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How Hunter Biden’s congressional deposition will be different from other impeachment inquiry interviews

By Paula Reid, Annie Grayer and Jeremy Herb, CNN

For months, Hunter Biden said he would only testify before Congress if it was in public.

But on Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s son will go behind closed doors to face off with his Republican detractors on Capitol Hill for a deposition.

The interview came together after months of public sniping, political stunts, the threat of criminal contempt and hardball negotiations that resulted in two key concessions from Republicans – that the deposition will not be filmed and that the transcript will be released quickly to the public, sources familiar with the talks told CNN.

Hunter Biden’s appearance Wednesday represents the most significant testimony to date for the two congressional committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Biden, a probe that’s heavily focused on Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings.

But it comes as a key allegation that launched the impeachment inquiry has been discredited. A former FBI informant who alleged Ukrainian entities paid millions of dollars in bribes to Biden and his son Hunter is now facing federal criminal charges that he fabricated the story.

Sources familiar with terms negotiated between Hunter Biden’s team and congressional Republicans told CNN that Wednesday’s deposition will have several unique features that are different from the other interviews the committees have conducted to date.

The deposition will not be videotaped, according to multiple sources. This was a significant concession from Republicans, as interviews with other Biden family business associates and related witnesses have all been filmed.

The two sides also have agreed to the terms of the transcript release as a way to avoid selective leaks, the sources said.

Normally, the committee chair has to get the ranking member of the opposite party on the committee to sign off to release a transcript, or else the full committee decides. Both sides assume there will not be a conflict releasing this transcript, and after a review to redact any sensitive information like names of congressional staffers, it could be released quickly, potentially within 24 hours after the deposition wraps.

House Oversight Chairman James Comer’s intention has always been to release the transcript of Hunter’s deposition as quickly as possible, according to a source familiar.

Hunter Biden’s team had expressed concern about Republicans taking parts of the interview out of context, and the current agreement not only ensures that select video snippets can’t be circulated but that the full transcript is publicly available.

Both sides had been at an impasse. While Hunter Biden’s lawyers insisted that he would only testify publicly, Comer insisted that a public hearing would follow the private deposition. Now, there are no plans for a public hearing or discussions about holding one, according to multiple sources.

An Oversight Committee spokesperson said that the panels intend to hold a public hearing. “As is standard with investigations, the committees are currently in the deposition and interview phase and then will move to public hearings,” the spokesperson said.

Wednesday’s deposition will be the biggest interview to date for the floundering Republican impeachment inquiry, which has focused on questions about Hunter Biden’s business overseas but has failed to find any evidence Joe Biden was involved in his son’s business dealings.

Then, the Justice Department’s indictment of ex-FBI informant Alexander Smirnov dealt another blow. Republicans repeatedly pointed to Smirnov’s allegations as a reason for opening the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden last fall. But the charges undercut a case for impeachment that was already facing skepticism inside the House GOP conference.

Comer and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, who are leading the impeachment inquiry, have tried to downplay and move on from what they had said about the significance of the informant’s allegations.

Jordan wrote a lengthy post on X on Monday laying out his case against the Bidens that did not mention bribery but did raise long-debunked claims about Joe Biden, Burisma and the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor when Biden was vice president.

For many months, it looked like the Hunter interview wouldn’t happen at all, with his lawyers primarily concerned about selective leaks and Comer saying the president’s son wouldn’t get special treatment from the committee.

On the day Republicans initially set for his deposition in December, Hunter Biden showed up in Washington but held a news conference outside of the Capitol instead of appearing for questions.

Comer and Jordan moved to hold Hunter Biden in contempt the next month. While the committees debated the contempt resolution, Hunter Biden again turned up on Capitol Hill in a surprise appearance, briefly sitting in the committee room to silently confront Republicans and sparking an uproar on both sides of the aisle.

Two days after the committees approved the contempt resolution on a party-line vote, and it appeared Republicans had enough votes in the full House, Hunter attorney Abbe Lowell sent a letter arguing the committees’ subpoenas to Hunter were invalid because they were sent before the impeachment inquiry was authorized by the full House.

But Lowell also wrote that Hunter would accept service of a new subpoena, which restarted negotiations between Hunter’s team and the GOP panels.

Six days later, before the House had voted to send the contempt resolution to the Justice Department, Hunter Biden agreed to appear for a closed-door deposition, setting up Wednesday’s showdown.

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