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What to watch for out of Hunter Biden’s closed-door depositions with Republicans on Capitol Hill

By Jeremy Herb and Annie Grayer, CNN

Hunter Biden has been the focus of Republicans in Congress since they won the majority over a year ago.

Now, they finally get their chance to interrogate President Joe Biden’s son about his foreign business dealings.

Hunter Biden is appearing behind closed doors before the House Oversight and Judiciary committees on Wednesday, an appearance that only came after months of public sniping and tense negotiations.

The appearance of the president’s son marks the most important testimony to date in the Republican-led impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden. But it comes at the same time that the impeachment probe – already struggling to turn up any evidence of Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s business dealing – is now grappling with an even bigger blow after a former FBI informant who alleged Ukrainian entities paid millions of dollars in bribes to Biden and his son is now facing federal criminal charges that he fabricated the story.

There’s already serious doubts about the impeachment effort among some House Republicans, and Hunter Biden’s testimony may represent impeachment investigators’ last chance to convince skeptical colleagues inside the GOP conference.

Republicans have tried to move past the FBI informant’s allegations, and they say that Hunter Biden won’t be the final witness in their investigation.

“This is an important interview in our investigation, but it is not the end. There are more subpoenas and more interviews to come,” the House Oversight Committee posted on X on Tuesday.

Regardless, Hunter Biden’s appearance is expected to create a spectacle on Capitol Hill, even as he will be testifying behind closed doors.

While Hunter Biden had insisted for months that he would only testify in public and House Oversight Chairman James Comer has said a public hearing would follow the deposition, there are currently no plans for a public hearing or discussions about holding one, according to multiple sources.

Here’s what to know ahead of Wednesday’s deposition:

Not a typical deposition

Hunter Biden’s appearance before the two congressional committees leading the impeachment inquiry Wednesday will be anything but another routine deposition – and that’s not just because the witness is the president’s son.

Hunter Biden’s team negotiated several distinct terms that Republicans agreed to so he would appear behind closed doors, after the president’s son and his attorneys had said they would only agree to a public hearing.

The deposition will not be videotaped, CNN reported Tuesday, even though other Biden family business associates and related witnesses have all been filmed during their depositions.

The two sides also agreed to quickly release the transcript as a way to avoid selective leaks.

Sources said the transcript could be released within 24 hours after the deposition. Both sides assume there will not be a conflict releasing this transcript, and that it will happen quickly after a review to redact any sensitive information.

Hunter’s business at center of flailing impeachment inquiry

The House GOP impeachment investigation has focused heavily on Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, looking for a link to Joe Biden through meetings where Joe Biden met his son’s associates.

Republicans in recent weeks have hauled in a series of Biden family business associates who testified, based on first-hand experience, Joe Biden was not involved in his family’s foreign business dealings, undermining the allegation at the heart of their entire investigation.

While Republicans have focused on these interactions, none of the hundreds of pages of witness testimony provides evidence that the president was involved in or benefited from his family’s business ventures. Whether it was stopping by a business lunch, overseeing his bookkeeping, an exchange at a White House Fourth of July picnic or a phone call, business associates in the Biden family orbit said they never witnessed Joe Biden do anything wrong.

The GOP impeachment inquiry took an even bigger blow earlier this month when the Justice Department charged an ex-FBI informant, Alexander Smirnov, accusing him of making up a story that Ukrainian entities paid millions of dollars in bribes to Joe Biden and his son.

Republicans have tried to move past the informant’s allegations and play down its significance since the charges were filed. But House leadership and rank-and-file lawmakers repeatedly put Smirnov’s unverified bribery allegation front and center as they made their case against the president in 2023 and this year, depicting the bribery allegation as critical to the impeachment push.

On Wednesday, however, Republicans are likely to ignore the bribery claims and focus on Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm, and his work on a joint venture involving a Chinese-backed energy company that dissolved in 2018.

Republicans have falsely tried to link Joe Biden’s actions as vice president to push for the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor, claiming the prosecutor was investigating Burisma. But that’s a long-debunked allegation against Joe Biden stemming from Donald Trump’s first impeachment in 2019 – in reality, Biden’s actions were consistent with bipartisan US policy, which sought to remove the prosecutor because he wasn’t doing enough to crack down on corruption, including at Burisma.

Showdown between Hunter Biden and Republicans

Wednesday’s deposition will be the first chance for Hunter Biden to confront his Republican critics who have accused him of corruption and taunted him for months – and it will also be the first time for the Republicans to interrogate the president’s son.

Not surprisingly, the committees are expecting more lawmakers to show up for Hunter Biden than typical for depositions.

Hunter Biden has made two appearances on Capitol Hill. He held a news conference outside the Capitol in December, on the day Republicans had scheduled his deposition.

Then the president’s son made a surprise appearance at the committee hearing room where the two committees were debating whether to hold Hunter Biden in contempt.

His brief 10-minute appearance sparked an intense reaction on both sides of the aisle.

“You are the epitome of White privilege,” GOP Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina told Hunter Biden from the dais. “Coming into the Oversight Committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed. What are you afraid of? You have no balls.”

Democrats responded by claiming that Republicans weren’t willing to hear from Hunter Biden publicly even as he sat before them.

Hunter Biden left the hearing room when GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia began speaking.

Last year, during a hearing with IRS whistleblowers, Greene held up large posters showing highly explicit images of a naked Hunter Biden with a sex worker, drawing swift rebukes from Democrats on the panel.

On Wednesday, Greene will get the chance to question Hunter Biden.

How Hunter Biden agreed to appear before Congress

Wednesday’s deposition appeared unlikely to occur at multiple points over the past year, as Hunter Biden’s lawyers and the GOP committee leaders fought over his appearance.

After Republicans subpoenaed Hunter Biden, his attorneys said that the president’s son would only appear at a public hearing.

Republicans said that was unacceptable, arguing they were going to follow the same process as other witnesses of holding a deposition before any public hearings.

The stand-off led to contempt proceedings against Hunter Biden, after he showed up on Capitol Hill the day the committees scheduled his deposition.

“For six years, I have been the target of the unrelenting Trump attack machine shouting ‘Where’s Hunter?’ Well, here is my answer, I am here,” Hunter Biden told reporters outside the Capitol.

After the committee approved the contempt resolution against Hunter Biden in January, and had the votes to pass it on the floor, his attorney sent the committee a letter arguing he needed to receive a new subpoena, because the original was sent before the House voted to approve the impeachment inquiry.

That sparked additional negotiations between the committee and Biden’s lawyers, and less than a week later, the committees announced Wednesday’s deposition was agreed to, putting aside the contempt vote in the House.

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