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What Devon Archer Told Congress
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What Devon Archer Told Congress

The House Oversight Committee releases the transcript of its closed-door session with Hunter Biden’s former business associate.

Hunter Biden with his father Joe Biden, April 12, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images/World Food Program USA)

Happy Friday! Public service announcement: All national parks are free to enter today in commemoration of the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. Go enjoy some nature!

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories 

  • Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday to four charges related to special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Trump was released pending a trial and the next hearing in the case is set for later this month.
  • The Justice Department unsealed a federal indictment on Thursday of two U.S. Navy servicemembers accused of taking bribes in exchange for passing sensitive national security information to China through contact with a Chinese spy. The two sailors, both of whom have been placed under arrest, were charged in separate cases. It is unclear whether they were in contact with the same Chinese intelligence officer. The sailors were stationed at two different naval bases in California. 
  • Mohamed Bazoum—the democratically elected president of Niger, imprisoned in his country since the military staged a coup there late last month—pleaded with world leaders to intervene and restore his rule in an op-ed for the Washington Post Thursday, predicting the West African nation will descend into a staging ground for terrorism. “In our hour of need, I call on the U.S. government and the entire international community to help us restore our constitutional order,” he wrote. “Fighting for our shared values, including democratic pluralism and respect for the rule of law, is the only way to make sustainable progress against poverty and terrorism.” The U.S. has not formally called the events in Niger a coup, since doing so would mean withdrawing security aid being used to fight terrorism, but Biden Thursday called for Bazoum’s release in a statement marking the 63rd anniversary of Niger’s independence.   
  • In a 2-1 decision on Thursday, a federal appeals court ruled the Biden administration’s asylum restrictions can remain in place as the legal battle over the policy works its way through the courts. Last week, a district judge in California set the policy’s end date for Monday, ruling that the administration’s policy preference in granting asylum claims for migrants who registered with the CBP One app and applied for asylum in any third country they traveled through to reach the U.S. violated congressional statutes. The appeals court promised an accelerated timeline to review the case. 
  • The Islamic State on Thursday named a new leader, Abu Hafs al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, replacing the former leader who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claims was killed in Syria by Turkish intelligence in April. ISIS had long denied its leader’s death, but finally conceded yesterday he had been killed in clashes with a rival al Qaeda-linked group—without specifying when.  
  • At least 14 people were injured Thursday near Seoul, South Korea, when an attacker rammed a car into pedestrians and then got out of the vehicle to stab several people. Police took the driver into custody, and the local police commissioner said the incident was being considered “in effect, an act of terrorism.”  
  • GOP Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina said on local North Carolina radio Thursday he will not seek reelection and will instead—as Dispatch Politics reported last week—run to be the state’s attorney general. Current North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein is not running for reelection, setting up a tough contest for the open position. Bishop will face former North Carolina legislator Tom Murray in a GOP primary for the statewide office.
  • The Department of Labor reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—increased by 6,000 week-over-week to a seasonally adjusted 227,000 claims last week, suggesting the labor market is reacting to the Federal Reserve’s rate-hike campaign.

The Biden Brand and the ‘Illusion of Access’ 

On Monday, a former business associate of Hunter Biden’s named Devon Archer sat down with a House Oversight Committee panel behind closed doors for nearly five hours to discuss Hunter’s business dealings and any connections to his father. Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman declared after the session  that Archer’s testimony “completely absolves Joe Biden of any involvement in Hunter Biden’s business world.” GOP Rep. James Comer claimed it made the Joe Biden “bribery scandal” even more credible. When the actual transcript of the interview was released yesterday, however, it quickly became clear that Archer’s testimony—under oath—was more nuanced than either side would’ve liked.

The broad contours of the Hunter Biden story are well-known. The president’s son is a longtime addict whose various failings—from the titillating photos of drug and sex exploits to serious financial misdeeds—have been the subject of controversy for years. He recently settled a child support paternity case with the mother of his 4-year old daughter after asking the judge to lower his monthly payment on claims of financial hardship, despite a high-flying lifestyle documented by the tabloids. Last Wednesday saw the collapse of a plea deal that had the younger Biden pleading guilty to tax misdemeanors and entering a pretrial diversion agreement to address a felony gun charge. Biden’s lawyers had sought to provide their client with immunity from prosecution for crimes beyond the tax and gun charges, with what appeared to be the agreement of the lawyers for the government, but that deal fell apart under scrutiny from the judge presiding in the case, raising questions about the bizarre handling of the case by the Department of Justice. And Hunter Biden’s long and ugly practice of trading aggressively on his family name in his business dealings is the subject of multiple investigations, with whistleblowers claiming that the president’s son is getting special treatment because of his father. The House Republicans leading those investigations are determined to answer the many questions about the Biden family finances with proof of corruption—or at least keep the stories alive while Joe Biden runs for reelection.  

