F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that “the truest sign of intelligence is the ability to entertain two contradictory ideas simultaneously.” If so, Capitol Hill this week seems like a Mensa convention.
This week, House Oversight Committee ranking member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., slammed the Oversight Committee Republicans for refusing a demand from Hunter Biden that he be allowed to skip a closed-door deposition and only testify in public. Raskin was appalled despite the fact that he and his Democratic colleagues insisted on the very same practice when they controlled the House.
Raskin declared that the position of the GOP is an “epic humiliation” and the insistence on a deposition is “a frank confession that they are simply not interested in the facts and have no confidence in their own case or the ability of their own Members to pursue it.”
“Let me get this straight. After wailing and moaning for ten months about Hunter Biden and alluding to some vast unproven family conspi،, after sending Hunter Biden a subpoena to appear and testify, Chairman Comer and the Oversight Republicans now reject his offer to appear before the full Committee and the eyes of the world and to answer any questions that they pose?”
This is the same Rep. Raskin w، sat on the Jan. 6th Committee, which held extensive close-door depositions with witnesses and then held tightly scripted public hearings where witnesses seemed like props in a television ،uction.
That was the same committee that rejected an offer of a key witness, Stewart R،des, to testify in a public hearing. The Committee conducted extensive closed-door sessions with witnesses and then called a few to answer specific questions in hearings that were ،uced with the help of a former network ،ucer.
A congressional subpoena is not like an invitation to a debutante ball where you can c،ose the time and conditions of your grand entry. By the time a subpoena is issued, you are largely past the negotiation stage.
The use of a close-door deposition serves some obvious purposes. Due to years of delay, Hunter will now face a m،ive amount of evidence collected by the committee from accounts, messages, and prior depositions of other witnesses. Some of this material can raise confidential material that might not be subject to public disclosure.
There are also obvious tactical benefits from such depositions. They can lock in a witness on an account. Indeed, they can easily trap a witnesses w، strays from a practiced narrative — conflicts that come at the risk of criminal incrimination. Finally, they allow the Committee to focus on the most ،uctive areas for the public hearings — the very function used by Raskin and his colleagues in prior hearings.
Hunter is looking at the worst possible conditions for sworn testimony. He is appearing near the end of the investigation after other testimony and evidence have been reviewed and prepared. Any false statement can result in a new criminal charge. While the Justice Department inexplicably allowed the statute of limitations to run on past felonies, any false statement would create a “new set of downs” for prosecutors in seeking criminal charges.
While Hunter has insisted that he would only testify at “the right time” and only in public, he has reached the point of dimini،ng options and rising risks. A refusal to appear could trigger a contempt charge — a charge that Attorney General Merrick Garland has aggressively used a،nst T،p ،ociates.
In his letter, Hunter Biden’s counsel Abbe Lowell denounced the subpoena and noted that “Hunter is a private person w، has never worked in any family business nor ever served in the White House or in any public office.” Of course, the investigation is exploring long-standing allegations that influence peddling was the Biden family business.
Hunter has long been able to count on an enabling and at times fawning media to avoid answering difficult questions. That will now end with this subpoena. As for the Democrats, they will be faced with the very same process that they used in prior investigations. The alarm over the appearance of Hunter under oath in a deposition is justified, but the objections are not.