Hunter Biden hands the hapless James Comer another L
Hunter Biden is probably smarter than James Comer. And his lawyer, Abbe Lowell, definitely is.
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House Oversight Chair James Comer got publicly spanked this week by Hunter Biden. This is nothing new for the Kentucky congressman — it happens often enough that it’s reasonable to call it a fetish at this point. But the way it went down was particularly humiliating for a politician who spent an entire year manipulating the media into treating his fake impeachment investigation like it’s the real thing.
In reality, Hunter Biden never intended to testify before the Oversight and Judiciary Committees. It would be insane for him to even think about doing so while under criminal indictment. But he knew Comer wouldn’t call his bluff, and he was right.
Outside the Beltway, this all may seem like much ado about nothing. But the faceoff between Comer and Hunter Biden reveals just how weak Comer’s hand is, and how easy it is for Biden to show it. The end result is that Comer comes out looking even more incompetent than he did before.
On November 8, the Oversight Committee issued subpoenas for Hunter Biden, his uncle James (the president’s brother), and his business associate Rob Walker. The committee requested transcribed interviews with Hunter’s wife Melissa, his aunt Sarah, his sister-in-law Hallie, and Hallie’s sister, Elizabeth Secundy. The committee also sought to speak to Tony Bobulinski, a former Biden associate who spent the past three years telling conservative media outlets that he could connect Hunter to his father, but who was apparently too problematic to be taken seriously by either the Trump or the Biden DOJ.
The subpoenas represent a massive escalation in Comer’s pursuit of what he calls “the Biden crime family,” a turn of phrase which allows him to pretend that he’s been able to connect the son’s efforts to monetize his family name with the father’s official duties. He hasn’t. The best he’s got is testimony from Hunter’s former partner Devon Archer that their company’s main asset was the Biden family “brand,” along with an admission that Joe Biden had dinner with his son and some of Hunter’s business associates a couple of times.
It’s not even clear that these subpoenas are enforceable, thanks to Bill Barr, who got the Office of Legal Counsel to dummy up a memo in January 2020 saying that impeachment subpoenas are valid only if the wider House has voted to “expressly authorize a committee to conduct an impeachment investigation and to use compulsory process in that investigation.” There’s been no such vote because there wasn’t enough support in the Republican caucus to pass it, although that balance may be shifting.
The last public spanking
Part of the reason Comer and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan have had difficulty ginning up support for a Biden impeachment is that they keep promising they’ve got the goods, only to step all over a never-ending patch of rakes when it comes time to prove it.
In May, Comer announced that he had whistleblowers documenting FBI abuses of January 6 rioters. It only took a news cycle for that story to fall apart when it emerged that the supposed whistleblower was an agent who claimed to be a conscientious objector after refusing to participate in the arrest of a member of the Three Percenters Militia who breached the Capitol carrying a GoPro and maced someone in the face.
In a telling moment, Comer went on Fox & Friends around this time and crashed and burned, with host Steve Doocy pointing out to him that "you don't actually have any facts” and “there's no evidence that Joe Biden did anything illegally."
Then, in October, Comer jubilantly produced a $200,000 check from James Biden to his brother Joe in 2018 labeled “loan repayment” and demanded “documentation clarifying the nature of this payment” from the White House.
“At the end of the day, there’s no document that shows there was a loan,” Comer told Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo.
Almost immediately documentation emerged showing that Joe loaned his brother the cash and didn’t receive any interest. But even worse for Comer, his own, shadier history of passing cash back and forth with his own brother was immediately reported by the Daily Beast.
Confronted with his hypocrisy, Comer got into a heated exchange with Rep. Jared Moskowitz, calling the Florida Democrat a “smurf” during a House hearing.
Unsurprisingly, Comer’s colleagues have ceased to pin their hopes on him producing much in the way of useful impeachment materials.
Nevertheless, he persisted
After issuing his subpoenas, Comer spent much of November patting himself on the back for being so brave and honest, even telling disgraced former journalist Benny Johnson that the committee was “in the downhill phase” of their investigation because they’d taken all this time to amass a mountain of documentary evidence.
"We can bring these people in for depositions or Committee hearings, whichever they choose,” he babbled.
And so Hunter Biden’s lawyer Abbe Lowell called his bluff.
“Mr. Chairman, we take you up on your offer,” he wrote Tuesday in a letter to Comer which was simultaneously released to the media. “Accordingly, our client will get right to it by agreeing to answer any pertinent and relevant question you or your colleagues might have, but — rather than subscribing to your cloaked, one-sided process — he will appear at a public Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing.”
