Democrats and Republicans are offering clashing interpretations of the significance of former Hunter Biden business associate Devon Archer’s closed-door testimony, which lawmakers said included assertions that Hunter Biden was selling the “illusion of access” to his father and that Hunter Biden sometimes put President Biden on speakerphone to talk to his business associates.
The revelations are fueling Republican attempts to link the president to his son’s business dealings. Republicans, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer (Ky.), say the testimony shows that President Biden “lied” when he made campaign trail statements that he had never talked to his son about his foreign business dealings.
But Democrats say Archer’s testimony to the House Oversight Committee on Monday actually shows the president was not involved in Hunter Biden’s foreign business affairs.
Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), who attended the hours-long transcribed interview, said Archer testified that because Hunter Biden was under pressure from Ukrainian energy company Burisma, “he had to give the illusion — and he used that term, the illusion — of access to his father, and he tried to get credit for things that he — that Mr. Archer testified Hunter had nothing to do with, such as when Vice President Biden went to Ukraine on his own.”
Lawmakers clash over whether testimony implicates president
Archer was on the board of Burisma with Hunter Biden. Republicans have said then-Vice President Biden’s call to remove Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, whose office was investigating Burisma, was directly related to his son’s involvement with, and sizable payments from, the company.
But the investigation in Burisma had been opened before Shokin took the position, and Shokin was widely criticized for failure to prosecute corruption, with his ouster supported by numerous U.S. officials.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement that Archer testified that “President Biden was not involved in his son’s business affairs, and that President Biden was never asked to, nor did he, take any official actions in relation to those business matters.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week that the president “was never in business with his son.”
On the other end of the partisan spectrum, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who also attended the transcribed interview, said he thought Archer’s testimony “implicate[s] the president.”
Reading from his notes of the transcribed interview, Biggs said Archer testified that “Burisma would have gone out of business sooner if the Biden brand had not been invoked. People would be intimidated to legally mess with Burisma because of the Biden family brand.”
According to Biggs, Archer said the Biden “brand” referred to President Biden. But Goldman later said that Archer clarified the “brand” was based on a “D.C. brand based on his own experience in lobbying” and “in conjunction with the fact that his last name was Biden.”
Burisma bribery allegations
Both Biggs and Goldman said that Archer had no knowledge of an alleged $5 million payment to Biden from Burisma, an allegation relayed by a confidential FBI source in a form released by Republicans earlier in June.
Goldman argued that Archer’s testimony undercut the premise of the Biden-Burisma bribery allegations.
“Even though it was perceived by Burisma that they had the Prosecutor General Shokin ‘under control,’ quote unquote, that Joe Biden advocated for his firing — which of course, was not coveted or desired by Burisma, and would potentially be bad for Burisma,” Goldman said.
Raskin said that Republicans appeared to be “chasing” the bribery allegations, and pointed to a recent letter to Comer from Lev Parnas, who was involved in an effort to dig up dirt about the Bidens in Ukraine ahead of the 2020 election, urging Comer to abandon efforts to chase the “conspiracy theories.”
Comer, on the other hand, took issue with Hunter Biden’s work with Burisma.
“When Burisma’s owner was facing pressure from the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating the company for corruption, Archer testified that Burisma executives asked Hunter to ‘call D.C.’ after a Burisma board meeting in Dubai,” he said in a statement, which a press release said raised concerns that Hunter Biden was in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Phone calls with the president
Archer’s testimony did appear to partially back up Comer’s statement to the New York Post last week that he expected Archer to discuss the times he witnessed Hunter Biden’s putting then-Vice President Biden on speakerphone with foreign business partners.
Democrats downplayed that concern.
“The witness indicated that Hunter spoke to his father every day, and approximately 20 times over the course of a 10-year relationship. Hunter may have put his father on the phone with any number of different people, and they never once spoke about any business dealings,” Goldman said.
“As he described it, it was all casual conversation, niceties, the weather, ‘What’s going on?’” Goldman said, adding that “there wasn't a single conversation about any of the business dealings that Hunter had.”
Democrats also stressed that there were especially frequent conversations between Hunter Biden and his father after his brother, Beau Biden, died from brain cancer in 2015.
Biggs pushed back on Goldman’s characterization.
“He probably forgot to tell you that Devon Archer himself said that was an implication of who the ‘big guy’ is,” Biggs said, referring to communications drawn from a laptop hard drive that purportedly belonged to Hunter Biden.
The House Oversight GOP also said in a tweet that President Biden attended a 2014 dinner with Hunter Biden and some of his foreign business associates at Cafe Milano in Washington, D.C.
White House slams GOP after ‘much-hyped witness’ testimony
Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, also argued that the Archer interview poked holes in the GOP attempts to directly link President Biden to his family’s foreign business dealings.
“It appears that the House Republicans’ own much-hyped witness today testified that he never heard of President Biden discussing business with his son or his son’s associates, or doing anything wrong,” Sams said. “House Republicans keep promising bombshell evidence to support their ridiculous attacks against the President, but time after time, they keep failing to produce any. In fact, even their own witnesses appear to be debunking their allegations.”
Raskin said that the Biden family investigation is a “desperate effort to distract everyone from former President Donald Trump’s mounting criminal indictments and deepening legal morass.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who was also in the interview, told reporters that Archer had revealed new information, but declined to elaborate further.
Abbe Lowell, counsel for Hunter Biden, said in a statement that House Republicans "keep swinging and keep striking out in their obsessive pursuit of the President through his son, Hunter."
"Mr. Archer confirmed one more time that Hunter Biden did not involve his father in, nor did his father assist him in, his business. It’s well known that Hunter and his father speak daily, and what Mr. Archer confirmed today was that when those calls occurred during Hunter’s business meetings, if there was any interaction between his father and his business associates, it was simply to exchange small talk," Lowell said.
"Like the relatives of Donald Trump, Senators Ron Johnson and Ted Cruz, Rep. Lauren Boebert, and many others, family members of elected representatives meet people and may get opportunities because of those connections," he continued. "Congress would be busy investigating many of their own if that’s their idea of an offense.”
Archer did not answer shouted questions when entering or leaving the transcribed interview, and his attorney declined to take a side in the debate over his testimony.
“We are aware that all sides are claiming victory following Mr. Archer’s voluntary interview today. But all Devon Archer did was exactly what we said he would: show up and answer the questions put to him honestly and completely. Mr. Archer shared the truth with the Committee, and we will leave to them and others to decide what to do with it,” said Matthew L. Schwartz, a managing partner of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP.