House panels approve Hunter Biden contempt finding after president’s son crashes hearing

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. 

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Two Republican-led House committees passed resolutions Wednesday recommending that Hunter Biden be found in contempt of Congress for refusing to be deposed behind closed doors as part of an impeachment probe of his father, President Joe Biden.

The resolutions, passed along party lines by the Oversight and Judiciary Committees, will now move to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

If the House finds Hunter Biden in contempt, it can then refer the matter to the Department of Justice for potential criminal prosecution. Republicans hold an ultra-slim majority in that chamber.

Wednesday’s votes came hours after an explosive Oversight Committee session that was thrown into chaos when the president’s son showed up in the panel’s chambers.

The committee previously issued a subpoena to Hunter Biden, demanding that he appear for a non-public deposition for the impeachment inquiry.

Biden replied by saying he would agree to testify, but only in public. His attorney, Abbe Lowell, has said House Republicans have a habit of issuing public statements that misrepresent the testimony of witnesses who testify at closed proceedings.

On Wednesday morning, Biden, Lowell and another lawyer entered the Rayburn House Office Building hearing room and sat down in the Oversight Committee’s chamber shortly after the panel convened.

Biden sat silently with crossed arms, staring down the Republicans who were pushing to sanction him. He stayed for less than 30 minutes, then abruptly left.

His unannounced appearance — and sudden departure — stoked anger from the committee’s Republicans.

“I’m looking at you, Hunter Biden, as I’m speaking to you,” Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said shortly after the president’s son sat down. “I think that Hunter Biden should be arrested right here, right now and go straight to jail.”

Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, departs a House Oversight Committee meeting at Capitol Hill on January 10, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Kent Nishimura | Getty Images

When Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., began to speak, Biden stood and exited the room, prompting scoffs and cries of “where’s he going?” from the panel.

“What a coward,” Greene fumed.

But Democrats pointed to the appearance as proof that Hunter Biden was willing to appear before the committee — but only in a public setting.

“The fact of the matter is Mr. Biden showed up this morning and was willing to show up weeks ago to appear at a public hearing, which he was led to believe was his option,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

Connolly and other Democrats repeatedly referenced prior comments by Oversight Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., which they said gave Biden the option to be deposed in public instead of behind closed doors.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) puts his hand over his face during a House Oversight Committee markup and meeting to vote on whether to hold Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe 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. 

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

When an NBC News reporter asked afterward if he would testify Wednesday if called to do so by the committee, Hunter Biden replied, “Yes.”

Lowell told reporters outside the hearing room, “We have offered to work with the House committees to see what and how relevant information to any legitimate inquiry could be provided.”

Maintaining that Biden was given the option for a public hearing, Lowell said his client “chose the hearing where Republicans could not distort, manipulate or misuse that testimony.”

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Biden had refused to sit for a private deposition on Dec. 13 on Capitol Hill as part of Republicans’ impeachment inquiry, which centers on allegations of corruption by the president and his family.

He instead offered to testify in a public hearing, but Comer rejected that proposal.

On the day his deposition was set to occur, Biden appeared outside the U.S. Capitol and defended his business record while denying accusations of any wrongful financial link to his father.

“There’s no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business, because it did not happen,” he said in a prepared statement before departing.

Comer and Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, initiated contempt proceedings that same day.

Biden’s cameo was not the only explosive moment in Wednesday’s Oversight Committee hearing.

When Greene at one point asked to introduce evidence into the record, Ranking Democrat Jamie Raskin reserved the right to object, saying that Greene has in the past “displayed pornography” in the committee. He was apparently referring to Greene in a prior hearing showing sexually explicit images purportedly of Hunter Biden.

When Greene replied that her evidence was not pornography, Raskin quipped, “You’re the expert.”

Greene later in the hearing did hold up a poster with conservatively censored nude images, saying they came from a laptop that has been attributed to Hunter Biden. The display prompted an exasperated Raskin to object and exclaim, “This is not the Jerry Springer show!”

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