-door deposition out of concern that the Republicans would misrepresent his testimony. Instead of appearing for the hearing, he gave a statement to the press on the Senate lawn asserting that his father was never financially involved with his business.

Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, center, with attorneys Kevin Morris, left, and Abbe Lowell, right, during a House Oversight Committee markup on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. (Graeme Sloan/Bloomberg)

But Republicans said a public format, with rounds of questioning cycling between members on the panel, was insufficient for poring over reams of financial documents. They offered a public hearing at a later date, and to release the transcript of the deposition. The Republican leaders noted that initial closed-door testimony is standard for such inquiries.

When the panels moved to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress last week, Hunter Biden made a surprise appearance in the House Oversight Committee, in order to make a point about his willingness to testify publicly.

Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s attorney, later argued that the initial subpoenas were invalid because they were issued before the House had voted to authorize an impeachment inquiry.

“If you issue a new proper subpoena, now that there is a duly authorized impeachment inquiry, Mr. Biden will comply for a hearing or deposition,” Lowell wrote — and floated a “public deposition/hearing with alternating rounds of questions” in a footnote.

In a Sunday response letter, Jordan and Comer defended the legality of their original subpoenas but said they “are prepared to issue subpoenas compelling Mr. Biden’s appearance at a deposition on a new date in the coming weeks” — and in a footnote rejected the idea of a public “hybrid process” deposition that Lowell had floated.

Mychael Schnell contributed. Updated at 4:20 p.m.

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