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House will vote Wednesday on formalizing impeachment inquiry into President Biden

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hunter Biden spoke with reporters today outside the United States Capitol. The president's son refused to attend the closed-door deposition that Republicans demanded as they conduct an impeachment investigation into his father. Hunter Biden did say he would testify in public, and when that was declined, he showed up to talk in public. NPR congressional reporter Eric McDaniel was at the Capitol. Eric, good morning.

ERIC MCDANIEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What was Hunter doing?

MCDANIEL: You know, it was a surprise to me. In fact, I wasn't at Hunter's press conference. I listened back to it. But I was over in the Rayburn Building, where he was expected to appear - or at least invited to appear.

INSKEEP: Oh, one of the congressional office buildings. Right.

MCDANIEL: That's right. I was - this is where this closed-door deposition was supposed to be held. But the press conference happened at a time when there's increased focus from Republicans on the impeachment investigation into his father. The House is scheduled to vote on formalizing that impeachment investigation later today. The investigation's been going on for months, though. Hunter Biden is, of course, at the center of the inquiry. We can talk about why in a second, if you'd like. But he said so to reporters this morning that he wanted to testify in public so his words aren't misrepresented. Here he is defending his reputation and his father's.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HUNTER BIDEN: Let me state as clearly as I can, my father was not financially involved in my business - not as a practicing lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma, not in my partnership with a Chinese private businessman, not in my investments at home, nor abroad.

INSKEEP: I guess we should go on to say Hunter Biden said that he takes responsibility for his own mistakes when he had an issue with addiction, but he says his father had nothing to do with that. So how are lawmakers responding?

MCDANIEL: Well, the Democrats on the Oversight Committee came out of that place that Hunter was - the younger Biden was invited to appear, spoke out in his defense. But Republicans, including Oversight Chairman James Comer, said that they expect the president's son to cooperate with Congress. Here's Comer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAMES COMER: We expect to depose the president's son, and then we will be more than happy to have a public hearing with him.

MCDANIEL: Comer said that a contempt of Congress vote could be forthcoming after, of course, the vote formalizing the impeachment investigation moves forward, maybe later today.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Why is it that the House Republicans would choose now to go forward with an impeachment inquiry?

MCDANIEL: You know, it's a good question. Like we've talked about, the investigation's been going on for months. But Speaker Johnson, the head of the House, says this is all about legal leverage. They want to be able to go to court and compel witnesses, like Hunter Biden, and get access to more documents, more testimony.

But Johnson's also under tremendous political pressure. He's struggled to unite the caucus. And this is a way to maybe secure a win and impugn Biden as the face of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, faces a slew of serious criminal charges related to, among other things, attempting to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.

INSKEEP: Eric, I'm going to take you up on something you said - if I would like, that we could discuss why it is that this is all about Hunter Biden when an impeachment should be about a president. So what is it, if anything, that Republicans say Joe Biden has done? And what does his son have to do with it?

MCDANIEL: Yeah. No direct evidence of any sort implicates the president in wrongdoing so far. But this is about Hunter Biden's business career. He gave up a lobbying career before his dad became vice president. And later, while his dad was vice president, he joined the board of directors for a Ukrainian oligarch's energy company. He apparently scouted investments for a Chinese energy company, both for million-plus-dollar payouts. So Republicans are alleging that Biden appears to have been selling influence or the appearance of influence, again, without direct evidence that Joe Biden was involved in that at all.

INSKEEP: How is the White House responding?

MCDANIEL: They deny wrongdoing. Now we'll see how it goes from here. Republicans are again supposed to vote on formalizing later today, and they could move to a full vote on articles of impeachment in January.

INSKEEP: NPR congressional reporter Eric McDaniel will be covering it, whatever happens. Thanks so much, Eric.

MCDANIEL: 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.

Eric McDaniel edits the NPR Politics Podcast. He joined the program ahead of its 2019 relaunch as a daily podcast.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.