Six Takeaways From Hunter Biden’s Testimony


After years of pursuing Hunter Biden, the president’s son, Republicans finally got their chance to question him during a more than six-hour interview on Wednesday, as they hunted for evidence to try to impeach his father.

Republicans quickly released a 229-page transcript of the interview, which depicts Hunter Biden as eager to confront G.O.P. lawmakers over their accusations that he and his father had committed wrongdoing through his international business deals.

Despite pending criminal charges against him, Mr. Biden, 54, never invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Instead he sparred with Republicans, criticizing their questions while offering explanations — often ones that were exceedingly unflattering to himself — for his actions.

Throughout the interview, Mr. Biden maintained that his father had never been involved in his business deals, and insisted that blame for his misdeeds should not fall on the elder Mr. Biden.

“My mistakes and my shortcomings are my own and not my father’s,” Hunter Biden testified.

Here are 10 takeaways from his long-awaited testimony.

Throughout the session, Hunter Biden’s determination to defend his father appeared matched only by his willingness to acknowledge his own personal failings in blunt and sometimes colorful terms.

Addressing one of the most attention-grabbing bits of evidence the Republican inquiry has produced, he offered an innocent explanation — though one that played up his own foibles — for a text from 2017 in which he appeared to use the presence of his father as a way to pressure a Chinese potential business partner to move ahead with a proposed energy deal.

“I am sitting here with my father and we would like to know why the commitment has not been fulfilled,” Mr. Biden wrote in the WhatsApp message.

In the deposition, Hunter Biden said he did not remember sending such a message, but that if he had, he must have been either high or drunk at the time. He added that the message appeared to have been sent to the wrong person, who had the same surname as the potential business partner, and that his father had not actually been in the room.

“I take full responsibility for being an absolute ass and idiot when I sent this message, if I did send this message,” he said.

Days after the message, an entity jointly controlled by Hunter Biden was wired $5 million, according to House Republicans. Mr. Biden also criticized the I.R.S. agents who had brought the WhatsApp messages to Congress, saying they had conflated two different sets of messages to produce misleading evidence.

Hunter Biden testified that the money he had sent to family members was merely him sharing some of his own income to help cover their expenses, including reimbursements. Republicans have said the transactions show that the Biden family received profits from his international business deals.

He said he would typically ask his business partner, Rob Walker, to send portions of the money he had earned to different family members. When Republicans suggested that there was something untoward about the payments, such as those to his uncle and sister-in-law because the money wasn’t first sent to Hunter Biden, Mr. Biden explained that he had only been trying to save money.

“I sometimes can be, oxymoronically, cheap. It’s to save on two wire transfers,” Mr. Biden explained, adding he would tell Mr. Walker: “Please just wire it directly to Hallie; please just wire it directly to Uncle Jim. But it’s all my money, and it’s none to my dad.”

Mr. Biden told Republicans that the suggestion in a now-famous message sent by a business associate, James Gilliar, that he cut his father in on business deals — “10 held by H for the big guy?” Mr. Gilliar wrote — had been quickly rejected.

“I truly don’t know what the hell that James was talking about,” Mr. Biden told investigators, adding: “I think that it was pie in the sky. Like, ‘Joe Biden’s out of the office. Maybe we’ll be able to get him involved.’ ”

But Hunter Biden said he believed the idea was “absolutely ridiculous,” adding, “And so I shut it down.”

Mr. Biden acknowledged that his father had occasionally attended meals where business associates were present, but he denied that they had discussed business. For instance, he said, the elder Mr. Biden attended one dinner at Cafe Milano that was a presentation for the U.N. World Food Program, where he sat next to Father Alexander Karloutsos of the Greek Orthodox Church.

“My dad did not come for dinner; he came and sat down at the presentations. He sat down next to Father Alex, who he’s known for almost 42 years, who was a close family friend,” Hunter Biden said. “And I believe that he probably had a Coca-Cola and a bowl of spaghetti.”

Then he said his father had finished eating, shaken hands, hugged a couple of people and walked out.

Hunter Biden also defended his habit of putting his father on speakerphone when he was meeting with business associates, a pattern that his former business partner Devon Archer had highlighted in earlier testimony. He said it was something he had done all his life, whether with family members, friends or associates.

“I’m surprised my dad hasn’t called me right now, and if he did, I would put him on speakerphone to say hi to you,” Hunter Biden said at the deposition, adding: “You always pick up the phone. It’s something that we always do.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his admissions of drug use over the years, Hunter Biden testified that he couldn’t remember key details central to Republicans’ allegations against him. He said he could not recall certain events or details about two dozen times during the more than six-hour interview.

For instance, Mr. Biden said he couldn’t recall dropping off a laptop central to the Republicans’ case at a Delaware repair shop — and suggested he might not have done so — or a lunch at the Four Seasons with business partners that his father allegedly had attended.

He also suggested he had been kept in the dark about some of his and his partners’ business practices, such as who had paid for a $142,000 sports car that he had received. Mr. Archer previously testified it had been paid for by a Kazakh businessman.

“I received a car and I know why I received a car,” Hunter Biden said, adding: “It was payment. It was a cockamamie way to do it, but that’s what my understanding was.”

Lengthy parts of the interview focused on Hunter Biden’s well-documented drug addiction, but he took particular umbrage when Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, who is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations that include illicit drug use, sought to question him about it.

“Were you on drugs when you were on the Burisma board?” Mr. Gaetz asked, referring to a Ukrainian energy company that has been central to Republican accusations.

“Mr. Gaetz, look me in the eye. You really think that’s appropriate?” Mr. Biden replied, adding: “Of all the people sitting around this table, do you think that’s appropriate to ask me?”

It was one of several confrontational moments during the closed-door interview.

In another, Mr. Biden blasted Republicans for not subjecting former President Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has substantial international business dealings, to the same scrutiny.

“Unlike Jared Kushner, I’ve never received money from a foreign government,” he said. “When Jared Kushner flies over to Saudi Arabia, picks up $2 billion, comes back, and puts it in his pocket, OK?” He continued, referring to Mr. Trump, “And he is running for president of the United States. You guys have any problem with that?”

Mr. Gaetz interjected that the deposition clock had stopped.

“No, the clock has not stopped,” Mr. Biden pushed on. “Do you guys have any problem with that? I’m asking.”

Republicans shifted the interview to another topic.

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