Hunter Biden bursts into public view: Here's how the president's son will play a central role in 2024

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WASHINGTON — A key player in the 2024 presidential election who has shunned the media spotlight suddenly burst onto the scene Wednesday: Hunter Biden.

Rather than testify in private to Republicans who have vilified him, the younger Biden made a surprise public speech, saying GOP investigations are designed "to embarrass and damage my father" in his 2024 reelection bid.

“Let me state as clearly as I can: My father was not financially involved in my business," Hunter Biden said in his speech on Capitol Hill.

Many Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have accused the Bidens of covering up financial malfeasance. They have also made clear they will continue to try and make Hunter Biden an issue in 2024, via an impeachment inquiry and the presidential campaign itself.

"President Biden and his family must be held accountable for their corruption and obstruction," said a joint statement from two key House committee chairmen: Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

More: 'I have made mistakes': Defiant Hunter Biden lashes out at GOP and ignores subpoena

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Hunter Biden defies Republican subpoena

Hunter Biden lashes out at impeachment push

While Hunter Biden has been indicted on tax evasion charges in California, even some Republicans say there is no "smoking gun" tying President Joe Biden to his son's multi-million dollar business dealings with Ukraine, China or anywhere else.

"The facts haven't taken me to that point where I can say that the president is guilty of anything," Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told CNN Wednesday.

That doesn't mean Republicans won't keep trying to link the president to his family's business dealings.

Shortly after Hunter Biden's Wednesday speech on Capitol Hill, House Republicans moved to authorize an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, based in part on his son's work.

Hunter Biden denounced the impeachment push while still saying he has made mistakes that should not be held against his father.

"In the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances," Hunter Biden said. "But to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd. It's shameless."

Hunter Biden has also been indicted on federal gun buying charges out of Delaware. Though he isn't the Biden running for office, some have pointed out he is not the only 2024 campaign figure under indictment.

Trump faces four criminal trials on charges involving allegedly mishandling classified documents, making hush money payments and a seeking to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden.

'All to embarrass and damage my father'

In a speech that lasted a little more than five minutes, Hunter Biden got emotional about how congressional investigations have hurt his family, children and friends. He accused Trump and his supporters – "MAGA Republicans" – of distorting evidence and testimony, and lying about his legitimate business operations.

Republicans have "belittled my recovery" from drug addiction, distorted stolen information and flaunted "naked photos" at a public hearing, he said.

"All to embarrass and damage my father, who has devoted his entire life to public service," the younger Biden said.

At the White House, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president knew about his son's plan to speak out, and "the president was certainly familiar with what his son was going to say."

The elder Biden has said he loves his son and is proud of him, and that Hunter is being attacked over politics.

"First of all, my son's done nothing wrong," Biden told MSNBC earlier this year. "I trust him. I have faith in him."

'Laptop from hell'

One way or another, Hunter Biden will be a subsidiary issue in the 2024 presidential election, just as he was in 2020.

In the closing weeks of that campaign, Trump and his allies made much of a laptop computer that appeared to contain business records of Hunter Biden, as well as embarrassing photos.

Trump still cites what he and allies call the "laptop from hell," and Hunter Biden made references to the laptop during his speech Wednesday. He said Republican have "cherry-picked" financial information and flaunted "naked pictures" in order to attack him and his father.

These distortions are among the reasons he does not want to testify in closed session to Republicans, who he has alleged would leak private comments in a distorted way.

Calling for a public hearing instead, Hunter Biden said "Republicans don't want an open process where Americans can see their tactics, expose their baseless inquiry, or hear what I have to say."

But Republicans defended themselves after Hunter Biden's criticism, saying they are following standard procedure and threatening to hold him in contempt of Congress.

"Hunter had a RESPONSIBILITY to show-up today," said Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., shared on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

'Where's Hunter?'

Trump has long led the charge among Republicans of hitting out against Hunter Biden on the campaign trail. That's expected to continue heading into next year's election, especially as Hunter Biden plays a central role in GOP impeachment efforts against his father.

Trump, impeached twice during his presidency, has urged Republican members of Congress to pursue impeachment against his predecessor.

Trump's first impeachment came over allegations that he pressured Ukraine government to dig up dirt on the Bidens. The second impeachment concerned his role in the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, inspired by his protests over his loss to Joe Biden.

After Hunter Biden's public appearance, Trump responded on his Truth Social media platform by echoing a taunt that many Republicans have used for years: "Where's Hunter?"

The younger Biden also repeated that jibe in his speech.

"For six years, I have been the target of the unrelenting Trump attack machine, shouting, 'where’s Hunter?’" he said. "Well, here’s my answer: I am here."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hunter Biden hits out as Joe Biden, Donald Trump gear up for 2024