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After dragging Comer and his “so-called investigation” at length and noting that the congressman has been “working for almost a year — without success — to tie our client’s business activities to his father,” Lowell offered to have him testify publicly on December 13, the date scheduled in the subpoena.
To quote your November 8, 2023, letter accompanying the subpoena, “Given your client’s willingness to address this investigation publicly up to this point, we would expect him to be willing to testify before Congress.” He is, Mr. Chairman. A public proceeding would prevent selective leaks, manipulated transcripts, doctored exhibits, or one-sided press statements.
Not. Gonna. Happen.
Lowell is one of the best lawyers in America. He’s represented everyone from Jared Kushner to John Edwards and he’s the reason Senator Bob Menendez is still walking around a free man.
Lowell’s most prominent client, Hunter Biden, is presently under indictment in Delaware for lying about his drug use on a gun application in 2018. He’s had a special counsel digging through his entire life for five years. The government has said that it intends to indict Hunter Biden on tax charges, likely in California. And prosecutors have explicitly refused to rule out charging him with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act for his business dealings overseas.
There is no universe where Lowell was ever going to let his client testify without a rock solid grant of immunity, because anything that he said to Congress could be used as evidence against him in court. Lowell would never allow Biden to take that risk, particularly since the Justice Department might wind up back under control of Donald Trump and his goons in 2025.
Hunter Biden’s choices were to refuse to show up, or to appear and plead the Fifth in response to every question — both of which would have been spun by Comer and his allies in right-wing media as evidence of guilt. So Lowell came up with a way to stick it to Comer without ceding the news cycle.
Curses, Foiled Again!
“Like the singer in Scarborough Fair, Abbe Lowell is agreeing to something, but setting conditions that he knows will never be met because he does not actually want his client to testify,” former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner of New York’s Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC told Public Notice.
Lowell appears to have calculated correctly that the media would report this as a legitimate offer to testify, not a giant middle finger to the committee.
“Hunter Biden offers to testify publicly in House Republicans' impeachment probe,” read the Reuters headline.
“Hunter Biden agrees to appear before House Oversight Committee – but only in public: Lawyer,” echoed ABC.
“Hunter Biden offers to testify before Congress in December,” wrote CNBC.
And some of the more slow-witted Gippers fell for it, too — at least initially.
“I welcome Hunter Biden finally agreeing to testify. It’s long overdue for him to come clean in front of the American people," House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith tweeted and then quickly deleted.
“Sunlight matters,” tweeted the NYPost’s Miranda Devine, before she got the memo and decided that “Hunter Biden and his expensive lawyers don’t get to dictate terms — and that the 5-minute structure of public hearings is sub par.”
There are a whole lot of reasons Comer would never agree to a public hearing. For one thing, as Lowell pointed out in his letter, “a public proceeding would prevent selective leaks, manipulated transcripts, doctored exhibits, or one-sided press statements.” And that is not part of the plan for a guy who just trotted out a loan repayment and pretended there was no evidence of the original loan.
But Comer has all but admitted that the biggest reason he doesn’t want a public hearing is because it will end up being an embarrassment for Republicans — as has routinely been the case this Congress.
“If [Hunter] comes in for one hearing, with 24 members having five minutes each to ask questions, with the Democrats yelling and screaming like they do every hearing, we would probably get about 30 to 35 questions in,” claimed Comer earlier this week on Newsmax.
What Comer did not say, but as journalist Marcy Wheeler points out, is that a public hearing would allow Democrats to explain to Americans just how deeply tainted the FBI’s investigation against the younger Biden is, thanks to political interference from Trump and Bill Barr, as well as Rudy Giuliani’s machinations. And that’s something Lowell knows Comer will not risk.
Comer and Jordan are currently scrambling to pretend they didn’t get beat again.
“Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules instead of following the rules required of everyone else. That won’t stand with House Republicans. Our lawfully issued subpoena to Hunter Biden requires him to appear for a deposition on December 13,” Comer said yesterday. “We expect full cooperation with our subpoena for a deposition but also agree that Hunter Biden should have the opportunity to testify in a public setting at a future date.”
Still, Democrats are taking a victory lap.
“What an epic humiliation for our colleagues and what 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,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, ranking member of the Oversight Committee crowed earlier this week. “Chairman Comer’s insistence that Hunter Biden’s interview should happen behind closed doors proves it once again. What the Republicans fear most is sunlight and the truth.”
Moskowitz and Rep. Dan Goldman are calling Comer “Chairman Clouseau” after the hapless Pink Panther detective.
Honestly, he’s more like Chief Inspector Dreyfus. And there is a certain resemblance …
That’s it for this week
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Have a great weekend!