House Republicans on Friday demanded that Hunter Biden, the president’s son, sit for a closed-door deposition in their impeachment inquiry into his father, rejecting his request to testify only in public and suggesting he could face punishment if he did not agree to their terms.
In a letter, Representatives James R. Comer of Kentucky, chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said they looked forward to Mr. Biden appearing publicly “at the appropriate time.” But they said his request to skip a private deposition and go straight to testimony in an open session amounted to a “demand that he receive special treatment.”
“The subpoenas Mr. Biden has received compel him to appear before the committees for a deposition,” they added. “They are not mere suggestions open to Mr. Biden’s interpretation or preference.”
Mr. Comer has suggested that House Republicans could attempt to bring contempt of Congress charges against Mr. Biden if he did not comply with a congressional subpoena.
House Republicans have worked for months to try to build an impeachment case against President Biden, hunting for evidence to back up their allegations that he corruptly profited from his family members’ overseas business dealings and accepted bribes. To date, they have failed to deliver compelling evidence to back up their boldest claims.
Their investigation has focused heavily on the work Hunter Biden did for companies and partners in Ukraine, China and other countries, and they have demanded he testify under subpoena.
The younger Biden told the Republicans this week that he would be willing to testify — but only publicly, so that Republicans could not twist or selectively leak what he says. In a letter to Congress, Abbe D. Lowell, Mr. Biden’s lawyer, criticized the Republican inquiry as a “partisan crusade,” and said Mr. Comer has used “closed-door sessions to manipulate, even distort the facts and misinform the public.”
Mr. Lowell proposed that Mr. Biden appear at a public hearing on Dec. 13.
“If, as you claim, your efforts are important and involve issues that Americans should know about, then let the light shine on these proceedings,” Mr. Lowell wrote.
But Republicans quickly rejected that offer, arguing that Mr. Biden must first testify behind closed doors, as other witnesses have done. In the letter on Friday, the G.O.P. committee leaders wrote that, “if it helps to alleviate your stated concerns,” they planned to record the interview on video and release a transcript afterward.
The lawmakers also pushed back on arguments that their investigation was not legitimate. They asserted that they had a “valid legislative purpose” for their inquiry into the Bidens, including research to inform “potential legislative reforms relating to federal ethics and financial disclosure laws.” They also said they were evaluating evidence they had received thus far that showed “President Biden was aware of at least some of his family’s business ventures and sought to influence potential business deals that financially benefited his family.”
If Mr. Biden does testify before the House panels, he would be taking risks. He is the subject of a federal criminal investigation now being led by a special counsel, and he is under indictment on charges of lying about his drug use on a federal form he filled out to purchase a handgun in 2018. Any testimony he provides to Congress could be used against him.
A spokeswoman for Hunter Biden declined to comment.
Democrats on Friday criticized the Republican inquiry as nothing more than a political stunt.
“I struggle to call House Republicans’ fishing expedition an investigation when it’s been run without any investigating,” said Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. “It’s been nearly a year of recycling debunked conspiracy theories in hopes the public will start to believe their lies.”