WASHINGTON — The president’s troubled son wants to face off against the Republican lawmakers who have been trash-talking him for years.
They say he’s the scion of a “crime family” who has used his father’s government service to get rich and do favors for the foreigners paying him.
Hunter Biden’s lawyer said Tuesday his client would comply with a subpoena for his testimony — but only in a public hearing on live TV, highlighting his desire for an aggressive defense against the GOP’s largely evidence-free accusations against his father, Joe Biden. Republicans rejected the proposal, insisting that Hunter Biden testify first behind closed doors.
Though plans for testimony haven’t been settled, it’s not a mystery what he might say. He has defended himself against corruption accusations in interviews, articles and a memoir.
Hunter Biden will not admit he did anything seriously wrong.
“I did nothing unethical, and have never been charged with wrongdoing,” he wrote in his 2021 book, in a chapter about his work for Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that remains the key Republican corruption allegation against the Biden family.
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) has used bank records to trace millions in payments to Hunter Biden from Burisma and other foreign sources. He told HuffPost he wants to ask the president’s son: “What exactly did you do to receive millions and millions of dollars from these foreign nationals?”
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) attends a news conference with House Republican leadership at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 29. They spoke on a range of issues, including their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
Republicans have probed every aspect of the younger Biden’s career as part of their impeachment inquiry against the president. The inquiry also encompasses the Justice Department’s alleged slow-walking of criminal cases against Hunter Biden (he faces firearm and possibly tax charges) and the Biden administration’s alleged obstruction of the inquiry.
The most significant allegation is that as vice president, Joe Biden did Burisma a favor. He served as the face of the Barack Obama administration’s Ukraine policy. The U.S. government wanted Ukraine to replace its top prosecutor, and Biden later bragged about getting the guy fired.
The allegation has been thoroughly litigated already. State Department officials debunked the claim in hours of testimony during the 2019 impeachment inquiry against former President Donald Trump, and again in a follow-up investigation by Senate Republicans the next year. They said it was their policy, not Joe Biden’s, to oust the prosecutor, and that it had nothing to do with Hunter Biden.
Still, State Department officials said what several journalists noted when Burisma announced it had hired Hunter Biden in 2014: The job looked like an obvious conflict of interest for the Biden family, especially since Hunter Biden had no background in natural gas extraction.
In his book, Hunter Biden said his experience on the boards of Amtrak, World Food Program USA, and other nonprofit organizations gave him useful knowledge and contacts around the world.
“I was absolutely qualified to do what Burisma needed done,” he wrote. “As is true with many boards, I wasn’t brought in to give expert advice in areas where the company already had experts — in this case, natural gas.”
Instead, he wrote, his charge was to make sure Burisma “implemented corporate practices that were up to accepted ethical snuff.” The board met twice a year in locations around Europe, and Hunter Biden said he took on efforts to expand the company’s operations.
“I advocated for a geothermal project in Italy and efforts to be part of the pipeline and drilling efforts in Kazakhstan,” he wrote. He supplied connections and arranged meetings with officials in Mexico, he wrote, when that country was privatizing its energy sector.
Hunter Biden described similar networking skills in a 2019 interview with The New Yorker. He helped a state-affiliated Chinese energy company find investment opportunities for liquefied natural gas projects in the U.S., saying he was “more proud of it than you can imagine.”
Hunter Biden acknowledged in his memoir that his last name was a “coveted credential,” but even that he spun into a high-minded reason for the Burisma job, describing the company as a bulwark against Russia’s already-ongoing efforts to take over the country. He said no one at Burisma told him they wanted him to influence U.S. policy. Instead, “having a Biden on Burisma’s board was an unmistakable fuck-you to Putin.”
He also suggested he took the job because his brother was sick, saying the decision had its roots “in the circumstances surrounding my brother’s grave illness.” Beau Biden had been battling brain cancer for years, with the illness becoming more and more severe, and the monthly fee from Burisma freed Hunter Biden from having to do other work that interfered with accompanying Beau to his many visits with medical specialists.
The bad thing about the job, he said, was that his monthly pay, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, supercharged his longstanding addictions to crack cocaine and alcohol. He basically went on a bender for several years following Beau Biden’s death in May 2015, with his marriage collapsing along with some of his business relationships.
“Burisma turned into a major enabler during my steepest skid into addiction,” he wrote, with the monthly cash becoming “a wicked sort of funny money” that he spent “humiliatingly.”
The results of some of that spending turned up in a House Oversight Committee hearing in July, when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) showed photos of Hunter Biden naked, apparently in the midst of intimate relations with women who were escorts. The images had been taken from his hard drive, which he claimed in a September lawsuit had been hacked by Rudy Giuliani.
Hunter Biden faces federal criminal charges for having purchased a gun when he was habitually using crack in 2018. He had originally struck a plea agreement with the government concerning the gun violation and also for failing to pay taxes in 2017 and 2018, but the deal collapsed over the scope of his immunity from future charges. The federal prosecutor overseeing the case has since been elevated to special counsel status.
A document attached to the defunct plea agreement explained that Hunter Biden made millions those years from a Ukrainian energy firm and a Chinese private equity fund, despite his addiction and “nonstop debauchery.” He has since pleaded not guilty to the charge and argued he’s facing a political prosecution.
Hunter Biden has been sober since 2019. He suggested in a recent op-ed that the Republican attacks on him were harmful not just to him, but to other people struggling with addiction.
“It is already a near-impossible decision for addicts to get sober, and the avalanche of negativity and assault of my personal privacy may only make it harder for those considering it.”