Defiant Hunter Biden defends business moves, invokes Kushner deals

Defiant Hunter Biden defends business moves, invokes Kushner deals
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Hunter Biden, the star witness in the GOP’s impeachment investigation into his father, appeared Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where Republicans spent a long day drilling into the details of overseas business ventures they’ve portrayed as a web of corruption implicating President Biden.

Yet if Republicans were hoping to dig up the elusive evidence of financial wrongdoing to back their allegations, they didn’t seem to find it in the nearly seven hours of closed-door questioning with the president’s son.

Instead, a defiant Hunter Biden defended his various business dealings, amplified previous assertions that his father had no hand in those pursuits and turned the inquiry back onto Republicans by invoking the foreign business ventures of Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Trump, who secured a huge investment deal from Saudi Arabia shortly after leaving the White House.

“One of his most powerful lines was when he made it very clear that none of the business dealings that he ever had were with any government entity. And he pointed out: unlike Jared Kushner, who received $2 billion from the Saudi Arabian government as soon as he left office, when he was the point person on Middle Eastern policy,” said Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.).

Republicans are already eyeing another chance to confront the president’s son.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, left Wednesday’s marathon testimony saying it was “a great deposition for us” and promising to bring Hunter Biden back before the panel — this time for a public hearing. He said he hopes to “clear up some discrepancies” between statements made by the president’s son and previous witnesses.

“There are also some contradictory statements that I think need further review, so this impeachment inquiry will now go to the next phase, which will be a public hearing,” he said.

Asked when the hearing would take place, Comer responded, “The sooner the better.”

Wednesday’s testimony marked the latest in a long series of closed-door depositions conducted by Republicans on the Oversight and Judiciary committees as they scramble for proof to back their allegations that the president’s family conducted shady overseas business deals that leaned heavily on the powerful Biden name.

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden leaves a deposition as a part of the impeachment investigation into his father President Biden at the O’Neil House Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. (Greg Nash)

Hunter Biden has denied those allegations publicly, and he did so again during the private deposition.

“I am here today to provide the committees with the one incontestable fact that should end the false premise of this inquiry: I did not involve my father in my business. Not while I was a practicing lawyer, not in my investments or transactions domestic or international, not as a board member, and not as an artist. Never,” he said during his opening statement.

That message was echoed by President Biden’s Democratic allies on the Oversight and Judiciary committees, who have accused Republicans of conducting a witch hunt against the president to diminish his chances of winning reelection in November.

“It has been a comedy of errors from the beginning,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), senior Democrat on the Oversight panel who led the second impeachment of former President Trump.

Republicans, however, cast doubt on Biden’s testimony, criticizing his demeanor and questioning the veracity of his answers, which they said veered, at times, from other witness statements.

“They’re not sitting in the same hearing that I am,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), a member of the Oversight Committee, said of the Democrats.

Mace, rather, said Hunter Biden was “defiant and also dishonest” after the first hour of his testimony and accused him of making statements “in direct conflict with other witnesses,” including Devon Archer, a former business associate of Hunter Biden.

“The transcripts will be out. I won’t go into detail, you’ll be able to see it for yourself,” Mace said.

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a fierce Biden critic, called the president’s son “a liar.”

“The theme that we heard in the room was Hunter Biden is a liar,” Greene told reporters after the deposition. “The Biden family has no product and no service.”

“You can’t show one single thing that Hunter Biden has ever sold, or a product or a service except for his own father,” she later added.

Greene accused Hunter Biden of lying when he said he was not involved with Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that did work for Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company he sat on the board of. She said Republicans presented an email thread — which he was a part of — that discussed connecting Blue Star Strategies with Burisma.

When Republicans pressed him, Greene said, Hunter Biden referenced his previous struggle with addiction.

“He went from denying any involvement until we put evidence right in front of his face that he was, in fact, involved. And then when pressure was placed on Hunter Biden, he swung back to being, you know, a poor, pitiful addict. And then when he wanted to brag about things, well, he was the smartest and most successful businessman in the room.”

Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s attorney, told reporters afterwards that Republicans “wanted to spend more time talking about my client’s addiction than they could ask any question that had anything to do with what they call their impeachment inquiry.”

A source with direct knowledge of the deposition told The Hill that Hunter Biden “discussed his addiction at length.”

At one point, according to the source, the president’s son discussed a controversial WhatsApp message he sent in 2017 to a Chinese business associate claiming he was “sitting here with my father.” He then pressed the associate to fulfill an unspecified “commitment” — or risk angering the Bidens. Joe Biden was not serving in office at the time.

Republicans have seized on the communication throughout their investigation as evidence of influence peddling. It was unearthed in testimony from IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley.

Hunter Biden, however, told lawmakers Wednesday that he was high or drunk when he sent the message, that he sent it to the wrong person and was embarrassed by the communication, according to the source. He also confirmed that he was not sitting with his father at the time, something that President Biden himself has said.

Comer argued that Wednesday’s deposition helped move the ball forward in the GOP’s impeachment inquiry, despite the alleged discrepancies. The chairman said Hunter Biden “proved several bits of our evidence that we’ve been conducting throughout this investigation.”

“All in all, I am very optimistic, very excited about this deposition,” he later added.

Despite Comer’s rosy assessment, Hunter Biden’s lackluster testimony appeared to be the latest setback in the House GOP’s floundering impeachment inquiry, which has struggled to present evidence substantiating various claims of financial misconduct by the president and his family.

The biggest blow to the probe came earlier this month when the Justice Department indicted an FBI informant who was central to the GOP’s key claim — that Joe and Hunter Biden each received a $5 million bribe from Burisma.

Authorities said the informant, Alexander Smirnov, fabricated those allegations, and he later told investigators he received information from “officials associated with Russian intelligence.”

Other GOP witnesses are also facing their own legal troubles — a dynamic that wasn’t overlooked by Democrats seeking to discredit the Republicans’ case.

“They’ve got nothing … One of their witnesses has been indicted for working with Russian intelligence; another witness has been indicted for working with Chinese intelligence; another witness is serving a 14-year felony sentence,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said.

“This is fourth and 20 on their own 10, and they don’t have Patrick Mahomes.”

But Biden’s testimony was not enough to deter Republicans from barreling ahead with their investigation — and vowing a public hearing that will put them face to face, again, with their star witness who failed to provide the highly sought smoking gun.

“There’s a lot more to come,” Greene told reporters. “We need to continue our investigation … and we need to have a public hearing.”

Nick Robertson contributed.

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