House impeachment inquiry leaders seeking testimony from Hunter Biden sought to turn his offer for public testimony on its head Friday, writing that he had affirmed his availability for the deposition they demanded in an earlier subpoena.
The letter to Biden’s attorneys from House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) comes after a letter from Biden’s attorneys earlier in the week that says he was only willing to testify in public and not in a closed-door setting. That publicly scrambled the GOP, with some Republicans backing the idea of a public hearing.
“We appreciate your confirmation that Mr. Biden is available and willing to testify on December 13,” the two chairs wrote to Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell.
“This testimony will occur initially in a deposition setting, as has been the consistent practice of Committees of the House of Representatives in recent Congresses—during both Republican and Democrat majorities—as well as these Committees during this inquiry. We also appreciate your confirmation that Mr. Biden is willing to testify at a public hearing. We look forward to his testimony in a hearing at the appropriate time.,” they added.
Lowell wrote earlier this week that he did not trust Comer and Republicans to provide a truthful account of any private testimony from Biden — pointing to prior depositions they say were not accurately portrayed by the committee.
“We have seen you use closed-door sessions to manipulate, even distort the facts and misinform the public. We therefore propose opening the door,” Lowell wrote in a letter to Comer on Tuesday. “If, as you claim, your efforts are important and involve issues that Americans should know about, then let the light shine on these proceedings.”
The letter doesn’t directly address allegations from Lowell that the committees have been mischaracterizing the testimony of witnesses, instead dedicating more space to arguing its inquiry is part of a valid legislative purpose.
It also lays out a string of witnesses who have compiled with subpoenas saying Biden’s offer “amounts to a demand that he receive special treatment from the Committees.”
“Nonetheless, if it helps to alleviate your stated concerns, you should be aware that, consistent with House and Committee rules and practice, we intend to videotape the deposition and release the deposition transcript soon after its completion,” the chairs wrote.
Comer has previously said his panel would “drop everything” if the president’s son wanted to testify “in front of the committee.”
But in the wake of Biden’s offer he expressed concerns about a public format, noting the committee has thousands of pages of bank records to review, many of which contain private information of others, even as the committee has shared much detail about Biden’s personal finances.
But he also said investigators would not be able to focus on their line of inquiry with the committee’s Democrats “jumping up and down” during such a hearing.
Democrats took that as a sign Republicans couldn’t back their inquiry.
“I don’t understand why all of a sudden the chairman is afraid and wants to bury Hunter in a basement. If it’s so compelling, if the evidence is so overwhelming, you show it to the American people in committee,” Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) said.
“It’s a vote of no confidence in his own members. Clearly he doesn’t want his members asking questions in committee. And we’ve seen how the impeachment hearings have gone. So clearly, it’s because he wants to control the narrative, he wants to spin, and he wants to misrepresent it.”
Some Republicans also backed the idea of public testimony from Biden.
“I’m an open door kind of guy. I believe in transparency and everything and in government,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said on “Dan Abrams Live.”
“I don’t care if he wants to sit in the bathtub and do it; I don’t care,” he continued. “Just get his dag-gum butt before the committee and let’s ask him some tough questions.”
House Republicans this week advertised that they are advancing their inquiry, launching a new website devoted to the matter, while internally discussing whether to take a vote to formally launch the inquiry already announced by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).