Members of Congress on Jan. 10 approved reports and resolutions that recommend holding President Joe Biden’s son in contempt.
Two U.S. House of Representatives panels voted to approve the reports and resolutions, which state that Hunter Biden, 53, violated federal law by refusing to appear for a deposition behind closed doors.
The votes were along party lines, with all Republicans either voting yes or not voting and all Democrats voting no. Republicans currently control the lower chamber, giving them more members on each panel.
Mr. Biden declined to sit for a transcribed interview in December 2023, insisting that he would only answer questions in public.
Federal law states that when people who are subpoenaed by Congress refuse to testify or provide requested documents, Congress shall refer the matter to U.S. prosecutors. The people who defy congressional subpoenas can land a prison term of up to 12 months and a fine of $1,000.
Two former advisers to former President Donald Trump have been convicted by juries of violating the law for refusing to comply with subpoenas.
The House Oversight Committee and House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday after marking up the report, or discussing it, proposing amendments, and voting on the amendments.
Mr. Biden “blatantly defied two lawful subpoenas,” Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said ahead of the votes.
“What we’re doing here today is showing the country that Hunter will not receive special treatment due to his last name. It’s very, very simple. And he will be held to the same standard that every other American citizen would be expected to do,” Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) added.
Democrats spent much of the hearings talking about President Trump. Some said they supported Mr. Biden refusing to testify in private, pointing to comments that Mr. Comer made that invited witnesses to choose whether to testify in public or private.
Mr. Comer said the votes were about the subpoena and that Mr. Biden could speak in a public hearing after testifying behind closed doors.
Mr. Biden made a surprise appearance during one of the hearings, sitting briefly with his lawyers before departing.
Republicans are seeking to speak to Mr. Biden regarding his business dealings and his father’s involvement with them. They’ve obtained evidence showing bank transfers between one of Mr. Biden’s companies and the president, among other records.
“Our investigation has produced significant evidence suggesting President Biden knew of, participated in, and benefited from his family’s cashing in on the Biden name,” Mr. Comer said.
Mr. Biden told reporters in late 2023 that “my father was not financially involved in my business.” He sat in on part of one of the hearings on Jan. 10 but didn’t attempt to speak.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this week that Mr. Biden makes his own choices.
“We don’t have anything else to share beyond that,” she said. “He’s a private citizen, and he makes his own decisions.”
She declined to say whether President Biden spoke with his son before or after his appearance in Congress.
Mr. Biden’s appearance sparked anger.
“You are the epitome of white privilege, coming into the Oversight Committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told Mr. Biden. “What are you afraid of?”
Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Mr. Biden, told reporters outside the room that Republicans are the ones who are afraid.
“The Republican chairs today then are commandeering an unprecedented resolution to hold someone in contempt who has offered to publicly answer all their proper questions,” Mr. Lowell said. “The question there is what are they afraid of?”
Mr. Biden’s lawyers said public testimony is desired because of “selective leaks” from members after closed-door interviews with other witnesses.
Republicans say private sessions are better to dig into the investigation.
Mr. Biden only spoke in response to a question about why he, according to a former business partner, took calls from his father while in business meetings and put his father on speakerphone.
“Do you have a dad?” Mr. Biden asked the reporter who asked the question. “Does he call you? Do you answer the phone?”
The reporter said, “Yes.”
Mr. Biden said, “OK.”
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told a briefing that Mr. Biden defied a lawful subpoena and that he supported efforts to hold him in contempt.
“We have to do this. This is our role. It’s our responsibility. We’re not taking any pleasure in this. This is not political. We’ve been charged with it. Our committees are doing their job,” Mr. Johnson said.
“I don’t know why Hunter is here. He wants another photo op.”
Mr. Biden is also scheduled this week to be arraigned in California on federal tax charges. He faces separate charges for gun crimes in Delaware.