Which is where Swalwell comes in. As a high-profile Democratic messenger during Donald Trump’s two impeachments, he’s no stranger to hard-hitting GOP attacks. He described his decision to help Hunter Biden in starkly personal as well as political terms.
Describing the president’s son as “a recovering addict who has admitted his mistakes and has been clean for many years,” Swalwell said the former president “has directed MAGA Republicans to weaponize Hunter’s past addiction to attack President Biden, someone Trump and House Republicans won’t acknowledge won the 2020 election.”
“There is absolutely zero evidence Hunter or his father acted corruptly,” Swalwell added. “So I’m not going to sit quietly and let MAGA Republicans do Trump’s bidding in Congress.”
Hunter Biden’s public address on Wednesday surprised many of the House Republicans who have subpoenaed him to testify behind closed doors about his past business deals. Gaining wall-to-wall cable news coverage, he showed up on GOP lawmakers’ turf to reiterate that he would only testify in public.
Swalwell’s reservation of the Capitol Hill space for his remarks was first reported by the Washington Examiner.
One person who knew about the sudden appearance: the president himself. Two people familiar with Wednesday morning’s events told POLITICO that Hunter Biden notified Joe Biden of his plans.
But beyond that, only a small circle of people knew that Hunter Biden would so publicly stiff-arm House Republicans. Over the last few days, the president’s son has huddled with lawyers Abbe Lowell and Kevin Morris to plan his remarks, according to a person close to his legal team who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about Wednesday’s appearance.
Lowell joined Biden’s legal team late last year, while Morris has long advocated for Hunter Biden to go on offense against critics. Morris traveled from California to Washington to support Biden in the dramatic moment.
A second person close to Hunter Biden’s legal team, also granted anonymity to speak candidly, said the president’s son chose to speak at the Capitol to underscore that his offer to testify publicly wasn’t a bluff.
“For six years, I’ve been the target of the unrelenting Trump attack machine, shouting ‘Where’s Hunter?’” Hunter Biden told reporters outside the Capitol. “Well, here’s my answer: I am here. … I am here to testify at a public hearing today.”
Republicans have no plans to take him up on that until he sits for a deposition. As they renew their demand for private testimony, they’re planning to start contempt proceedings against Hunter Biden — a move unlikely to result in new charges that’s designed to highlight their frustration with the president’s son.
“That is arrogance,” Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) told POLITICO about Hunter Biden’s avoidance of a deposition to talk to reporters across the Capitol.
Neither Comer, Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), nor their respective staffs were told in advance of Hunter Biden’s planned appearance. As the president’s son spoke, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and other Republicans were awaiting his potential arrival in the interview room.
White House and campaign aides cheered Hunter Biden’s forceful remarks. Allies of the president say they don’t think his son’s ongoing legal problems will factor into voters’ decision next November – pointing to polls such as an October Monmouth survey that found only 27 percent of the electorate said Hunter Biden’s troubles would make them less likely to support the president.
A GOP Oversight Committee aide told POLITICO that Hunter Biden’s legal team gave no heads-up in advance of his arrival. But the committee was prepared in case Hunter Biden did appear on Republicans’ terms, including setting up cameras to film and drafting hundreds of questions to ask.
“We’re disappointed he didn’t show up. I mean, he was just across the way at the Capitol,” Jordan said. “You think he could have come here and sat for questions.”
Holly Otterbein and Jonathan Lemire contributed.