As part of that effort, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee invited Archer to testify this week, hoping Hunter’s former business partner would provide more information on business connections to Joe Biden. The younger Biden originally met Archer through Chris Heinz, a Yale buddy and, yes, an heir to the condiment kingdom. Hunter and Archer founded an investment advisory firm together named Rosemont Seneca Partners—Heinz was also a partner in the firm, but he left after the pair’s dealings with Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, began. Archer helped set up the Burisma and Chinese business dealings that have been heavily scrutinized by Republican lawmakers for years. In a separate case, Archer was convicted of defrauding a Native American tribe of more than $60 million in bonds—he was sentenced to a year in prison and lost his appeal to the decision earlier this year. He also testified under an immunity order before the grand jury in the Justice Department investigation into Hunter.

You can see why Republican lawmakers would be eager to talk to him. On Monday, Archer fielded questions in a closed session with a panel of lawmakers—Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Andy Biggs, plus Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman—and staff from the House Oversight Committee. Yesterday, Committee Chair Comer released the transcript of the hearing and associated documents referenced during the conversation. The revelations from the testimony followed a now familiar pattern for the congressional investigations into Hunter: Testimony and records demonstrating sleazy and unethical looking business activity by the younger Biden—activity that the elder Biden has claimed either never took place or was totally above board—but no smoking gun directly implicating the then-vice president.

“We are aware that all sides are claiming victory following Mr. Archer’s voluntary interview today,” Matthew Schwartz, Archer’s lawyer, told ABC News. “But all Devon Archer did was exactly what we said he would: show up and answer the questions put to him honestly and completely.”

Much of Archer’s interview centered on Joe Biden’s contact with his son during business meetings. “You know, Hunter spoke to his dad every day, right,” Archer told the panel. “And so in certain circumstances, when you’re in—you know, if his dad calls him at dinner and he picks up the phone, then there’s a conversation.” Archer said that occasionally—approximately, 20 times over Archer’s 10-year work relationship with the younger Biden—Hunter would put his dad on speaker phone during business meetings.   

But, according to Archer, the elder Biden never discussed business. “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. “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.” 

And yet, Archer made clear that proximity to the vice president was part of Hunter’s business pitch. “At the end of the day, part of what was delivered is the brand,” he said. “I mean, it’s like anything, you know, if you’re Jamie Dimon’s son or any CEO. You know, I think that that’s what we’re talking about, is that there was brand being delivered along with other capabilities and reach.” The Republican counsel pressed Archer on whether he thought the Biden brand was the majority of the value Hunter provided to Burisma. “I wouldn’t speculate on percentages,” he said. “But I do think that that was an element of it.” 

Goldman and the Democratic staff pressed Archer on the lack of evidence implicating Joe Biden’s direct involvement. Archer agreed that Hunter’s presentation was “an illusion of access to his father” aside from the social niceties exchanged over the phone or at a few dinners. He affirmed that Hunter would take credit for actions his father took but in which Hunter had had no role. “It’s not that Hunter Biden was influencing U.S. policy,” a member of the panel proffered to Archer. “It’s that Hunter Biden was falsely giving the Burisma executives the impression that he had any influence over U.S. policy.” Archer affirmed the assessment: “I think that’s fair.”

For example, when Joe Biden visited Ukraine in 2014 as vice president, Hunter said in an email to Archer that the travel “should be characterized as part of our advice and thinking—but what he will say and do is out of our hands.” He also noted, “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,” he added. Archer told the panel, “It’s clear that he’s not bringing his dad, but he’s saying, you know, ‘I’m going to get credit for it.’”

Archer also said that Joe Biden attended some dinners with Hunter and his business associates but that the meetings were social. Summing up his perspective on the elder Biden’s involvement, he said: “There are touch points and contact points that I can’t deny that happened, but nothing of material was discussed.” 

Following the interview, House Republicans have argued that the tie between Hunter’s interests and his father’s actions were anything but an illusion, honing in on a December 2015 meeting in Dubai with Burisma’s board of directors—both Hunter and Archer served on the board. According to Archer, Burisma executives asked Hunter for help on government “pressure” they were receiving from Ukrainian prosecutor-general Viktor Shokin and the United Kingdom, which froze some of Burisma’s assets. Joe Biden would visit Ukraine later that month and call for Shokin to be fired, citing corruption allegations. “Five days after this meeting, December 9, 2015, Joe Biden goes to Ukraine and starts attacking this prosecutor,” Jordan said on Fox Business. “There was no illusion about Joe Biden, five days after this meeting in Dubai, then going to Ukraine and talking about the prosecutor’s office.” 

