‘There was no business conversation’

WASHINGTON – Testimony from Hunter Biden’s business associate, Devon Archer, before the House Oversight Committee this week undercut claims by Republican lawmakers that his appearance would implicate President Joe Biden in Hunter’s business dealings.

The Republican-led House Oversight Committee recently released the transcript of testimony Archer gave Monday during a 5-hour closed-door meeting as Republicans push a wide-ranging investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings.

For months, Republicans have alleged that President Joe Biden engaged in his son Huner’s business dealings while he served as vice president and was part of a bribery scheme with executives from Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm in which Hunter Biden served as a board member. The White House has dismissed the allegations against him.

Here are five takeaways from Archer’s testimony to lawmakers.

Joe Biden did not talk business on calls, Archer claims

President Joe Biden, then the vice president, was put on speakerphone frequently by his son, Hunter Biden, and his Burisma business associates, but Archer told the Oversight Committee that business dealings were never discussed.

“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.”

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.

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.”

“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?”

Devon Archer, Hunter Biden's former business partner, passes through the security checkpoint as he arrives on Capitol Hill to give closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee in the Republican-led investigations into President Biden's son, in Washington, Monday, July 31, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) ORG XMIT: DCSA101

Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business partner, passes through the security checkpoint as he arrives on Capitol Hill to give closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee in the Republican-led investigations into President Biden’s son, in Washington, Monday, July 31, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) ORG XMIT: DCSA101

Archer says he saw no evidence Joe Biden steered policy to help Hunter and Burisma

Archer testified having no knowledge of wrongdoing by Joe Biden to alter U.S. policy to benefit Hunter Biden’s business endeavors.

“I have no basis to know if he altered policy to benefit his son,” Archer said. “I have no knowledge.”

Archer said that includes having no reason to believe that then-Vice President Biden called for the termination of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin for any reason other than his stated purpose of pursing the U.S.’s anti-corruption policy in Ukraine. Republicans have accused Joe Biden of calling for Shokin’s removal in exchange for payments to protect Burisma, which was under investigation.

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

Hunter Biden delivered the Biden ‘brand’

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.”

For instance, the House Committee referred to a 2014 email that Hunter Biden wrote to Archer where he said “My guy’s upcoming travel should be characterized as part of our advice and thinking,” referring to then Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Ukraine.

Addressing the email, Archer said he believes “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 later added that later added that Hunter Biden tried to give the “illusion of access to his father.”

Archer also said that part of the reason Hunter would put his father on speakerphone in professional settings is to deliver the Biden family brand. During a later exchange, Archer said, “D.C. was the brand.”

Joe Biden attended two Washington dinners with Hunter Biden and associates

Archer, Hunter Biden, Bursima associates and overseas oligarchs also met in person with Joe Biden for dinner at the upscale Washington restaurant Café Milano twice, according to Archer, once in 2014 and another time in 2015.

The first dinner was a birthday dinner. Archer said that he doesn’t remember the conversation that took place.

“He came to dinner, and we ate and kind of talked about the world, I guess, and the weather, and then everybody − everybody left,” Archer said.

The other dinner involved the World Food Program USA, in which Hunter served as board chairman.

“Like I’ve said across the board, there was no business-deals specifics discussed ever at any of these things, but it was a nice, you know, conversation,” Archer said to the committee. “It was dinner conversation.”

Republican claims of ‘bribery’ not corroborated by testimony

Republicans have pointed to an allegation received by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2020 that Joe Biden each received a $5 million bribery payment from Burisma to help facilitate the gas company’s desire to expand to the U.S. while it battled corruption allegations in Ukraine.

The alleged scheme is outlined in an FBI FD-1023 form that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, publicized on July 20.

“It cost $5 (million) to pay one Biden, and 5 (million) to another Biden,” Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma Holdings, allegedly told the confidential informant, according to the FBI notes.

But Archer said he is not aware of any $5 million payments ever made to either Biden and disagrees that the FBI form is a sign that Zlochevsky bribed Joe Biden. Archer said Ukrainian businessmen like to brag.

“Very similar to D.C. operators,” Archer said. “In Ukraine, in Russia they brag about how much − they brag about bigger bribes than they actually give.”

Archer said he also has no knowledge to support another claim from Republicans that Hunter Biden played a role in Joe Biden taking an official vice presidential trip to Ukraine in 2014.

“I have no idea. I have no knowledge,” Archer said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 5 takeaways from the transcript of Devon Archer’s House testimony

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