Hunter tried to sell family name but Joe Biden never talked business, says ex-associate

The vice president’s appearance at a dinner at Cafe Milano in Washington with Hunter Biden, his business associates and a Russian billionaire. His handshake with a Chinese businessman in the lobby of a Beijing hotel. His appearance on speakerphone while Hunter Biden had dinner in Paris with executives from a French energy company.

These are a few of the ways Hunter Biden used his relationship with his powerful and influential father, Joe Biden, while the younger Biden was working to grow his business portfolio, according to testimony by Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business partner. Archer testified before investigators working for the House Oversight and Accountability Committee this week, a transcript of which was released Thursday, hours before the arraignment of former president Donald Trump.

But the 141-page transcript also includes multiple occasions in which Archer, who founded Rosemont Seneca Partners with Hunter Biden, testified in definitive terms that Hunter Biden was not able to influence his father’s actions or policy decisions and that “nothing of material” was ever discussed with Joe Biden during his frequent communications with his son. Hunter Biden never asked his father to take official actions on behalf of his son’s business partners, Archer testified. And Archer also disputed claims being pushed by Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R- Ky.) and Republican lawmakers that Biden had accepted a bribe from a foreign national while he served as vice president under Barack Obama in exchange for a desired policy outcome.

“I think you have to understand that there was no business conversation about a cap table or a fee or anything like that,” Archer testified about phone calls between Hunter Biden and his father that occurred in the presence of Hunter’s business associates. “It was, you know, just general niceties and, you know, conversation in general, you know, about the geography, about the weather, whatever it may be.”

Archer was touted by House Republicans as the linchpin in a quest to corroborate unsubstantiated claims that President Biden was involved in his son’s foreign business affairs. Instead, the transcript of Archer’s testimony detailed Hunter Biden’s effort to sell what he admitted was an illusion of access to and influence over one of the most powerful people in the world.

The closed-door interview did shed new light on Hunter Biden’s approach to doing business in proximity to power, and the complicated but close relationship of a father and son. Hunter Biden burnished the Biden family “brand” as a key part of the appeal of doing business with him, Archer told investigators.

Asked about the business value Hunter Biden brought to Ukrainian gas company Burisma, where he served as counsel and then on the board, Archer responded that “the theoretical was corporate governance, but obviously given the brand, that was a large part of the value.”

Archer described other instances in which Hunter Biden tried to exploit his father’s position to enhance the appearances of his contributions to Burisma. Investigators pointed to an April 12, 2014, email sent by Hunter Biden to Archer in which he explained how they should capitalize off then-Vice President Biden’s visit to Ukraine.

“The announcement of my guy’s upcoming travels should be characterized as part of our advice and thinking — but what he will say and do is out of our hands. In other words, it could be a really good thing or it could end up creating too great an expectation. We need to temper expectations regarding that visit,” the email read.

Asked to explain the email, Archer said he thinks “it’s clear that he’s not bringing his dad, but he’s saying, you know, ‘I’m going to get credit for it.’”

“He was getting paid a lot of money, and I think, you know, he wanted to show value,” Archer added.

Addressing criticisms that he sought to use his father’s position for financial gain, Hunter Biden said in a 2019 interview with ABC News that he had demonstrated “poor judgement” in accepting a position as a paid board member of a Ukrainian gas company.

“I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That’s where I made the mistake,” he added. “So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”

Archer testified that over the course of a decade, Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone in front of others roughly 20 times in order to sell the family “brand.” Some of those calls happened in front of clients or business partners and were characterized by Archer as brief and polite.

Joe and Hunter Biden spoke every day, Archer told investigators, and spoke even more frequently in the aftermath of Beau Biden’s death, as Hunter Biden’s struggles with alcohol addiction and drug abuse spiraled. Sometimes those calls interrupted business meetings, such as a dinner in China with Jonathan Li, the chief executive of an investment fund, where Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone. They exchanged “general niceties, and you know, conversation in general,” Archer added.

Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s attorney, said in a statement Thursday that Archer’s testimony disproved House Republicans’ claims. “Mr. Archer confirmed one more time that Hunter Biden did not involve his father in, nor did his father assist him in, his business,” Lowell said. “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.”

Archer testified that he was not aware of any $5 million payment made by the executive of Burisma Holdings, and that he disagreed with the conclusion of Republicans that Joe Biden was bribed by a Ukrainian executive. The Washington Post has previously reported that the FBI and the Justice Department under then-Attorney General William Barr reviewed allegations that Joe Biden had accepted a bribe and determined that there were no grounds for further investigative steps. Republicans have yet to unearth any evidence supporting the claim.

The White House has maintained that Archer’s testimony does not contradict President Biden’s repeated insistence that he has never discussed or spoken to Hunter Biden about his business dealings. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre recently told reporters that Biden was “never in business with his son.”

“House Republicans keep promising bombshell evidence to support their false, ridiculous attacks against the President, but time after time, they keep failing to produce any,” White House spokesperson Ian Sams said in a statement Thursday.

Calls to launch impeachment proceedings against Biden have escalated in recent weeks, as Trump’s legal troubles have grown. Last week, ahead of a third indictment that brought criminal charges against the former president alleging he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) floated the idea of opening an impeachment inquiry into Biden over unsubstantiated claims of financial misconduct. After Archer’s testimony Monday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) renewed calls to impeach Biden, asserting on Twitter that House Republicans have “a mountain of evidence” to support an inquiry.

Comer, who did not attend Archer’s closed-door testimony, punted the idea of an impeachment inquiry in a statement to The Post, saying it should be a conference-wide decision.

“But I know how I’d vote,” Comer added. “The House Committee on Oversight and Accountability will continue to follow the Bidens’ money trail and interview witnesses to determine whether foreign actors targeted the Bidens, President Biden is compromised and corrupt, and our national security is threatened.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post