By Katelyn Polantz and Paula Reid, CNN
Hunter Biden’s stunt appearance on Capitol Hill on Wednesday is part of a more aggressive, forward-leaning strategy that his legal team, led by lawyers Abbe Lowell and Kevin Morris, has adopted to confront his detractors in the last year.
Hunter Biden’s lawyers are aware that despite Congress holding a contempt vote against him as early as next week, they have few – if any – ways to enforce a punishment.
Congress has limited options to force Hunter Biden to answer questions before it or to successfully hold him in contempt if he is engaging with the committee, making Wednesday’s surprise appearance even more of a standoff.
His attorneys have made clear they believe him showing up on Capitol Hill and offering to testify publicly is enough to attempt to call the bluff of Republicans who say they want to question him extensively.
On Wednesday after his surprise appearance, Lowell called Republicans’ subpoena for closed-door testimony a political “tactic” and said by ignoring his willingness to appear publicly, the committees care “little for the truth.”
More reasons to plead the Fifth
Biden’s ability to hold off congressional testimony has become even greater in recent weeks, because he now faces both criminal tax and gun charges, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
That means he would be more likely to want to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, the source said.
During previous negotiations with the committee, Hunter Biden faced only gun charges in federal court in Delaware and was unlikely to cite the Fifth then while his team negotiated.
But the hefty tax charges brought by the special counsel’s office in federal court in California a month ago changed the legal calculus, the source said.
Hunter Biden is set to appear in the California court on Thursday to enter his initial pleading of not guilty.
Those allegations do not mention his father but touch upon foreign business dealings Hunter Biden had that the House Republicans have attempted to dig into.
Republicans have limited options
Congress in recent years has struggled to hold witnesses in contempt, because their options are limited legally.
That became apparent as Hunter Biden and his lawyer walked into and out of the Wednesday hearing with little clarity on the committee’s next moves.
As members fought back-and-forth in the hearing room, the president’s son sat in the audience with Lowell and Morris flanking him.
Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Florida responded to insults of Biden from Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina by saying, “If the gentlelady wants to hear from Hunter Biden we can hear from him right now.”
Mace shot back: “I think that Hunter Biden should be arrested right here right now and go straight to jail.”
The House would need federal prosecutors to choose to pursue a contempt case, a high bar if a subpoena isn’t outright ignored.
The House could also seek a court’s intervention, which can be take years and be difficult to secure.
Or, in theory, their own sergeant-at-arms could arrest a witness in what’s called an “inherent contempt” proceeding — a tactic that is not used in the modern era and that lawyers for the House have repeatedly admitted isn’t an option they have any more.
CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz, Annie Grayer and Evan Perez contributed to this report.
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