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Takeaways from Hunter Biden’s combative deposition with Republican lawmakers

Hunter Biden walking with his attorney and others
Hunter Biden, center, with attorney Abbe Lowell, left, leaves after his closed-door deposition with House members on Wednesday.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
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The transcript of the congressional deposition of Hunter Biden was released late this week, providing a full view of the contentious testimony that took place behind closed doors Wednesday as Republicans aggressively questioned the central figure in their impeachment inquiry targeting his father.

The nearly 230 pages of questioning laid bare the deep-seated hostility between President Biden’s son and the GOP lawmakers who have been investigating his family. Arguments were frequent and tempers short, providing a preview of what is sure to come when Republicans hold a public hearing with Hunter Biden in the next several weeks.

He was defiant through the deposition as Republicans flooded him with questions about his former business affairs and his life, his answers veering from heated to emotional as he talked of his long battle with addiction and other turmoil in his personal life.

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Throughout the nearly seven-hour deposition, Biden remained adamant on one point, vehemently and repeatedly denying under oath that his father ever financially benefited or participated in any of his business work.

Takeaways from the transcript:

‘You always pick up the phone’

The 14-month Republican investigation into the Biden family has centered on Hunter Biden and his overseas work for clients in Ukraine, China, Romania and other countries. Republicans have long suggested — without evidence, thus far — that those business dealings involved corruption and influence-peddling by President Biden, particularly in the years when he was vice president.

Republican investigators zeroed in on a series of dinners and meetings that took place after Joe Biden left the vice presidency in which the younger Biden put his father on speakerphone while in the company of business partners.

“And why would you place your dad on speakerphone?” an unidentified Republican staffer asked.

“I’m surprised my dad hasn’t called me right now, and if he did, I would put him on speakerphone to say hi to you and to congressman Raskin and everybody else in the room,” Hunter Biden replied. “It is nothing nefarious, literally.”

He said that after the tragedies his family has suffered — including the death of his mother and two siblings — calls in his family are always answered, no matter what.

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“You always pick up the phone. It’s something that we always do. And you can ask anybody that I know,” he added.

‘You really think that’s appropriate?’

Large portions of the testimony Wednesday diverged into Hunter Biden’s well-documented battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

In one particularly harsh exchange, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) questioned whether the president’s son’s business dealings, particularly with the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, were legitimate. Gaetz asked, “Were you on drugs when you were on the Burisma board?”

Hunter responded: “Mr. Gaetz, look me in the eye. You really think that’s appropriate to ask me?”

“Absolutely,” Gaetz said.

Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, intervened, telling his client he didn’t need to respond.

“I will answer it this way: I have been absolutely transparent about my drug use,” Biden said. “I’m sorry; I’m an addict. I was an addict.”

He told the panel he has been in recovery for more than four years and works “really, really hard at it” under what he called an enormous amount of pressure.

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“Was I an addict? Yes, I was an addict,” he said. “What does that have to do with whether or not you’re going to go forward with an impeachment of my father other than to simply try to embarrass me?”

Gaetz tried to interrupt, but Hunter Biden kept talking: “Why? Why?”

The Biden ‘brand’

Another point of interest for House Republicans’ investigation is what they describe as Hunter Biden and associates selling the Biden “brand” to clients overseas.

One of their purported key witnesses, Devon Archer, a former business associate of Hunter Biden, testified to the House Oversight Committee last year that the president’s family sold “the illusion of access” to the corridors of power in Washington. Republicans questioned whether Burisma wanted Hunter Biden on its board in 2014 “because your dad was the vice president.”

“No, I don’t think that it’s fair,” Hunter Biden responded.

When asked about what value he brought to Burisma, Biden talked about the breadth of his resume and defended his family.

“Primarily, the name ‘Biden’ is my dad’s legacy. And he passed it down to me and, when my brother was alive, my brother, my sister, now to my children. It’s our responsibility to not screw that up.”

He added, “If other people saw the brand as something that they could market, it’s not — it was not with my — without going through me first. And if they did so, they didn’t go through me first.”

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Democrats weigh in

Democrats at one point tried to turn the deposition back toward the issue of Donald Trump, contrasting the Bidens’ business dealings with those of the former Republican president’s family and its business operations.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) led one particularly pointed exchange intended to draw out the differences between President Biden and Trump, the Republican front-runner to challenge him for the White House.

“Did your father ever employ in the Oval Office any direct family member to also work in the Oval Office?” Swalwell asked.

“My father has never employed any direct family members, to my knowledge,” Hunter Biden testified.

Swalwell went on to ask questions referring to the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., Trump’s legal case in New York City, his daughter-in-law’s recent bid to lead the Republican National Committee and his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s business dealings with Saudi Arabia.

“As president and the leader of the party, has your father ever tried to install as the chairperson of the party a daughter-in-law or anyone else in the family?” Swalwell asked.

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“No. And I don’t think that anyone in my family would be crazy enough to want to be the chairperson of the DNC” — the Democratic National Committee, Biden said.

Had his father ever been fined $355 million? “No, he has not, thank God,” Biden testified.

Email, texts and his infamous laptop

The impeachment inquiry has focused on several items Republicans point to as evidence as they try to build their case, including emails, text messages and a now-in-dispute laptop.

For the record:

9:00 a.m. March 1, 2024In an earlier version of this story, the Associated Press erroneously reported that an email from a Hunter Biden business associate proposed a $10-million equity stake in their firm. The email referenced a 10% equity stake.

One email from a Hunter Biden business associate purportedly proposes a 10% equity stake in their firm to be held for “the big” guy, who Republicans say is President Biden. It’s a message that has become central to the GOP claims of influence-peddling, but one that another business associate, Rob Walker, has testified was all “bull—.”

Hunter Biden testified that he does not recall ever responding to the email. “I’m not even sure whether I ever fully read this.”

Further emails exhibited to the committee showed that any equity split would be made equally among the five partners, including Hunter Biden and his longtime business partner, James Biden — his uncle and the president’s brother. The business deal with a Chinese energy company never happened, and no one was paid.

“There’s no secret big guy anywhere in this email?” asked a Democratic questioner.

“No, there’s not,” Hunter Biden replied.

“Joe Biden is not anywhere in this agreement?” he asked.

“No, he is not.”

As for Hunter Biden’s laptop that was allegedly dropped off at a Delaware repair shop and the source of many allegations against the Biden family, he testified that he does not recall bringing it in.

If his computer needed repairs, he testified, “I would have gone to the Apple store.”

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