It took a lot of brass for Hunter Biden to crash a House Oversight Committee hearing convened to hold him in contempt for blowing off a congressional subpoena, a crime which carries a punishment of as much as a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.
But if you think of politics as a tawdry reality show, the spectacle made perfect sense in the narcissistic story arc of the first son’s drama-filled life, in which his “sugar brother,” Hollywood lawyer Kevin Morris, has a documentary crew trailing him all over the country.
In this narrative, Hunter’s ambush appearance in front of his congressional tormentors Wednesday was a cinematic climax of defiant bravado in which his antihero “owned” the GOP.
You could tell from Morris’ delighted smile that all was going according to plan as Republican committee members such as Nancy Mace played their part, hyperventilating about Hunter’s lack of “balls” and his “white privilege,” and Democratic grandstanders like Jamie Raskin and Dan Goldman ladled out rich globs of hypocrisy, while Chairman James Comer nervously swilled a bottle of water and called for order in the vain hope that the whole show would not collapse into high farce.
As theater, it was edge-of-the-seat gold.
Legally, well, Abbe Lowell, Hunter’s high-priced attorney, went along with the stunt, so he must have thought it was worth the risk, despite his furrowed brow.
After all, Hunter, 53, was never going to testify to Congress, whatever he pretended about a public hearing.
He would have pleaded the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating himself in the felony trials he is facing.
After his sweetheart plea deal with prosecutors collapsed in July, under the weight of IRS whistleblower testimony alleging corrupt favoritism in the five-year criminal investigation in Delaware into his business activities, run by US Attorney David Weiss, Hunter is facing felony charges of tax fraud and gun violations.
He is due in court Thursday in California on nine federal tax charges.
His lawyers know he can’t afford to testify under oath to Congress for hours on end.
If Comer had called his bluff, Lowell would have had conniptions.
But politically, Wednesday’s stunt was a disaster for the president, whose re-election pitch is to portray himself as the defender of “democracy” and the rule of law, in contrast to the “insurrectionist” Donald Trump.
But Don Trump Jr. showed up for five congressional subpoenas when he was first son, and sat for hours of testimony over the Russia collusion hoax, as Rep. Byron Donalds pointed out Wednesday, saying, “There was never this circus.”
Worse than the bad optics is that the White House has let slip that Joe had advance notice of his son’s little speech to reporters on Dec. 13 when Hunter first thumbed his nose at Congress’ subpoena, prompting Republicans to question the president’s role in “Hunter’s obstruction of Congress.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at the time that the president was “certainly familiar with what his son was going to say.”
Comer and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan then demanded the White House hand over any communications that would show that Joe was “engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct a proceeding of Congress.”
This time, Jean-Pierre was more circumspect, refusing to answer whether the White House had advance knowledge that Hunter was going to blow into the Oversight hearing with his entourage Wednesday and sit in the front row smirking and scowling for 20 minutes before hightailing it out again just as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was warming up.
Gall and response
But Hunter’s response to intrepid Fox News reporter Hillary Vaughn as he walked down the corridor also is a big problem for his father, because he effectively confirmed the bombshell testimony in July from his estranged “best friend in business” Devon Archer that he put then-Vice President Joe on speakerphone during meetings with his foreign benefactors at least 20 times when he was clinching a deal or wanting to demonstrate that “there was brand being delivered.”
“Why did you put your dad on speakerphone with your business partners if he had no involvement in your business?” Vaughn asked Hunter.
“Do you have a dad?” said Hunter.
“Does he call you. Do you answer the phone?”
“Yes,” replied Vaughn, but: “Why did you have to talk to him during business meetings if he had nothing to do with your business?”
And why on speakerphone?
At that moment, another reporter in the media scrum nearly fell flat on her face in front of Hunter, so he turned to her and called her “very dangerous,” neatly dodging any follow-ups from Vaughn.
But it was too late. Hunter’s big mouth put the lie to his father’s flat-out denial of Archer’s allegations back in August.
A week after Archer’s closed-door testimony to the Oversight Committee, the president told reporters: “It’s not true.”
He snapped at Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy, who had managed to get close to enough to ask about Archer’s claims: “There’s this testimony now where one of your son’s former business associates is claiming that you were on speakerphone a lot with them, talking business. Is that …”
Biden interrupted: “I never talked business with anybody, and I knew you’d have a lousy question.”
“Why is that a lousy question?” Doocy asked.
“Because it’s not true,” the president replied before turning on his heel.
But Hunter now has confirmed that it was true.
You have to wonder how happy Joe is with his son’s attention-seeking antics at the beginning of a tough re-election year when he faces impeachment over his family corruption scandal.
Hunter seems not to care about the political fallout for his father and made sure to flaunt his privilege as first son when he arrived at the Capitol on Wednesday.
In full view of the media, he strolled through the VIP door and watched as his lawyers had to empty their pockets and subject themselves to the indignities of a security check.
Nothing is real for him.
Art ache at WH
How low will the White House go in protecting the Biden grift?
Now we learn from Hunter Biden’s Soho art gallerist, Georges Bergès, that there was no so-called “ethics agreement” governing the sale of the first son’s paintings, as the White House kept claiming. It was a sham.
Bergès has testified to the House Oversight Committee that he never had any communication with the White House to ensure the anonymity of buyers.
Remember Jen Psaki insisting that the White House had painstakingly established a process for vetting buyers, and ensuring that their identities were known only to the gallery, and not to Hunter or his father, to allay fears of influence peddling?
But far from the blind purchases promised by the White House, Hunter Biden “knew the identities of the individuals who purchased roughly 70% of the value of his art, including Democrat donors Kevin Morris and Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali,” said Oversight Chairman James Comer.
Naftali was appointed to a prestigious federal commission for her trouble.
Sugar brother Morris bought most of the art for $875,000, to add to the millions he has already spent paying off Hunter’s IRS bill and funding his lavish lifestyle in Malibu.
Everything to do with the Bidens is an ethical nightmare, but the White House should not have allowed itself to be dragged into the mire.