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Hunter Biden gives House Republicans the rebuttal they didn’t want

Hunter Biden’s appearance in front of investigators and members of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees unfolded a bit like a Bruce Lee movie.

Republican legislators and interviewers challenging the president’s son on the House majority’s behalf would throw out an allegation, often one that’s been worn smooth after tumbling around in the right-wing media universe for the past year or two. And Biden would invariably swat it away, stripping off the layers of innuendo that had been applied by Donald Trump and Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) or Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) or any of myriad Fox News commentators.

This included epic battles against well-known foes, like an exchange between Hunter Biden and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), or repeated, extended back-and-forth with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). But at no point was a question left unanswered — including through an invocation of the Fifth Amendment — or, to an objective observer, left answered with obvious incompletion.

The discussion was centered on the Republican effort in the ongoing impeachment inquiry to demonstrate that President Biden had benefited financially from Hunter Biden’s business endeavors — and, they hoped, that the elder Biden had used his position as vice president to that end. They were unsuccessful in making that case from the hearing’s first moments.

“I did not involve my father in my business,” Hunter Biden said in his opening comments, “not while I was a practicing lawyer, not in my investments or transactions, domestic or international, not as a board member, and not as an artist, never.” His position did not diverge from that at any point; instead, he frequently invoked this same claim over and over again as a means of cutting off one of the familiar lines of inquiry with which he was presented.

The effect, in reading a transcript of Wednesday’s hours-long interaction, is of a man repeatedly trying to get his accusers to see a forest instead of a smattering of trees.

Hunter Biden’s testimony centered heavily on two themes. First, the closeness of his family, having been drawn together by the tragic deaths of his mother and, later, his brother. This is why he always took his father’s calls, he said, and why he would always welcome his father to join him at dinners.

“I can’t count the number of times my dad stopped to have dinner with me and my family,” he testified — including at a cafe that was situated between the White House and the vice-presidential residence.

The other was that Joe Biden was a career politician.

“My dad has been a United States Senator since I was 2 years old,” Biden said at one point. “My whole life has been this.”

His point? That glad-handing strangers and dropping into events was part of his father’s daily life — and therefore his own.

At one point, a questioner pressed Biden to admit that there was a suspicious pattern in his father having met people with whom Hunter Biden or his partners ended up doing business. Biden rejected that framing.

“The pattern I see is that you literally have no evidence whatsoever of any corruption on the part of my father,” he said. “And therefore what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to make every single thing in business that I was ever involved in somehow corrupt.”

Gaetz, during his lengthy inquisition of Biden, attempted to portray several occasions in which Joe Biden called his son during a meeting or stopped by a dinner as implicating the president in his son’s business. Hunter Biden turned the question around.

“If my father was to sit down here today and he was to call me right now and I was in and I put him on the speakerphone, does that mean that he had a meeting with you, Mr. Gaetz?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Gaetz replied.

Gaetz later tried to suggest that since Hunter Biden sometimes covered his father’s tab, that his and his father’s finances “were pretty interwoven.” (“Will the record show that we’re all laughing?” Biden attorney Abbe Lowell interjected.)

“No, our finances aren’t interwoven,” Hunter Biden said in response. “What are interwoven is that we’re a family.”

Over and over, interlocutors presented Hunter Biden with the sorts of suspicious-sounding tidbits that have been the crux of the Republican argument for months. And, over and over, he offered credible responses.

Biden was asked, for example, whether he was aware that money he’d transferred to his uncle James Biden might have been reused by his uncle to repay a loan to his father.

“This is the most ridiculous thing that — I mean, so far,” Biden replied. “Are you saying to me, do I understand the fungibility of dollars? Do I understand that there is a — I mean, what is it? Post hoc ergo propter hoc? It’s all based upon a fallacy?”

He noted that the deal at issue was centered on building a liquefied natural gas terminal in Louisiana that, according to him, would have created 17,000 jobs.

Mentioning this had a different purpose: to bolster his credentials and, by extension, the validity of his having been hired to participate in these agreements in the first place. He fleshed out the specifics of several of them in a similar way, including offering details of his relationships with prospective partners, both close and contentious.

“I’d put my résumé up against any one of you, in terms of my responsibility,” he challenged the lawmakers at one point.

Those deeply immersed in the lore of Joe Biden’s putative corruption will find any number of the allegations dismissed in Hunter Biden’s testimony, not that they will believe his (sworn) testimony if they were to read the transcript at all. They would also note two particular targets of Hunter Biden’s ire: Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Hunter Biden’s former associate Tony Bobulinski.

Kushner served as a repeated point of comparison for Biden: Republicans were quizzing him on his father stopping by a dinner one evening when Kushner pulled in $2 billion after leaving the White House?

A legislator asked him whether he’d worked for foreign governments.

“I never worked for a country,” he replied. “I am not Jared Kushner.”

Bobulinski, whose testimony has been repeatedly cited by Republicans as their probe has progressed, was dismissed by Hunter Biden as only briefly involved in his endeavors — and as having been bounced for being unreliable. Among the transgressions, he said, was that Bobulinski had hoped to gain leverage over the Biden family name, something that Hunter Biden found particularly offensive.

He had “no faith in this person that I had just met, Tony Bobulinski,” he said, “who was presented to me as some Wall Street whiz kid that was going around, throwing around my name, and throwing around my family’s name.”

“It’s not their name to screw up,” he added at one point. “It’s mine.”

This relates to where Hunter Biden’s testimony was the shakiest. He indicated that, thanks to those decades of being immersed in his father’s world, he was sensitive to keeping his father at arm’s length.

“One thing that we — that I was fully aware of my entire life, is that my dad was an official of the United States Government,” he said, “and there were very bright lines that I abided to and that I was very, very cognizant of. And made certain that I never engaged with my father in asking him to do anything on my behalf or on behalf of any client of mine.”

That may be, but it has also been demonstrated that he at times specifically sought to invoke his father, including in a text message in which he falsely implied that his father was sitting beside him. (He said he was probably intoxicated when it was sent and that he was “more embarrassed of this text message, if it actually did come from me, than any text message I’ve ever sent.”)

Toward the end of his deposition, Biden deflected one of Gaetz’s questions about the specifics of his picking up a bill for his father by noting how deep his questioners were having to dive to find things that looked suspicious.

“It’s not incumbent upon me to point to you to something that doesn’t exist,” Biden said. “It’s incumbent upon you to create something, to come up with something based upon the voluminous evidence that you’ve collected, which shows no involvement.”

The forest remains uninteresting to those trying to build a case for impeaching President Biden. In his testimony, Hunter Biden did an effective job of also explaining why the trees Republicans had focused on weren’t that important either.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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