Hunter Biden is willing to testify in a public hearing before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, a lawyer for the president’s son said Tuesday, in what would amount to a dramatic and high-profile showdown carrying risks for both sides.
Abbe Lowell, a lawyer representing Hunter Biden, made the offer in a letter in response to a subpoena this month from House Republicans seeking a deposition, which would take place behind closed doors. Biden’s counteroffer to appear publicly is a striking escalation in the battle between the president’s son and congressional Republicans, who have focused on his past business dealings and have launched impeachment hearings aimed at President Biden.
Lowell’s three-page letter cited past comments from Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chairman of the committee, that essentially dared Hunter Biden to come and testify in public.
“Mr. Chairman, we take you up on your offer,” Lowell wrote in a copy of the letter reviewed by The Washington Post. “Accordingly, our client will get right to it by agreeing to answer any pertinent and relevant question you or your colleagues might have, but — rather than subscribing to your cloaked, one-sided process — he will appear at a public Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing.”
“A public proceeding would prevent selective leaks, manipulated transcripts, doctored exhibits, or one-sided press statements,” Lowell added.
In a statement later Tuesday morning, Comer rejected Biden’s request that the deposition be held in public.
“Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules instead of following the rules required of everyone else,” Comer said. “That won’t stand with House Republicans.”
The committee expects Biden to appear for a closed-door deposition on Dec. 13, Comer said, adding that “Hunter Biden should have opportunity to testify in a public setting at a future date.”
The back and forth leaves it unclear whether the two sides will come to an agreement and whether Biden will challenge the subpoena if Comer sticks to his insistence that the session be held behind closed doors.
Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.), the committee’s top Democrat, said Comer’s response shows that Republicans have no confidence in their own case and fear the exposure a public hearing would bring.
“Let me get this straight,” Raskin said in a statement. “After wailing and moaning for ten months about Hunter Biden and alluding to some vast unproven family conspiracy, after sending Hunter Biden a subpoena to appear and testify, Chairman Comer and the Oversight Republicans now reject his offer to appear before the full Committee and the eyes of the world and to answer any questions that they pose?”
Much of the letter from Lowell is combative, citing past statements from Comer and noting that the chairman has never taken Lowell up on offers to hold a meeting.
“Your empty investigation has gone on too long wasting too many better-used resources. It should come to an end,” Lowell wrote. “Consequently, Mr. Biden will appear at such a public hearing on the date you [announced], December 13, or any date in December that we can arrange.”
“From all the individuals you have requested depositions or interviews, all you will learn is that your accusations are baseless,” he added. “However, the American people should see that for themselves.”
Lowell also suggested that his client had little reason to hide — and that he didn’t trust House Republicans not to selectively leak details from a private hearing.
“We have seen you use closed-door sessions to manipulate, even distort the facts and misinform the public. We therefore propose opening the door,” the attorney wrote. “If, as you claim, your efforts are important and involve issues that Americans should know about, then let the light shine on these proceedings.”
The Oversight Committee has spent months investigating Hunter Biden and launched an impeachment inquiry into President Biden in September focused on whether the president benefited from his son’s business dealings.
Investigators have obtained more than 12,000 pages of financial records and conducted interviews with individuals who worked closely with the president’s son in various capacities.
While the committee has uncovered evidence and heard testimony that Hunter Biden tried to leverage the Biden family name, it has not found evidence that Joe Biden benefited from his son’s business dealings. Nor has the president been linked to any wrongdoing amid congressional scrutiny of the Justice Department’s investigation of Hunter Biden.
The Oversight Committee earlier this month issued subpoenas for Hunter Biden and James Biden, requesting that the president’s son and brother appear for depositions as part of the committee’s investigation into the family’s finances.
The committee has asked James Biden to appear for an interview on Dec. 6.
Paul J. Fishman, an attorney for James Biden, said Tuesday, “We have been in contact with the Oversight Committee staff about their requests,” but he declined to comment further.
A glimpse of what a congressional hearing featuring Hunter Biden might be like emerged in July, when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) showed what appeared to be sexually explicit images of the president’s son during an Oversight Committee hearing, drawing an immediate protest from Democrats.
Republicans contend that Hunter Biden repeatedly sought to benefit financially from his father’s name and position, including when the elder Biden was vice president. The Oversight Committee says it is holding hearings to explore legislation on the activities of a president’s family members.
But Lowell argued that the committee has studiously ignored the business activities of Trump family members, even though — unlike Hunter Biden — some of them served in official positions during Donald Trump’s presidency.
“Notwithstanding this stark difference, you have manipulated Hunter’s legitimate business dealings and his times of terrible addiction into a politically motivated basis for hearings to accuse his father of some wrongdoing,” Lowell wrote.