The third criminal indictment of former President Trump dominated headlines last week, but among Republicans, there was a lot of talk about Devon Archer. Archer is a former business partner of Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son. Both Archer and Hunter Biden were on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.
Burisma is at the center of claims by Republicans that President Biden improperly used his influence during his time as vice president to help his son’s foreign business deals.
Archer gave hours of closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee last Monday, and on Thursday the transcript of his testimony was released.
Both political parties have said that Archer’s testimony vindicates their arguments. Republicans say it shows corruption by the Biden family, even if there is no proof of misconduct by Joe Biden himself. Democrats say it proves President Biden did nothing wrong.
Hunter Biden is seeking a plea deal with the government over tax evasion and gun charges.
Here’s what Archer had to say about Joe Biden, Burisma and Hunter Biden’s business deals.
Hunter Biden used his access to his dad to boost his business
At least 20 times during Biden’s vice presidency, Archer said, Hunter Biden called his father or received a call from him and then put him on speaker phone and asked him to say hello to business associates.
Asked whether Joe Biden seemed to know who he was speaking to most of the time, Archer said, “sometimes yes, sometimes no, but generally no.”
For example, in 2011, Hunter Biden and Archer were at dinner in Paris with executives from a French energy company whose business they were seeking. Joe Biden, then the vice president, called Hunter, who put his father on speakerphone and asked him to say hello to the executives.
Biden and Archer did not get the contract with the French company, Archer said. But Hunter Biden did make millions in business deals with other foreign companies, including Burisma and CEFC China Energy.
Archer repeatedly testified that he never saw or heard Joe Biden discuss any business deals on the phone when he called Hunter.
“You have to understand that there was no business conversation about a cap table or a fee or anything like that,” Archer told Congress. “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.”
Hunter was selling what Archer called an “illusion of access” to Joe Biden’s decision-making power.
“People send signals and those signals are basically used as currency. And that’s kind of how a lot of D.C. operators and foreign tycoons and businessmen work,” Archer said.
Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., who has been the most aggressive Democratic defender of Biden in Congress, asked Archer directly: “Are you aware of any wrongdoing by Vice President Biden?”
“No, I’m not aware of any,” Archer answered.
The Biden “brand” and Burisma
Archer also said multiple times that he never saw any evidence that Hunter Biden influenced his father’s decisions regarding U.S. foreign policy, or that Joe Biden did anything as vice president to benefit his son’s business deals.
But Archer did say that after Burisma added Hunter Biden to its board in 2014, that helped the company survive because it was associated with what Archer called “the Biden brand.”
“I think Burisma would have gone out of business if it didn’t have the brand attached to it,” Archer said. “People would be intimidated to mess with them.”
Archer also asserted that then-Vice President Joe Biden met a Burisma executive in 2015 at a dinner with Hunter Biden and others in Washington, D.C.
Biden and the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor
For years now, Republicans have said that when then-Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in 2015, that was meant to help Burisma and Hunter Biden.
All public evidence, however, has contradicted this claim. The U.S. government across all its foreign policy agencies, along with numerous foreign allies, wanted Shokin gone in exchange for aid from the International Monetary Fund.
And Shokin was pushed out not because he was a threat to Burisma, but because he was not investigating aggressively enough claims of embezzlement by Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky.
Archer’s congressional testimony mostly supported this claim. He claimed that he was told by others in Burisma’s D.C. office “that the firing of Shokin was bad for Burisma because he was under control.”
Archer explained that “under control” meant that Shokin was “going to maybe give a slap on the wrist” to Burisma for corruption charges, “as opposed to, you know, seize all [Zlochevsky’s] assets.”
Archer expressed some vague skepticism of this claim, but did not elaborate. And in fact, Goldman pressed Archer to acknowledge that a seizure of $23 million worth of Zlochevsky’s assets by the British government had to be reversed because Shokin had failed to cooperate with the British investigation.
Archer did tell right-wing polemicist and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson last week that Shokin was a “threat” to Burisma in the sense that “anyone … in government was always a threat and always trying to shake down these businesses.” Archer reiterated to Carlson that when Shokin was fired “we were told that that was bad and we don’t want a new prosecutor. … Shokin was taken care of.”
Archer also dismissed Republican claims that Joe Biden might have received a $5 million bribe from Zlochevsky, which Republicans based on an allegation from an anonymous informant to the FBI, documented on a form known as a FD-1023.
“If someone were to conclude from this that this is evidence, this Form 1023, is evidence that Joe Biden was bribed by Mykola Zlochevsky, would you disagree with that conclusion?” Archer was asked.
“Yeah, I would,” Archer said.