Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

House GOP has focused on Hunter Biden for awhile — a chance now to talk to him

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Hunter Biden once stood outside the U.S. Capitol and vowed he would only testify about his business dealings publicly, never behind closed doors.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

So much for that. In a House hearing room today, House Republicans are expected to hear privately, as they wanted, from one of their long-standing political targets.

MARTIN: Justice correspondent Ryan Lucas is with us now to tell us more about what is going on today. Good morning, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: All right, so congressional Republicans have been, you know, so focused on Hunter Biden for so long. Now they get to talk to him. What do they want to ask?

LUCAS: You're right that House Republicans have made Hunter, in many ways, the main character in their impeachment inquiry against his father. They've devoted a ton of time, a ton of effort trying to dig into Hunter's business dealings, particularly the work that he's done overseas. They will undoubtedly ask him about a deal he made with a Chinese energy company, about his work with a Ukrainian energy company. Other business deals will no doubt come up.

And all of this Republicans are going to try to funnel into their working theory of the case here that President Biden somehow played an active role in or somehow benefited from the business dealings of his family members, Hunter, of course, chief among them. At this point, though, it has to be said, months in, Republicans have not turned up any concrete evidence of wrongdoing on the president's part. So for Republicans, there is a lot riding on this deposition today.

MARTIN: Is there a sense of how Hunter Biden will answer their questions?

LUCAS: Well, Hunter's talked publicly about a lot of his business dealings, certainly about his struggles with addiction. So a lot of this is ground that's been covered to one degree or another. But a source familiar with the matter tells me that Hunter will tell lawmakers that his father was not involved in his business affairs. That echoes what James Biden, the president's brother, told Congress last week in his own deposition. I'm told Hunter also is expected to acknowledge that he made mistakes, that he's had his own struggles with addiction, stuff that has been well documented.

He's also expected to push back against the whole impeachment effort, to tell lawmakers that, in his view, it's based on lies. I expect that he'll point to the recent criminal charges against Alexander Smirnov. He's the former FBI informant who allegedly fabricated claims of a Biden bribery scheme, a scheme that has been central, of course, to the Republicans' impeachment effort here.

MARTIN: Remember; we said that Hunter Biden had said publicly he was never going to testify privately. He would only testify in public in an open session. Do you have a sense of why he agreed to testify privately?

LUCAS: His team was worried about selective leaks. That was part of the fight over this whole deposition. It's worth noting that Republicans were threatening to hold him in contempt of Congress. The two sides ended up working out an agreement for today's deposition. The deposition will not be videotaped, I am told. The transcript will be released as quickly as possible. That was another part of this agreement. And those two points seem to address Hunter Biden's concerns.

MARTIN: You mentioned Alexander Smirnov. That's the informant, of course. He's accused of lying about the Bidens to the FBI. Where is he now?

LUCAS: So he's in California. He's been ordered to remain in jail there, pending trial. He's pleaded not guilty to the charges. But there are still questions swirling about his contacts with Russian intelligence. Prosecutors say that those contacts are extensive. They say they aren't benign. And they raise questions of whether some of the information that Smirnov was giving the FBI could have been false info fed by the Russians. The Smirnov case certainly undercuts one of the main allegations that Republicans have made in their impeachment bid, but it has not killed that impeachment bid.

MARTIN: So where does this proceeding go from here?

LUCAS: That's a good question. Democrats say it should be all over and done with. But House Republicans leading this probe say that their investigation doesn't rest solely on the Smirnov claims. They say they have other leads that they are pursuing. And it's also worth noting that they are under a lot of pressure from their base to keep this going.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Ryan Lucas. Ryan, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.