Legal Law

Hunter Makes a Familiar Last-Minute Offer to Congress – JONATHAN TURLEY

Below is my column in The Hill on Hunter Biden’s sudden offer to appear for testimony in Congress. Biden’s demand for a second “valid subpoena” presents institutional considerations that weigh against yielding to the condition for testimony.  This was a valid subpoena issued by multiple committees with independent subpoena authority. Few members relish Hunter and his team turning them into dancing bears for their public amusement. The contempt of Congress is already a completed act for Hunter. Even if he were to testify, he knowingly and publicly committed this violation. I imagine that his team may already have a plan for him to agree to appear and take the Fifth. Otherwise, he may hope that his last minute change will give the Justice Department, yet again, cover for declining to act. [Update: there are reports that the House will not call Hunter’s bluff and may issue a new subpoena as demanded.]

This week, after weeks of Hunter mocking the House over its subpoena for a deposition, the House Oversight Committee voted to hold him in contempt. Now facing a referral for prosecution, Hunter declared that he might belatedly comply to avoid a prosecution.

Hunter is nothing if not consistent. As with his taxes and other federal violations, Hunter is asking for a mulligan just before a possible indictment. For decades, Hunter has conveyed an attitude that laws do not apply to him or to other Biden family members. After all, as his father once said, “no one f**ks with a Biden.”

Since he was a young man, Hunter seems to have been told that he lives a life of privilege that entitles him to considerations denied to others. Indeed, in Washington, it was an open joke when Hunter was put on the Amtrak board and later made its vice chair. When pressed on his lack of credentials for the position, Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware quipped that “Hunter Biden has spent a lot of time on Amtrak trains.”

It appears that nothing is quite so funny as open nepotism in Washington.

Not surprisingly, Hunter’s life of entitlement would lead to a life of excess and debauchery. He was one of Washington’s noble class, a scion of a political dynasty. In time, he would be brought into the family business of influence-peddling with his uncles. For decades, the Bidens have been accused of selling access and influence to Joe Biden.

When things got legally difficult, Hunter could count on government guardians. When he lost his gun in 2018, Secret Service agents appeared at a gun shop to demand all records of his purchase. (Those records would later become the basis for the current gun charges against him.)

When Hunter lost his laptop, containing hundreds of incriminating files showing everything from influence peddling to alleged human trafficking, FBI agents showed up at the computer shop and reportedly conveyed an intimidating message to the owner not to speak to anyone.

When years of news reports forced the Justice Department to investigate some of these crimes, the Justice Department sat on the case until the most serious tax violations from 2014 to 2015 expired under the statute of limitations. It did so despite internal objections that the period for prosecution could easily be extended.

The Justice Department then sought a plea bargain so absurdly generous that it fell apart in open court, with a prosecutor admitting to the judge that he had never seen any deal like it. Notably, the cause for the collapse was an immunity agreement so obscene that no one other than a Biden would demand it, let alone get it.

Throughout this history, one thing has been consistent. Hunter has received and seems to feel entitled to legal mulligans that no other citizen could reasonably expect. It is the very meaning of “privilege” that many Democrats in Washington denounce on a weekly basis.

We are not the only country with such a privileged class of scions. In China, the children of powerful leaders who live lavish lives are called the “red nobility” or “communist princelings.”

Yet, even in Washington, many were floored by the display of absolute entitlement when Hunter appeared with his counsel Abbe Lowell outside of Congress at the time of his scheduled deposition. Hunter mocked the House and refused to go inside, insisting that he would only agree to give testimony on his own terms.

For those of us who have been writing about the Hunter and the Bidens for decades, it was not in the least surprising. His conduct on taxes showed the utter lack of concern over any obligations owed to the government. In a sense, his family is the government.

As the Justice Department noted in its tax charges, Hunter spent his money on “drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes.”

When the IRS finally moved toward prosecution, a democratic donor named Kevin Morris reportedly gave him millions to cover his taxes and lavish lifestyle, even though he had only been introduced to Hunter at a Democratic fundraiser not long before.

Then, without a hint of irony, Hunter and Lowell guffawed at the notion of any prosecution because “Hunter paid his taxes.”

He is now applying the same logic to the crime of contempt. After his defiant presser on the steps of the Capitol, Hunter crashed the hearing for the vote on his contempt. By his side was Morris, who is now shooting scenes for a movie about Hunter — presumably a real-life version of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” where the corrupt establishment actually wins.

The stunt caused pandemonium and infuriated members of Congress. Hunter demanded that they yield to his demands. Once again, Democrats unanimously voted to protect him, even though they had demanded the same depositions in the past.

Indeed, President Biden himself said that such defiance could never be tolerated in others.  When asked about Trump supporters defying subpoenas he declared, “I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable criminally.”

Those people, however, are not Bidens.

When the committee approved the contempt resolution and sent it to the floor, some of us speculated that Hunter would again demand a mulligan, just before any prosecution.

That is precisely what he did. Lowell told the House that the president’s son would deign to appear in a deposition if they re-issued a “valid” subpoena. It is the legal version of when Hunter instructed ABC News reporter Amy Robach to “say it nicer” when she dared to ask him uncomfortable questions.

Hunter is now effectively telling Congress to “say it nicer,” and he just might appear. The problem is that the original subpoena was valid, and Congress does not have to ask a second time. There are no mulligans when it comes to criminal contempt.

It is likely that Hunter and his counsel expect that the fix is in, again, at the Justice Department. Given his last-minute offer (as when he paid his taxes at the last minute), Hunter no doubt hopes the Justice Department will decline to prosecute.

For Hunter, it is not about the fact that he committed a crime. That is for ordinary people. It is about being a Biden, and being entitled to a lifetime of mulligans.

Jonathan Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at the George Washington University Law School.

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