A U.S. vice president, a Russian oligarch’s widow, and a Greek Orthodox priest walk into a cafe.
That’s not the opening line of a joke; it’s part of the story told from the transcript of Hunter Biden’s former business partner, Devon Archer, in a closed-door interview with members and counsel of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.
Here are some key takeaways from the transcript.
1. ‘Signals are Basically Used as Currency’
Archer said at several points in the testimony that the Biden “brand” was sending “signals” to business partners.
“There are particular, you know, objectives that Burisma was trying to accomplish,” Archer said. “And a lot of it’s about opening doors, you know, globally in D.C. And I think that, you know, that was the, you know—and then obviously having those doors opened, you know, sent the right signals, you know, for Burisma to, you know, carry on its business and be successful.”
At one point, Biden defender, Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., asked Archer: “The scope of what he [Hunter Biden] can and cannot do and that he cannot intervene directly with domestic policymakers and needs to abide by FARA [the Foreign Agents Registration Act] and any other U.S. laws in the strictest sense across the board. Was that your understanding of both his approach and Burisma’s understanding, as well?”
Archer replied: “The first part of the statement, yes, I think Burisma was constantly looking for more, and it kind of speaks a little bit to that other email that we used as an exhibit earlier where it’s, like, we’re going to use my dad’s thing and take credit for it. There was an element that he was always trying to avoid that but at the same time trying to prove value. So, it was this element of, like, signals.”
At another point in the interview, the committee’s counsel pressed him on how much influence Hunter Biden had on federal policy.
“I have no basis to understand what his father and his conversations were about policy in Ukraine,” Archer said. “But, as you can see, that seems pretty familiar, that, you know, he can’t influence it but take credit for it. I mean, that was—it’s literally the back and forth between the last exhibit and this exhibit. That’s what goes on. People send signals, and those signals are basically used as currency.”
2. ‘The Brand’
Archer routinely said that Joe Biden was “the brand” that allowed Hunter Biden to haul in investors.
Jacob Greenberg, the oversight committee’s majority counsel, asked, “You keep saying ‘the brand,’ but by ‘brand,’ you mean the Biden family, correct?”
“Correct,” Archer said.
Later, Rep. Andy Biggs. R-Ariz., interjected, “When you say ‘Biden family’—sorry to cut in here—I just want to get a clarification. You aren’t talking about Dr. Jill [Biden] or anybody else? You’re talking about Joe Biden. Is that fair to say?”
Archer replied, “Yeah, that’s fair to say.”
He followed with, “Listen, I think it’s—I don’t think about it as, you know, Joe directly, but it’s fair. That’s fair to say. Obviously, that brought the most value to the brand.”
3. Burisma Survival and ‘Intimidation’
Archer told the committee that Burisma likely wouldn’t survive without the Biden brand.
“My only thought is that I think Burisma would have gone out of business if it didn’t have the brand attached to it,” Archer said. “That’s my, like, only honest opinion. But I have no basis for any—never heard any conversations.”
Goldman, the New York congressman and staunch Biden ally, followed with: “But that’s different than Joe Biden’s action.”
Archer said, “Right.”
Goldman said, “You’re just talking about that Hunter was on the board.”
Archer replied, “Right. And I think that’s why it [Burisma] was able to survive for as long as it did.”
Goldman asked, “Because of additional capital or—”
Archer corrected him, “Just because of the brand.”
Goldman seemed to become snippy, replying, “Well, I don’t understand. How does that have an impact?”
Archer told the New York Democrat, “Well, 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.”
Goldman asked, “But how would that work?”
Archer answered, “Because people would be intimidated to mess with them.”
Goldman asked, “In what way?”
Archer answered, “Legally.”
As far as a legal matter, in 2018, Biden boasted during a speech that he threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine unless the government fired Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who was investigating Burisma at the time. Biden has argued that Shokin was a corrupt prosecutor.
4. Burisma and ‘Help From D.C.’
The counsel asked about a dinner at the Four Seasons with Burisma CEO Mykola Zlochevsky and Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Burisma.
During this meeting, at a time when the company was under investigation by Shokin, they asked Hunter Biden to make phone calls.
“The request was I think they were getting pressure and they requested Hunter, you know, help them with some of that pressure,” Archer said.
