WASHINGTON − A former business partner of Hunter Biden told the House Oversight Committee this week that Joe Biden never talked business when his son put the then-vice president on the phone with Hunter and other associates, according to a transcript of the testimony released Thursday.
The testimony of Devon Archer, who worked with Hunter Biden at the Ukrainian energy firm Bursima, undercut the build-up from the committee’s chairman, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., who said this week Archer’s testimony made Republicans’ bribery allegations against Joe Biden “more credible.”
“I think you have to understand that there was no business conversation about a cap table or a fee or anything like that,” Archer said to the committee. “It was, you know, just general niceties and, you know, conversation in general about the geography, about the weather, whatever it may be.”
The Republican-led House Oversight Committee released the full transcript of Archer’s five-hour, closed-door testimony that took place Monday as it pursues a wide-ranging investigation into the business dealings of Hunter Biden with still-unsupported claims that Joe Biden was part of a larger bribery conspiracy.
Archer testified Monday that Hunter Biden put his father, Joe Biden, on the speaker phone about 20 times to speak with Burisma executives over Archer’s 10-year business partnership with Hunter. This includes times when Archer, Hunter Biden and other business associates were gathered at dinners in Paris and Beijing.
“There are touch points and contact points that I can’t deny happened,” Archer said, referring to contacts with Biden while he was vice president. “But nothing of material was discussed.” He said some of the things Hunter and Joe Biden discussed on speakerphone were, “Where are you, how’s the weather, how’s the fishing?”
Leveraging the Biden ‘brand’
Archer said Hunter Biden spoke to his father every day “and would sometimes make it apparent that he spoke to his dad, and sometimes he put him on speaker.”
Archer, Hunter Biden and other associates also met in person with Joe Biden for dinner at the Washington restaurant Cafe Milano twice, according to Archer, once in 2014 and another time in 2015. One dinner was a birthday party and the other was a birthday dinner and another involved the World Food Program USA, in which Hunter served as board chairman.
“It was dinner conversation,” Archer said, telling the committee that no business was discussed at the dinners.
Archer told the committee that Hunter Biden never “overtly” told business associates he wanted to use his father for a specific purpose. But he said Hunter sought to prove his worth to Burisma by delivering the Biden family “brand.”
“Given the brand, I think he would look to, you know, to get the leverage from it,” Archer said, later adding that Hunter Biden tried to give the “illusion of access to his father.”
Republicans seized on Archer’s description of the Biden “brand.”
Comer, in a statement, said, “Joe Biden was ‘the brand’ that his son sold around the world to enrich the Biden family,” arguing the 20 calls with Hunter Biden and business associates prove Biden lied when he claimed no knowledge of his son’s business dealings.
But Archer testified having no knowledge of wrongdoing by Joe Biden to alter U.S. policy to benefit the business of Hunter Biden. “I have no basis to know if he altered policy to benefit his son,” Archer said. “I have no knowledge.”
Archer said that includes no reason to believe that then-Vice President Biden called for the termination of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin for any reason other than to pursue Biden’s anti-corruption policy in Ukraine. Republicans accuse Joe Biden of calling for Shokin’s removal in exchange for payments to protect Burisma.
“I have no proof or thought that he fired him for that reason,” Archer said.
Democrats characterized the Archer testimony as a major flop for Republicans’ investigations.
“For days, Republicans have mocked the notion that the testimony was that the President’s calls with his son were innocuous, including about the weather,”said Ian Sams, spokesman for the White House Special Counsel’s office. “Yet repeatedly, that’s precisely what was testified.”
Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., the only Democrat on hand for the Oversight Committee’s interview of Archer, said, “What is very clear is that the Republicans have established no proof, no evidence of any connection or any involvement by Joe Biden in any of Hunter Biden’s business dealings.”
A plea deal in Hunter Biden’s criminal case unraveled in Delaware federal court last week after a judge raised concerns about the terms of the agreement including assurance Hunter Biden’s legal team sought for immunity from any other criminal charges.
The hearing ended with Hunter Biden pleading not guilty to two misdemeanor charges for failing to pay his taxes in 2017 and 2018, when he received more than $1.5 million each year. Hunter Biden is expected to reverse his plea if his lawyers reach an agreement with prosecutors that meets the judge’s satisfaction.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Devon Archer says Joe Biden never talked business on calls: transcript