Devon Archer, who sat alongside Hunter Biden on the board of the Ukrainian oil conglomerate Burisma between 2014 and 2016, testified on Monday before the House Oversight Committee. Both Republicans and Democrats have asserted that this testimony supports what they already believed.
Archer’s connection to Hunter Biden, who himself is facing his own federal tax charges, is not his only problem, as he is currently also facing legal issues stemming from a 2018 felony conviction in which he was involved in a conspiracy to defraud a Native American tribe. While that year the conviction was overturned, a New York court of appeals reinstated it in 2020; since then, he has delayed the case with appeals.
Republicans say it shows the Biden family was involved in a corrupt scheme to allow Burisma to go unscathed and that Joe Biden was directly involved with the business dealings with the Ukrainian gas company. Democrats say it shows Joe Biden and the rest of the Biden family were unconnected to the business dealings of Hunter Biden during that time period and that Hunter used his own personal political connections in D.C., not his family. The Democrats have also claimed recently, following the testimony, that Republicans are withholding contradictory evidence from the probe.
Republicans allege that Biden, as VP, threatened to withhold $1 billion in funding to Ukraine unless then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin was removed from his position because of the corruption case against Burisma. Democrats respond by pointing to Biden and other officials from the U.S. and Europe saying in the past that Shokin was already going to be removed, unrelated to the gas company case, since he wouldn’t pursue corruption among politicians in Ukraine. That pressure to remove Shokin came from both internally from civil organizations in Ukraine and externally, and ultimately resulted in the Ukrainian parliament removing him.
Shokin had only been appointed in 2015 and was a controversial pick by the Poroshenko government as he was perceived by some citizens to have played a role in blocking prosecution of those responsible for shooting demonstrators, particularly with snipers, during the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution. He was also accused during his tenure of protecting elites and hindering work against corruption in Ukraine. The Burisma case had begun in 2012 over allegations of money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption between 2010 and 2012, before Hunter joined the board. However when Shokin took over as Prosecutor General, the Obama administration and other EU governments, as well as NGOs, began to pressure Ukraine for his removal, with even Poroshenko complaining of his inaction. He was reportedly targeted to be pushed out for his lack of prosecution against political and influential figures, but also specifically because he was allegedly intentionally slowing down the Burisma investigation and even threatening Zlochevsky with prosecution in an attempt to solicit a bribe from him.
Here are some key takeaways, according to Representatives from both sides:
- Hunter Biden was “selling the illusion of access to his father”, Hunter possessed political experience as well as a sphere of influence in D.C., especially in the lobbying sphere, and that’s what he brought to the table at Burisma, or at least was also selling to the Burisma board. However, that illusion lacked depth, and Democrats said Archer reportedly testified that Hunter would claim credit for things he had no sway over, such as when Joe Biden visited Ukraine during his Vice Presidency. Archer also said it was “fair” to say Hunter was falsely giving Burisma executives the impression he had influence over U.S. policy.
- Hunter at least 20 times had his father, then VP Joe Biden, on speaker in front of Archer, and while Democrats argue that Archer testified that the conversations remained “casual” about conversation and business topics and proved no involvement, Republicans instead say it shows proof Joe Biden was involved in Hunter’s Burisma business dealings. Archer also said he had no direct knowledge of Biden having any involvement with Burisma.
- Archer said he had no knowledge of whether Biden altered any U.S. foreign policy when VP to benefit his son. He also said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by Biden. He also said he couldn’t corroborate any of the allegations made through an unverified tip the FBI received from a confidential source that Republicans released last month, including allegations that Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky made two payments of $5 million to Hunter and Joe Biden, allegedly saying, “It costs five to pay one Biden and five to another.” Archer said he assumed the other Biden referred to himself, but that he also didn’t know anything about the payments. Archer also disagreed with the conclusion that Biden, when VP, was bribed by Zlochevsky. Democrats highlighted that Zlochevsky gave an interview in 2019, denying any contact with Joe Biden, saying all his dealings had been with Hunter and Archer in purely a business role to promote the image of Burisma.
- Archer said Zlochevsky and other top executives, including Vadym Pozharski, “placed constant pressure on Hunter Biden to get help from D.C.” in getting Shokin ousted. Archer testified that in December 2015, Hunter Biden, Zlochevsky, and Pozharski “called D.C.” to discuss the matter. Archer recounted how Hunter, Zlochevsky, and Pozharski stepped away to make the call.
Republicans and Democrats, as stated before, have both claimed this testimony confirmed their narratives. Republicans will likely use this testimony to pursue further investigation into the Biden family and their business dealings, while Democrats will likely continue to focus on publicly differentiating between Hunter Biden and his deals in Ukraine and then VP Joe Biden and his political sway.