“What pressure?” the majority counsel asked.
“Government pressure on their—you know, government pressure from Ukrainian government investigations into Mykola, et cetera,” Archer said. “But it was not—it wasn’t like a specific—not a specific request. It was just we were sitting there at the Four Seasons having, you know, coffee and there was—there was Mykola, there was one of the managers for the Four Seasons who managed that property, Vadym.”
Archer said that Shokin wasn’t the only concern, as the company was facing problems with Britain, the United States, and Mexico.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked, “The request from Mr. Mykola Zlochevsky and Vadym to Mr. Biden and/or if you said it was to you, the request for help from whom to deal with what pressure?”
Archer answered there wasn’t a specific “the big guy can help” reference.
Joe Biden has become known as “the big guy” in several Hunter Biden communications.
“The request—you know, basically the request is like, can D.C. help? But there were not—you know, I’m not going to—there were not—it wasn’t like—there weren’t specific, you know, can the big guy help? It was—it’s always this amorphous, can we get help in D.C.?”
Biggs later asked, “Why do you think they were asking Hunter Biden for D.C. help?”
Archer answered, “Well, I mean, he was a lobbyist and an expert and obviously he carried, you know, a very powerful name. So, I think it was—that’s what they were asking for.”
5. Dinner Guest Joe Biden and Money Wires
Then-Vice President Biden attended dinners with Hunter Biden’s foreign business partners who wired money to various Biden family-associated companies, according to Archer.
The committee’s majority counsel asked about a spring 2014 dinner at Cafe Milano in Washington.
Archer named individuals present, which included Yelena Baturina, a billionaire and the widow of former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.
“And so, this dinner takes place in spring of 2014, approximately. But then do you recall getting a wire on February 14th of 2014 from Yelena Baturina for $3.5 million to Rosemont Seneca Thornton?” the majority counsel asked.
Archer clarified that it was to Rosemont Seneca Thornton, one of his business operations with Hunter Biden.
“Yes. And why I remember that is from the—from other testimony. Yes.”
The majority counsel also noted a wire transfer with Rosemont Seneca and Kenes Rakishev, a businessman associated with the Malta company Novitas Holdings, PTE Ltd.
“Why did Rosemont Seneca Bohai receive this $142,000 payment from Rakishev?” the counsel asked.
Archer replied, “It was for a car.”
The counsel followed, “For whose car?”
Archer said, “For Hunter’s car.”
The counsel asked, “Was this a Porsche?”
Archer wasn’t sure.
“It gets a little foggy here. I believe it was a Fisker first and then a Porsche. But it was—yes, it … for an expensive car, yes.”
He was also asked about another dinner at Cafe Milano the following year in spring 2015 that Joe Biden attended with Hunter Biden business associates, as well as with a Greek Orthodox priest.
“What did Joe do at that dinner? Did he have dinner? How long was he there?” the counsel asked.
Archer answered, “He had dinner. And there was—on that one, I believe the first one was, like, a birthday dinner, and then the second was—I think we were supposed to talk about the World Food Programme. So there was some talk about that.”
6. Speakerphone Meetings
Archer said that Hunter Biden “would sometimes make it apparent that he spoke to his dad, and sometimes he put him on speaker.”
“If I were to just call my dad right now and put him on speakerphone and we’re in a professional business meeting here, would that be odd to you?” the majority counsel asked.
“That would be odd, if you called your dad right now,” Archer said.
After additional questions, Archer explained about the calls, “That is a little odd. I mean, it’s not odd—I mean, it’s quite obvious what we’re talking around.”
The counsel asked, “You are talking around it, and so I’d like to get out, what are we talking about here?”
“At the end of the day, part of what was delivered is the brand. I mean, it’s like anything, you know, if you’re Jamie Dimon’s son or any CEO,” Archer said. “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 … I think ‘brand’ is the best way to describe it.”
Archer went on to note that business associates in the meeting were impressed that the then-vice president joined by speaker phone.
“I think everybody remains, you know, cool and calm like it was, you know—and then probably called their friends and family and said that they spoke to him,” Archer said. “But, you know, the reaction—I don’t have any specifics of, like, people jumping up and giving high-fives, but I think it was, you know, a signal that, you know, they respected and thought it was of value.”
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