Republicans pause effort to hold Hunter Biden in contempt, say they are talking with his attorneys

Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden's son, center, accompanied by his attorney Abbe Lowell, right, sit in the front row at a House Oversight Committee hearing as Republicans are taking the first step toward holding him in contempt of Congress, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans have halted plans to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress this week for defying a congressional subpoena, citing negotiations with his attorneys that could end the standoff over his testimony.

Republicans were set to advance the contempt resolution against Hunter Biden to the House floor in a procedural step Tuesday, but called it off “to give the attorneys additional time to reach an agreement,” according to a spokesperson for the House Oversight Committee.

The move comes days after an attorney for President Joe Biden's son indicated a willingness to cooperate with Republicans' ongoing impeachment inquiry following months of defiance.

Still, attorney Abbe Lowell wrote to House Republicans Friday that his client's cooperation is dependent on the committee issuing a new subpoena. They maintained that the two subpoenas sent in November were not legitimate because they were issued before the full House authorized the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Hunter Biden’s legal team cited a 2020 legal opinion issued by then-Attorney General William Barr, which stated that a subpoena issued through an impeachment inquiry not yet approved by the full chamber has “no compulsory effect.”

Lowell didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Rep. James Comer, the chairman of the Oversight committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the Judiciary panel, had said in a statement Friday that they were “heartened” by the shift from Hunter Biden’s legal team.

Until last week, Hunter Biden had defended his lack of compliance with the GOP-issued subpoena, which ordered him to appear for closed-door testimony in mid-December. Biden and his attorneys have said information from private interviews can be selectively leaked and manipulated by House Republicans and insisted that he would only testify in public.

Further angering Republicans, Hunter Biden and his team have chosen to appear at the Capitol on two separate occasions — once at an Oversight hearing last week and another time on the day of his scheduled deposition last month. In both instances, the younger Biden refused to testify privately, instead delivering statements to the press where he defended his business affairs and castigated the yearslong investigations into him and his family.

As a result, both the Oversight and Judiciary panels approved contempt of Congress charges against Hunter Biden last week.

If the negotiations between both sides fall apart and the resolution comes to the floor, passage of the contempt resolution would send the referral to the Department of Justice. It will then be up to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to decide whether to prosecute Hunter Biden.

The inquiry into the president, which began in September, has focused heavily on in Hunter Biden and his overseas business dealings, questioning whether the president profited from that work. It has so far failed to uncover evidence directly implicating Joe Biden in wrongdoing involving his son’s business dealings.