House GOP still planning to call Hunter Biden to testify publicly as support for impeachment wanes

The House Republicans running the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden still plan to call Hunter Biden to testify in a public hearing, although sources familiar with their planning say the two sides have not engaged on setting a date.

Hunter Biden initially balked at appearing before the committee behind closed doors and insisted the hearing be held publicly. But after Republicans voted to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry and amid threats of a contempt of Congress vote, lawyers for the president’s son agreed to arrange his testimony.

Despite mixed reviews on the effectiveness of the closed-door deposition, the committee chairmen remain publicly supportive of conducting the public hearing in the near future.

Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., claimed that there were “inconsistent” aspects of Hunter Biden’s deposition that need to be aired out in a public setting. Comer is leading the impeachment inquiry along with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and House Ways and Means Committeeman Chair, R-Mo.

“Parts of Hunter Biden’s testimony are inconsistent with other witnesses’ testimonies,” Comer said in a statement, “It’s clear we need a public hearing to get the truth for the American people.”

Comer similarly said that he heard “some contradictory statements that I think need further review” after the president’s brother, James Biden, testified before the committee earlier in February — a sign that both Biden family members who testified did not provide the committee with anything that directly proved their claims, so their best chance of success was to try to undercut their testimony. 

The White House and Hunter Biden’s lawyers did not immediately return a request for comment.

Members of Comer’s committee and other House Republicans are skeptical a second Hunter Biden appearance would be productive and there is a growing sense in the caucus that the investigation has hit a roadblock making the actual impeachment of the president unlikely.  

“I don’t care if he does or doesn’t” appear publicly, said Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, a member of the Judiciary committee. “I think we’ve laid the case out there.” 

The full transcript released by the committee reveals Hunter Biden tangling with House Republicans on a wide range of issues. He repeatedly batted back their attacks about his personal life and defended his business record. At one point he turned a series of questions on drug use back on Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.: “Of all the people sitting around this table, do you think that’s appropriate to ask me?”

Rep. Nick Langworthy, R-N.Y., a member of the Oversight Committee, who was in the room for much of the deposition, said he is concerned a public hearing would devolve into a television circus that wouldn’t help move the investigation forward. 

“I think that at that point, it’ll be a lot of street theater,” Langworthy said, adding that he didn’t find Hunter very forthcoming behind closed doors and didn’t expect a public hearing would be any more revealing.

“He was extremely guarded as you know, in what he said yesterday, and he held back an awful lot,

Democrats on the committee seem to agree that there would not be much added value in holding a public hearing with Hunter Biden but also vowed not to stand in the way of it moving forward.  

“I don’t see any particular purpose for doing that, given that Chairman Comer didn’t want it done for a long time. I mean, it’s a waste of everybody’s time. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the ranking member on the Oversight committee. But “if that’s something that the parties agreed to, we would have no objection to it, because I suppose the whole country can see what an absurd waste of time this circus has been.”

The divide over the value of a public hearing for the president’s son extends into the perceptions of the overall investigation as well. A January YouGov/UMass Amherst poll found that 59% of respondents said that the House definitely or probably should not impeach the president.

Even Republicans supportive of impeachment, like Nehls, remain unconvinced a vote on articles of impeachment would ever pass the full House. 

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but I think the American people are more concerned right now about the border and the economy and the endless wars we have under this administration,” he said. 

Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., also a member of Oversight is supportive of putting articles of impeachment on the floor but doubts they would ever pass. 

“I think the base is demanding we go forward with it. It’s just a numbers game. If there’s a will there’s a way and I don’t think there’s a will,” Burchett said. 

Meanwhile, the impeachment committees appear to be extending their investigation into the president in the hopes that they might turn up more evidence.

After the special counsel investigating the president’s handling of classified documents declined to press charges, Republicans requested documents related to the probe. The Republican chairmen followed up on the request last week by subpoenaing Special Counsel Robert Hur for additional information, even though he had already agreed to testify publicly before Congress on March 12. 

Democrats believe the time to end the inquiry has long passed. 

“It’s time for Republicans to finally put this to bed,” said. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the Oversight committee. “Come up with a plan to fund the government, come up with a plan to fund our border needs, Ukraine’s needs, Taiwan’s needs, the Middle East needs and end this sham impeachment, which is going and has gone exactly what we’ve said all along. Nowhere.”

Other Republicans are cautioning that moving forward with a vote could backfire. 

“There’s nothing that’s come up so far that makes me think that this thing’s anything close to ready for a vote, meaning that I have not seen any impeachable offenses,” said Rep. Garrett Graves, R-La.

Graves warned that going forward risks the “cheapening” of impeachment.

“Does it stink? Is there smoke around it? Yeah,” he said. “Have I seen fire and clear violations of law or anything that again, remotely approaches an impeachment threshold? No, in regard to the president.”

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