Will the president’s son soon face legal consequences for his decision not to testify before Congress? On Jan. 10, the House Judiciary and Oversight committees will huddle to consider two practically identical resolutions to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress, after he defied a subpoena and refused to appear for a closed-door transcribed interview. Democrats have voiced their opposition to the move despite having in the past taken the same action. If a resolution reaches the House floor and passes, the younger Biden could be referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which can choose to prosecute or not, at its discretion.
Hunter Biden was supposed to appear before the committees on Dec. 13. Instead, he traveled to Washington, DC, and delivered a public statement to the media outside the Capitol building. His attorney had demanded that Biden be given the opportunity to testify in public – something the Republican committee chair agreed to but only after he sit for the private interview. This is standard procedure for key witnesses in congressional probes.
A Recent History of Contempt Charges
In 2022, the Democrat-controlled committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021, subpoenaed former Trump political adviser Steve Bannon. It demanded his appearance for a closed-door interview and also wanted him to turn over documents relevant to the Jan. 6 protest. Bannon did not provide documents but offered to testify in a public setting. Democrats rejected that proposal and promptly held Bannon in contempt.
Peter Navarro, another former Trump aide, also was hit with a contempt of Congress charge. Mark Meadows, Trump’s last chief of staff, and his deputy, Dan Scavino Jr., were similarly held in contempt for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 Committee. Scavino and Meadows both negotiated with the committee and handed over thousands of pages of documents. The DOJ declined to prosecute both. Navarro and Bannon were prosecuted and convicted. Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison and fined $6,500. Navarro has yet to learn his fate.
Most if not all House Democrats are likely to forget their past enthusiasm for referring contempt to the DOJ, though, and vote to block action against Hunter Biden.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, claimed there is “no precedent” for holding a private citizen in contempt who had offered to testify in a public setting. Bannon’s case would appear to contradict Raskin.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Dec. 13 admitted that Joe Biden knew his son intended to ignore the subpoena. She told the press corps, “The president was familiar with what Hunter was going to say today. And, you know, look, he’s proud of his son.” This, of course, raises a serious matter. The senior Biden seems to have engaged in obstruction of Congress, which, at least by Democrat standards, is an impeachable offense. Donald Trump was impeached for exactly that.
If a House vote goes against Hunter Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland will find himself in a tight spot. Should the DOJ decline to prosecute, there will be no escaping the impression that it gave the commander-in-chief’s son special treatment.