“The timing of that is pretty suspicious,” Jordan added. 

But this framing is misleading. Joe Biden’s trip to Ukraine was  planned weeks before the December meeting, and European Union and other U.S. officials had already been calling for Shokin’s ouster. Archer also suggested that the thinking internally at Burisma was that Shokin might have actually been helpful to the company—Goldman cited reports from State Department officials saying Shokin wasn’t pursuing corruption charges against Burisma’s owner Mykola Zlochevsky, “effectively sheilding” him from prosecution. (A former Shokin deputy has claimed the investigation, which Shokin inherited from his predecessor, was dormant.)

Republicans have also claimed that Hunter Biden violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)—a law requiring people lobbying on behalf of foreign governments to register and disclose their compensation and activities. “We know that Hunter Biden has violated that,” said Comer. He also implied that Archer’s testimony suggested Joe Biden violated FARA as well—neither Biden has been charged with such a violation, but the prospect did come up at Hunter’s court hearing last week when his lawyers disagreed with prosecutors over whether the plea deal would protect him from a future FARA charge. 

While Republicans remain focused on stretching the evidence to support thus far unproven claims that Joe Biden profited off his son’s business, and Democrats continue to dodge questions about the president’s past statements by dunking on Republicans’ exaggerated claims, it’s worth noting Joe Biden hasn’t acknowledged that some of his past statements have been contradicted by newer revelations. As we wrote in May, Biden’s declaration at the October 2020 presidential debate that “nothing was unethical” about Hunter’s business dealings and that he never received money from China continues to age like spoiled milk. 

Worth Your Time 

  • What if Trumpism was inevitable not because of the behavior of his supporters, but because of the behavior of his detractors? “I ask you to try on a vantage point in which we anti-Trumpers are not the eternal good guys,” David Brooks writes for the New York Times, including himself in his critique. “In fact, we’re the bad guys. We built an entire social order that sorts and excludes people on the basis of the quality that we possess most: academic achievement. It’s easy to understand why people in less-educated classes would conclude that they are under economic, political, cultural and moral assault—and why they’ve rallied around Trump as their best warrior against the educated class. He understood that it’s not the entrepreneurs who seem most threatening to workers; it’s the professional class. Trump understood that there was great demand for a leader who would stick his thumb in our eyes on a daily basis and reject the whole epistemic regime that we rode in on. If distrustful populism is your basic worldview, the Trump indictments seem like just another skirmish in the class war between the professionals and the workers, another assault by a bunch of coastal lawyers who want to take down the man who most aggressively stands up to them.”
  • America’s aging infrastructure isn’t just roads and bridges. Dams across the country are getting older and at risk of failing, often without an obvious way to pay for their repair. “On a sunny May morning four years ago, J Harmon was rousted out of bed by an emergency call: A 90-year-old dam near his home had failed, sending a torrent of water downstream and emptying the lake where he lived,” Joe Barrett reports for the Wall Street Journal. “That afternoon, he got a second shock when he learned there was no money to fix it. The state entity that oversaw six aging dams on the Guadalupe River couldn’t afford to rebuild them.” So, the lake’s homeowners cooked up a scheme to do it themselves, something more lake-side residents may be facing soon. “‘It’s not just a bunch of hillbilly bumpkins’ that made this happen, Harmon, a retired 66-year-old home builder, said on a recent day as he stood below the newly rebuilt dam, which is expected to begin refilling Lake Dunlap later this month. ‘Although when we first started, we did not know what we were doing—I’ll be the first to admit that.’”

Presented Without Comment

New York Post: Dianne Feinstein, 90, Cedes Power of Attorney to Daughter—But Still Serves in Congress

Also Presented Without Comment

Government Executive: DeSantis Vows to ‘Start Slitting Throats’ of Federal Workers on Day One of Presidency

Also Also Presented Without Comment

CBS Sports: Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo on [Injured List] With ‘Likely’ Concussion, Injury Traced to Collision Two Months Earlier

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the newsletters: Nick welcomes (🔒) the prospect of a DeSantis vs. Newsom debate, arguing it will be a boon for DeSantis’ flagging campaign. 
  • On the podcasts: On the Dispatch Podcast, Sarah, Steve, and Jonah discuss the latest Trump indictment and the U.S. credit downgrade, plus an extended edition of (Not?) Worth Your Time. 
  • On the site: Charlotte explains that the suicide bombing that killed 60 people Pakistan was part of an ongoing conflict between ISIS-K and the Taliban’s Pakistani offshoot.

Let Us Know

In honor of the free admission to national parks today, what is your favorite national park? Do you have a bucket list of parks you’d like to see?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.

Jacob Wendler is an intern for The Dispatch.