Hunter Biden’s Day on the Hill

Happy Thursday—and Happy Leap Day! If you’ve ever thought the pillowy goodness of an Eggo waffle looked good enough to sleep on, we have great news: A new vacation rental that looks like a pile of toaster-ready frozen breakfast pastries is open for business in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. While we’re not sure if the Eggo House of Pancakes is the retreat for us, we know three guys who would love this place.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 82, announced on Wednesday that he will step down as leader of the Republican conference in November, ending his tenure as the longest-serving Senate party leader in history, having held the role for 17 years. McConnell indicated that he intends to serve out the remainder of his current term, which ends in 2027, though it’s not yet clear whether he’ll run for reelection. “As I have been thinking about when I would deliver some news to the Senate, I always imagined a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work,” McConnell said yesterday in remarks on the Senate floor. “A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. That day arrived today.” Aides claimed the decision to step back from leadership was unrelated to his recent health problems—after a concussion last year, he’s several times appeared to freeze mid-sentence.
  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to decide whether former President Donald Trump is immune from prosecution in special counsel Jack Smith’s case alleging the former president attempted to subvert the results of the 2020 election. In an unsigned order released on Wednesday evening, the justices indicated the case will be argued during the week of April 22, an expedited timeline that will still delay the D.C. trial from moving forward until at least late summer and perhaps beyond. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit had previously unanimously rejected the former president’s immunity claim.
  • Congressional leaders said Wednesday that they had agreed to a continuing resolution to extend funding for government agencies through two separate March dates. Negotiators reached agreements on bills to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Commerce, and Justice. Once the continuing resolution is approved, the bills funding those agencies will need to be passed by March 8, pushing the first shutdown deadline back by a week. The remaining six appropriations bills would have a deadline of March 22. The House and Senate have until Friday at midnight to pass the stopgap, and House Speaker Mike Johnson will likely need the support of Democrats to pass the measure over objections from his right flank. 
  • Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, was deposed before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into the president. In the closed hearing, Hunter Biden—who had resisted giving testimony—reportedly once again denied he had ever involved his father in his business dealings. “I am here today to provide the Committees with the one uncontestable fact that should end the false premise of this inquiry: I did not involve my father in my business,” his opening statement reportedly read. “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.”
  • A New York appeals court denied Trump’s request to delay enforcement of the ruling in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud case against his business empire, in which Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump to pay almost $500 million in penalties for providing false financial information to the state in order to secure loans at lower rates. In their appeal, Trump’s lawyers said the former president could supply only a $100 million bond, and could be required to sell some of his properties to secure the rest of the funds. Associate Justice Anil C. Singh in the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division did temporarily stay part of Engoron’s original ruling, which blocked Trump and his company from seeking loans from New York banks for three years—a move that may enable Trump to produce the funds to pay the judgment. A full panel is expected to issue a decision, which could undo Singh’s ruling, on March 18. 
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday ruled against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ request for another hearing to consider his effort to move the election interference case against him from the state court to the federal system. It’s the second time the 11th Circuit has denied such a request by Meadows, who faces racketeering charges in Georgia for his alleged involvement in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the state. Meadows sought to move his trial because he was employed as a federal officer at the time, and he may now seek a judgment from the Supreme Court. 
  • In a special session held Wednesday, the pro-Russia Congress of Deputies in Transnistria—an unrecognized breakaway region of Moldova that shares a border with Ukraine—asked for Moscow’s protection from what it said was “increasing pressure from Moldova.” In response to this request, officials in Moscow said, “​​Protecting the interests of the inhabitants of Transnistria, our compatriots, is one of the priorities.” Moldovan officials called the congress’ move, which comes as Moldova has in recent months opened discussions for European Union accession, “propaganda.” The last time the congress met was in 2006, when it requested Russian annexation, to which Moscow didn’t respond.
  • Following the president’s annual physical on Wednesday, White House Physician Kevin O’Connor said Biden “continues to be fit for duty and fully executes all of his responsibilities without any exemptions or accommodations.” In a memo, O’Connor said the visit “identified no new concerns,” and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the doctor had assessed that Biden didn’t need a cognitive test—which is not a standard part of the presidential physical—despite growing concerns over the president’s mental acuity.

The ‘Big Day’—But For Whom?

Hunter Biden arrives on Capitol Hill for a deposition with Judiciary and Oversight House Committees on February 28, 2024. (Photo by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Hunter Biden arrives on Capitol Hill for a deposition with Judiciary and Oversight House Committees on February 28, 2024. (Photo by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

It’s been a long and winding road for Republicans on the House Oversight Committee trying to make the case against President Joe Biden and his family’s business dealings—and as House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer addressed reporters ahead of yesterday’s main event, one couldn’t help but notice the hint of relief in his voice as he kicked off, what he called, “the big day.”

Hunter Biden testified behind closed doors on Wednesday as part of congressional Republicans’ ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, which was kicked off by allegations that the president improperly involved himself in his family’s business dealings, resulting in a pay-to-play scheme. Despite several months of investigations, interviews, and testimony, however, lawmakers have yet to find the smoking gun. Some Republicans have indicated their skepticism of efforts to impeach the president—and that was before a key witness in the probe was indicted and accused of parroting Russian intelligence.

The younger Biden’s testimony followed a bombshell indictment against Alexander Smirnov, a former FBI informant whose intel—now alleged to have been completely fabricated—once underpinned Republicans’ case against Biden. Smirnov was charged with “provid[ing] false derogatory information to the FBI about Public Official 1, and Businessperson 1, the son of Public Official 1, in 2020, after Public Official 1 became a presidential candidate,” the indictment read, referring to Biden and his son Hunter. He allegedly claimed that, in a meeting in 2015 or 2016, executives tied to Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings admitted to hiring Hunter Biden for protection “through his dad, from all kinds of problems” while Biden was still vice president, and paid both Bidens $5 million each.

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