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In long-awaited testimony, Hunter Biden assails GOP impeachment inquiry

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 10: Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, departs a House Oversight Committee meeting at Capitol Hill on January 10, 2024 in Washington, DC. The committee is meeting today as it considers citing him for Contempt of Congress. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)  (Kent Nishimura)
By Luke Broadwater New York Times

WASHINGTON – Hunter Biden, the president’s son, sharply rebuked House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry during a closed-door deposition Wednesday, condemning their investigation as a “partisan political pursuit” that was based on a “false premise” and fueled by “lies.”

Conducted in an office building on Capitol Hill, the interview was the latest bid by Republicans to unearth evidence that President Joe Biden was inappropriately involved in his son’s foreign business dealings. So far, their impeachment investigation has turned up no proof.

Hunter Biden, 54, sought to refute Republican claims about his relationship with his father, making clear in his opening statement, a copy of which was obtained by the New York Times, that he planned to cede no ground.

“You have trafficked in innuendo, distortion and sensationalism – all the while ignoring the clear and convincing evidence staring you in the face,” Biden said. “You do not have evidence to support the baseless and MAGA-motivated conspiracies about my father because there isn’t any.”

During the deposition, Biden gave testimony on two key pieces of evidence in the Republican inquiry. He addressed a much-publicized email in which a business associate suggested involving his father in their company, and said that associate was “out of his mind for even suggesting Joe Biden get involved in their joint venture,” according to a person familiar with the testimony who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the details of a private interview.

Biden also discussed his history of addiction and a message alluding to his father’s presence, according to two people familiar with the testimony. He said that he was high or drunk when he sent a WhatsApp message claiming his father was sitting beside him as he pressured a business associate, that he had sent it to the wrong recipient and that he was now embarrassed by the message, the people familiar with the testimony said. They said that Biden added that his father had not, in fact, been sitting next to him.

“I did not involve my father in my business,” Biden said in the prepared remarks. “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.”

The interview, which lasted more than six hours, came at a make-or-break moment for the inquiry. Republicans have sought for months to tie Joe Biden to the alleged misdeeds of his second-born son, but they have struggled with a series of setbacks, including the indictment of an FBI informant accused of making up a story that the elder Biden had taken a $5 million bribe.

In his opening statement, Hunter Biden mocked the way Republicans have relied on accused criminals to build the case against his father.

“Rather than follow the facts as they have been laid out before you in bank records, financial statements, correspondence and other witness testimony, you continue your frantic search to prove the lies you, and those you rely on, keep peddling,” he said. “Yes, they are lies.”

As he left the deposition, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the chair of the Oversight Committee, said he planned to call Biden back to testify at a public hearing.

“I think this was a great deposition for us; he proved several bits of our evidence that we’ve been conducting throughout this investigation,” Comer said, promising that a transcript would be released soon. He added: “But 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.”

The deposition was the culmination of a multiyear Republican pursuit of Hunter Biden, whose business dealings and descent into debauchery have long made him a punching bag for the GOP. After years of asking “Where’s Hunter?” and spreading the lurid contents of a laptop that contained graphic material of his exploits while he struggled with drug addiction, Republicans finally had their chance to question him.

The interview also was a major moment in the drawn-out feud between Republicans and Biden about whether he would cooperate in the impeachment inquiry. He had refused repeatedly to sit for a private deposition, and Republicans threatened to hold him in contempt of Congress for defying an earlier subpoena to do so.

Biden had maintained that he was worried that House Republicans would selectively leak portions of his testimony to misrepresent his account and try to harm his father. He made two surprise appearances on Capitol Hill in which he challenged Republicans to question him at a public hearing. But after the contempt threat, Biden relented.

Democrats on the Oversight Committee emerged from the deposition room to accuse their Republican counterparts of engaging in an “embarrassing spectacle.”

“I believe, based on this first hour, that this whole thing really has been a tremendous waste of our legislative time and resources,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee.

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said Biden had not invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination but was far from a cooperative witness.

“Hunter Biden is being defiant and also dishonest,” Mace said, “and his testimony, some of it, is in direct conflict with other witnesses.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said Hunter Biden’s business deals were clearly corrupt.

“This was a bribe masquerading as an international business transaction,” Gaetz alleged.

“After seven hours of questions, the Republican majority ends the day where they started,” said Abbe Lowell, Biden’s lawyer. “They have produced no evidence that would do anything to support the notion that there was any financial transactions that involve Hunter with his father, period.”

Hunter Biden is already under federal indictment over accusations of tax crimes related to his overseas business interests, including with companies and partners in Ukraine and China. Testifying is a risk because anything he says could be used against him in the criminal case.

Republicans have determined through bank records that from 2014 to 2019, Biden family members received about $15 million through business deals from foreign entities. But they have yet to show that any of the deals were illegal or that the elder Biden benefited from them.

House Republicans have uncovered evidence that the elder Biden was aware of and met some of his son’s business partners, raising questions about whether some of the president’s public statements about the deals were intentionally misleading. But a key witness also testified that such conversations were superficial in nature, extending only to niceties like the weather or fishing.

In his opening statement, Hunter Biden acknowledged making “mistakes in my life, and I have squandered opportunities and privileges that were afforded to me.” But he said his mistakes and shortcomings “are my own and not my father’s.”

“During my battle with addiction, my father was there for me,” he said. “He helped save my life. His love and support made it possible for me to get sober, stay sober and rebuild my life as a father, husband, son and brother.”

Last week, Republicans interviewed another key Biden family member, the president’s brother James, but that testimony did not produce the bombshell revelations the GOP sought. James Biden told investigators that his older brother was not involved in any of the business deals in which he and Hunter Biden were partners.

House Republicans have already voted to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, on charges that he had intentionally refused to enforce immigration laws. They have yet to send those impeachment articles over to the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is expected to quickly reject the charges.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.