Where There's Smoke, There's Fire... But Is Devon Archer All Smoke?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Earlier today, we saw the release of the transcript of Devon Archer’s deposition before a House committee. Before reading those transcripts, two things were abundantly clear:

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  1. Hunter Biden traded in on his dad’s name, access, and power to get favorable business deals.
  2. Devon Archer is a convenient witness, but may not be the most reliable one.

My hesitation with Archer is he is a convicted criminal, and is set to report to prison for his crimes – crimes, I might add that had nothing to do with Hunter Biden. He is being made a Hero of the Right in some circles because those circles believe he is definitely going to bring Joe Biden and the Biden Crime Family down once and for all.

After reading the 141-page transcript of the testimony, I am now assured of two things.

  1. Hunter Biden traded in on his dad’s name, access, and power to get favorable business deals.
  2. Devon Archer is a convenient witness, but may not be the most reliable one.

That is probably not the answer a lot of people hope for, but it is the truth. I know he is not a convenient witness for the Democrats, because Rep. Dan Goldman made a fool of himself in this transcript and in his immediate rush to the media to spin things the way he did. It’s also worth noting that Matthew Schwartz, Archer’s lawyer, at times acted suspiciously like a lawyer for the Bidens rather than Archer himself. His interjections are interesting, to say the least.

But Archer’s testimony itself is not as illuminating as perhaps we would like. It does offer interesting tidbits that can lead you to certain assumptions about Hunter Biden and his dad’s influence over his business dealings.

Here are some of the things that Archer offered early in the testimony.

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“What I think, you know, it — my speculation would be that he was — he’s saying that, you know, we can’t — I can’t guide my guy, you know, I can’t guide my father in what he’s going to do on this trip, but let’s get credit for it. I think that’s what it’s saying here.”

“Yeah. Specific conversations, no. He would — we would not talk specifically about — you know, he would not be so overt. And I think that’s, you know, I think that’s another obvious point, that he would not say, okay, we’re going to — we’re — you know, I’m overtly — we’re going to use my dad for this. But I think he would — you know, given the brand, I think he would look to, you know, to get the leverage from it.”

There’s also this exchange between former prosecutor James Mandolfo, who was hired by the Oversight Committee, as part of the Biden investigation. In it, he clarifies what he means when he refers to Hunter Biden’s “brand” and its value.

Mr. Archer: The value was — the value that Hunter Biden brought to it was having — you know, there was — the theoretical was corporate governance, but obviously, given the brand, that was a large part of the value. I don’t think it was the sole value, but I do think that was a key component of the value.

Mr. Mandolfo: You keep saying “the brand,” but by “brand” you mean the Biden family, correct?

Mr. Archer: Correct.

Mr. Mandolfo: And that brand is what, in your opinion, was the majority of what the value that was delivered from Hunter Biden to Burisma?

Mr. Archer: I didn’t say majority, but I wouldn’t speculate on percentages. But I do think that that was an element of it.

Mr. Biggs: When you say “Biden family” — sorry to cut in here. I just want to get a clarification. You aren’t talking about Dr. Jill or anybody else. You’re talking about Joe Biden. Is that fair to say?

Mr. Archer: Yeah, that’s fair to say. 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.

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Throughout the exchange, we saw the full exchange between Archer and the committee on the things we’d heard tidbits about earlier this week, and my colleague Nick Arama covered earlier today. There is more information on the phone calls Hunter where put his father on speakerphone in front of important guests. But, Archer could not confirm that any business was discussed directly during these calls or during the dinners that Joe Biden attended.

The most damning part of the transcript is the section on Ukraine, Burisma, and Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. According to this part of the transcript, Archer confirmed that business partners wanted Shokin handled and assistance from D.C. Archer also said that the “narrative” he was told is that Shokin being fired was actually bad because he was being controlled by the board’s allies.

So — yes. I was — the narrative that was spun to me, quite frankly, just to be — and I remember this because, obviously, it’s — the narrative that was spun to me was that Shokin was under control and that whoever the next person that was brought in was — you know, the fact that he was — this is the total, this is the narrative spun to me, that Shokin being fired was a — was not good, because he was like under control as relates to Mykola. I have no way to verify that. And that was spun to me from various folks in D.C., not Hunter specifically, but that was what I was led to believe. Whether it’s true or not, I cannot speculate.

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Archer is careful to note that this was the “narrative,” just as he was careful to note Hunter’s “brand.” It’s a mix of what we suspect and what the GOP wants to hear. But while there are plenty of people out there who see Archer’s revelations as certain proof of corruption, the reality is that we still don’t know enough to definitively prove it.

Much like Jack Smith’s case against Trump in the January 6 investigation seems built more like an impeachment proceeding than a slam-dunk legal case, the GOP’s case against Biden is definitely lacking any sort of clear-cut evidence that definitively proves Joe Biden’s guilt in all this. While the best-case scenario for Joe Biden is that his son was using the poor old man without him knowing, he’s guilty of being a father blind to his son’s greed and vices. But that’s not something you can prosecute. The worst-case scenario for the president is that he knew what Hunter was doing and aided him, but there is nothing you can use to definitively prove that.

Yet.

Where there is smoke, there is fire. Archer’s testimony verifies that there is a lot of smoke in the room, but the GOP has yet to find the flames. All of this is being laid out to make the case for impeachment, but even if they can hold the majority in the House to vote for impeachment, there is no way they get enough votes to convict in the Senate. Is the effort to impeach worth the political cost if you can’t even get a majority of the Senate, much less two-thirds?

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Or, should the GOP focus on the slow “drip, drip, drip” of new information in the hopes that it works the same way Democrats have utilized the tactic against Donald Trump? That may fair better than going straight for impeachment. But, whatever the strategy is, the Democrats won’t be able to protect the Bidens if Joe is defeated in 2024. Republicans will be out for blood, and rightly so. The investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden won’t stop once Joe is out of office, and he’ll have brought it on himself.

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