Below is my column in The Messenger on the new evidence supplied by Hunter Biden’s close friend and former business associate Devon Archer. The effort of Rep. Dan Goldman to spin the damaging testimony spiraled out of control as it did in his prior effort to question IRS whistleblowers. Goldman is demanding that any further investigations stop immediately after a key witness showed that President Biden has been lying for years in denying that he had any knowledge of his son’s foreign dealings. Archer discussed over 20 calls from Joe Biden and the use of the calls to “sell the brand.” The second Trump impeachment was launched on the basis for a single phone call, but Goldman insists that the millions that were received by the Bidens, the countervailing whistleblower testimony, the proven false statements, and the allegation of bribery are all insufficient to ask any further questions.
Here is the column:
“There were niceties.” That description by Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) of calls between President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and Hunter’s foreign business associates may, strangely, be the most accurate thing the freshman congressman has ever said.
The almost-two-dozen calls — detailed by Hunter Biden’s close friend and former business partner, Devon Archer, during a closed-door interview Monday with House Oversight Committee investigators — were indeed “the niceties” of influence-peddling. The calls presumably were intended to show that Hunter Biden could deliver his father and to support what Archer called “the brand.” Hunter had no relevant experience or appreciable business skills, but he had the vice president of the United States on speed-dial.
The selection of Goldman as the only committee Democrat in the interview was ironic. Goldman was a Democratic staff attorney when the House impeached Donald Trump in 2019 largely on the basis of a single telephone call to the president of Ukraine. Now, however, Goldman is calling for an immediate cessation of any further investigation, in an almost comical display of denial and deflection.
Goldman helped demolish Biden’s long-standing defense in another hearing just a week earlier. In an effort to defuse the testimony of two IRS whistleblowers, who said Hunter received special protection from their criminal investigation, Goldman tripped the wire and elicited testimony that Joe Biden may in fact have spoken with his son about foreign dealings — something the president has denied for years.
Goldman said that “Joe Biden came to say hello at the Four Seasons hotel to a lunch that he [Hunter Biden] was having” with Chinese energy company executives. He then read from the record how another Hunter associate, Rob Walker, described the origins of that meeting with the Chinese to get his father to stop by: “Hunter told his dad that ‘I may be trying to start a company or try to do something with these guys.’” As with the twenty-some phone calls, Goldman dismissed Joe Biden’s sudden appearance as a fatherly drive-by.
On Monday, Goldman tried to dismiss a trusted Hunter Biden partner who was detailing how the then-vice president was critical to selling “the brand.” The new spin was to admit that the senior Biden did speak with Hunter’s business associates but only to exchange “niceties” when he was put on speakerphone at meetings and dinners. Goldman noted that Archer testified the elder Biden did not discuss “any business dealings or transactions” and said it would be a “preposterous premise to think that a father should not say hello to people that the son is at dinner with.”
What is truly preposterous is Goldman’s suggestion that these figures would have discussed corrupt deliverables on a speakerphone in restaurants. That was not the point of the calls. The point would have been that Hunter and his team were selling access, and the calls with his vice president/father confirmed that he was deliverable.
In Washington, influence-peddling is an art form, and the Bidens appear to be political Rembrandts. Demands are conveyed through as few people as possible. For example, Archer reportedly detailed how, in 2015, Mykola Zlochevsky and Vadym Pozharski, two executives of the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, pressed Hunter to “get help from D.C.” to fire a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating Burisma for corruption. Archer reportedly said that Hunter, Zlochevsky and Pozharski stepped away to make a call.
That is how it is done — not on a speakerphone in a popular restaurant filled with political and media figures while ordering more breadsticks.
Then-Vice President Biden, who oversaw U.S. support for Ukraine, later made a billion-dollar aid package dependent on the prosecutor’s firing. The prosecutor was promptly fired, as Joe Biden himself later bragged.
That is why Hunter allegedly could tell Chinese business associates that “The Bidens are the best at doing exactly what the Chairman wants.” What that corporate chairman wanted, of course, was influence.
It increasingly appears to have been no idle boast. The very things that Rep. Goldman and others are citing is what has long made the Bidens — in the minds of many — the first family of influence-peddling. Business associates were told to use code names for Joe Biden like “the big guy,” according to reports, and used a labyrinth of accounts to transfer money to family members, according to House investigators.
Democrats have demanded to see evidence of direct payments to Joe Biden, which would be an amateur-hour move. The accounts of the president and vice president are some of the most scrutinized in the world, subject to reporting requirements and vulnerable to congressional subpoenas.
Finally, Hunter’s laptop emails detail a variety of alleged benefits to the Biden family. One referenced a 10% cut on a deal for the “big guy.” Other arrangements included free offices for Joe and Jill Biden and donations to foundations linked to the Bidens.
Devon Archer’s new evidence apparently brings this picture further into focus: As Hunter and his partners pitched “the brand,” Joe Biden apparently supplied the bona fides by stopping by lunches or calling into dinners.
That would be all that was needed to net millions of dollars.
In weeks to come, Congress is expected to release information on additional foreign payments going to the Biden family from additional sources. That’s the value of branding. As Starbucks founder Howard Schultz once observed, “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” It appears that the Bidens shared some values with the foreign oligarchs and operatives who embraced their brand. The rest was — well, in the words of Rep. Goldman, just “niceties.”
Jonathan Turley, an attorney, constitutional law scholar and legal analyst, is the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at The George Washington University Law School.