By Makini Brice
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Republicans on Wednesday moved toward holding Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for not testifying in their impeachment probe of his father President Joe Biden, after he set off pandemonium with an unexpected Capitol appearance.
Republican lawmakers in both the House Oversight and Judiciary committees held the votes after the younger Biden refused to appear for a closed-door deposition last month, instead saying he would testify publicly, which they rebuffed.
Hunter Biden, 53, appeared without notice on Wednesday at the House Oversight Committee’s meeting on the matter, sparking arguments between lawmakers, some of whom scolded him for the surprise.
“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 to 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 $1.4 million 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.
“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 mischaracterize.”
The full House generally holds a vote to direct the certification of contempt to a U.S. attorney after a committee holds its vote, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
According to the CRS, the House has held 10 people in contempt of Congress since 2008, but the Justice 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 CRS report 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.
(This story has been corrected to remove a reference to Hunter Biden and his attorney not responding to reporters)
(Reporting by Makini Brice; additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham, Scott Malone, Angus MacSwan and Jamie Freed)