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Hunter Biden defies congressional subpoena as Republicans ready impeachment vote

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Hunter Biden defies congressional subpoena as Republicans ready impeachment vote © Reuters. The U.S. Capitol building is seen in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File photo

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By Katharine Jackson and Moira Warburton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden defied an order by House Republicans to testify behind closed doors about his business dealings on Wednesday, ratcheting up tensions with lawmakers who plan to vote to formalize their impeachment probe of his father.

At a news conference outside the Capitol, Biden blasted the probe as baseless and indicated he would not cooperate with a subpoena by the House Oversight Committee to testify in private.

Republicans said they would take steps to hold him in contempt of Congress, which could potentially result in prison time. “The president’s son does not get to set the rules,” said Representative James Comer, the Oversight Committee’s chair.

The House of Representatives is due to vote later on Wednesday to authorize the probe before leaving for a three-week holiday break on Thursday. House Speaker Mike Johnson said he was confident it would pass the chamber, which Republicans control by a narrow 221-213 margin.

House Republicans allege that Biden and his family improperly profited from decisions the elder Biden participated in while serving as vice president from 2009-2017. Their investigation focuses closely on the business dealings of the younger Biden.

They have so far failed to uncover evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

“There is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business, because it did not happen,” Hunter Biden, 53, said.

The White House has denied wrongdoing and dismissed the probe as politically motivated ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Republican Donald Trump, the only U.S. president to be impeached twice, is the leading contender to take on Biden. Trump was acquitted by the Senate both times.

Republican Representative Jim Jordan said Hunter Biden’s words that his father had not been “financially” involved suggested the president might have been involved in his son’s business even if he did not profit from it.

“He’s been involved, just not financially. That is a huge departure from everything they’ve said,” Jordan said.

White House lawyer rejected that claim, saying on the X social media platform, “Jim Jordan continues to lie and make completely false statements about the contents of their so-called ‘investigation.'”

‘EXTREMELY IRRESPONSIBLE’

Hunter Biden, who has described his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, has also been subject of a years-long criminal investigation.

That has resulted in federal charges that he lied about his drug use while buying a handgun, and separate charges of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes. He has pleaded not guilty to the gun charges, and his lawyer says he has repaid his taxes in full.

“In the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances. But to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd. It’s shameless,” he said.

While his father was vice president, Hunter Biden served on the boards of a Ukrainian industrial conglomerate and a Chinese private equity fund. One of his former associations has testified that he sought to provide an “illusion of access” to his father, though he said he was not aware of any wrongdoing by the elder Biden.

He has offered to testify in public, which would give him a chance to defend his record and his father in what would likely be a high-profile televised election-year showdown. He said he was concerned that testimony behind closed doors would be misrepresented.

Republicans have insisted that he must first testify in a private deposition.

House Democrats said they understood his decision not to cooperate, as they said Republicans have distorted evidence from previous private interviews.

“They continued to cherry pick little pieces of evidence and distort and misrepresent what has taken place,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, the panel’s top Democrat.

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