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5 takeaways from Devon Archer’s interview with House Oversight

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The House Oversight Committee on Thursday released the transcript of Devon Archer’s closed-door testimony, offering insight into the business dealings of his former business associate, Hunter Biden, and an eye into the GOP investigation of the Biden family.

Archer sat for a transcribed interview before the Oversight panel Monday, after which lawmakers on each side of the aisle offered conflicting interpretations of his testimony as observers awaited the release of the transcript.

The clashing narratives continued on Thursday, with the Republicans on the committee saying the testimony from Archer — who they view as a key witness in their probe — “confirmed several critical pieces of information in our investigation of the Bidens’ influence peddling schemes,” while the top Democrat on the panel said the interview “failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden.”

According to the transcript, Archer testified that Hunter Biden put his father, then the vice president, on speakerphone during some meetings with associates, and the interview covered the Biden “brand” at length, but Archer said he was not aware of President Biden committing any wrongdoing.

Abbe Lowell, counsel for Hunter Biden, in a statement this week said House Republicans “keep swinging and keep striking out” on their pursuit of President Biden through his son.

The release of the testimony was, nonetheless, a notable development in the House GOP’s probe, which for months has sought to connect President Biden to his son’s business dealings — especially as Republicans eye an impeachment inquiry targeting the White House.

Here are five key takeaways from Archer’s interview.

Archer says he’s not aware of wrongdoing by President Biden

Archer said he had “no knowledge” of whether Biden altered any U.S. foreign policy while he was vice president to benefit his son.

When flat-out asked if he is aware of any wrongdoing by the then-vice president, Archer said, “No, I’m not aware of any.” 

He also said he had no direct knowledge of the older Biden having any involvement with Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company Archer and Hunter Biden sat on the board of.

Archer said it’s “fair” to say that Hunter Biden was falsely giving the Burisma executives the impression that he had influence over U.S. policy — not that he was actually influencing any policy. He added that Hunter Biden never told him he could get his father to change policy and that he was not aware of him ever asking his father to do so.

Archer says he is not aware of bribes to Bidens

Archer couldn’t corroborate allegations that Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky made two $5 million payments to Hunter Biden and his father.

Republicans last month released an FBI form that contains an unverified tip that Biden, as vice president, was involved in a bribery scheme to benefit Burisma. The White House has denied any wrongdoing.

Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) on Monday pressed Archer about a statement attributed to Zlochevsky, in which he allegedly said, “It costs five to pay one Biden and five to another.”

“Were you ever made aware of Mr. Zlochevsky paying $5 million to two different Bidens?” Goldman asked.

“No, I’m not. I would assume he’s probably talking about me and Hunter, but I don’t know. But I don’t know anything about those five,” Archer replied.

Archer also said he would disagree with the conclusion that then-Vice President Biden was bribed by Zlochevsky.

The tip in the FBI form rests on a years-long allegation that Biden, as vice president, threatened to withhold $1 billion in funding to Ukraine unless then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin was ousted. Burisma had been the subject of a probe by the prosecutor’s office.

But President Biden wasn’t alone — numerous U.S. and international officials called for Shokin’s removal over his failure to prosecute corruption.  

Evidence has never been raised showing that Biden called for Shokin’s ouster to help his son, and Archer said he had no basis to believe that the then-vice president’s call for him to be removed was connected to Hunter Biden.

“I have no — I have no other — I have no proof or thought that that — that he fired him for that reason,” Archer testified.

Archer described frequent calls between the Bidens

Archer recalled that Hunter would sometimes put his father, then-Vice President Biden, on speakerphone during meetings. 

Archer recalled “maybe 20 times” that Hunter Biden made it apparent to investors or other business contacts that he spoke to his dad and said he had occasionally placed his father on speakerphone.

Archer described the conversations he heard as “generally about the weather and, you know, what it’s like in Norway or Paris or wherever he may be.” He recalled one phone conversation Hunter Biden put his father on the phone for, with Chinese businessman Jonathan Li.

“Beijing, how great Beijing is — or Chengdu, whichever city we were in. But, you know, same answers — nonspecifics relative to business and just, you know, an expression of hellos, I guess,” he testified.

Archer described numerous periods of time during which Biden and Hunter Biden would speak every day, which is in line with the close family dynamic the Bidens have, and said the frequency of interactions between them increased when Hunter Biden’s brother, Beau Biden, died in 2015.

But, Archer said he never witnessed them discussing the substance of Hunter Biden’s business during those calls. Rather, he said, they spoke about Beau’s illness and coping.

When he would overhear the vice president and Hunter Biden talking on the phone, the conversations were “not related to commercial business, politics, that kind,” Archer said.

Archer describes the Biden “brand”

Archer said the Biden family’s “brand” provided value to Burisma.

At one point in his testimony, he said he did not consider the “brand” to be “Joe directly,” but noted that the then-vice president “brought the most value to the brand.”

Archer later said he thought “Burisma would have gone out of business if it didn’t have the brand attached to it.”

“But that’s different than Joe Biden’s action,” Goldman pressed him.

“Right,” Archer responded.

He said that he thinks having Hunter Biden on the board is why Burisma “was able to survive for as long as it did … just because of the brand.”

Asked by Goldman how that had an impact, Archer responded, “The capabilities to navigate D.C. that they were able to, you know, basically be in the news cycle.”

“And I think that preserved them from a, you know, from a longevity standpoint. That’s like my honest — that’s like really what I — that’s like how I think holistically,” he added.

Archer talks about two Cafe Milano dinners

Archer spoke to the committee about two dinners that then-vice president Joe Biden attended at Cafe Milano in Washington: one in 2014 and one in 2015 — both during the Obama administration. 

After the 2014 dinner, he recalled a wire transfer of $142,300 from Kenes Rakishev, a Kazakh businessman, to the Rosemont Seneca Bohai account for “an expensive car” for Hunter Biden. Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC was the private equity firm controlled by Archer at the time.

The 2015 dinner centered on the World Food Program, and then-vice president Biden made an appearance at it. Archer described it as “just a regular dinner where there was a table of conversation,” and he denied that Hunter Biden or business associates talked about business at the dinner.

Source: The Hill

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