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Editor's note, Aug. 4: The House Oversight Committee released the transcript of Devon Archer's testimony on Aug. 3, after this story was published. We published this story to explain how his testimony compared with Republican and Democratic lawmakers' earlier descriptions.
In response to former President Donald Trump’s third indictment, Trump and his allies argued the timing was intended to distract from bad news about President Joe Biden — something they call a Justice Department pattern.
Trump was indicted Aug. 1 by a federal grand jury investigating the events following the 2020 election through Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob overtook the U.S. Capitol to block the certification of election results. The indictment charges Trump on four felony counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States.
It came a day after former Hunter Biden business partner Devon Archer gave closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee. Republicans said Archer’s testimony proves President Biden lied about his involvement in his son’s business dealings. Democrats disagree with that portrayal of Archer’s testimony, which won’t become public for weeks.
On Truth Social, Donald Trump questioned the timing of the indictment, which he said came "the day after the Crooked Joe Biden SCANDAL."
The former president’s supporters soon followed suit.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., posted on X, formerly Twitter, about Hunter Biden allegations, then wrote, "Everyone in America could see what was going to come next: DOJ’s attempt to distract from the news and attack the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, President Trump." (DOJ is shorthand for the Justice Department.)
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the House Oversight Committee chair, appeared on Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s show to say the "weaponized" Justice Department is trying to divert attention "from Biden family corruption" or to "take out" their top political opponent.
"The timing of this indictment was coordinated to take the heat off Biden. This is the third time this has happened," Fox News host Jesse Watters said on his Aug. 1 show.
"Anyone else noticing a pattern here," Donald Trump Jr. wrote on X, listing three examples of Trump indictments coming soon after Hunter Biden news.
Is the timing suspicious, or coincidental? We took a closer look into the pattern of allegations and indictments with the news of Archer’s private testimony.
Donald Trump has claimed it before. But with multiple federal and state investigations of Trump happening at the same time House Republicans are holding multiple investigations of the Bidens, there are bound to be overlaps in developments.
Trump was indicted by a Florida grand jury June 8 related to his possession of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home after leaving office. Also that day, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., held a press conference to describe a redacted FBI document containing unsubstantiated bribery allegations against Hunter and Joe Biden.
Days later, Trump argued that the indictment was meant to distract from the bribery allegations, even though the allegations were 3 years old and the documents case had been in progress since spring 2022.
Former federal prosecutors told PolitiFact at the time that they saw no evidence the two things are related.
Daniel Richman, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who is now a Columbia Law professor, said then it’s likelier that Biden critics promoted the unverified allegations against him to compete with the news of Trump’s indictment.
Like the documents case, the Jan. 6 investigation has been going on for a while. Jack Smith was named Nov. 18 as special counsel to lead both investigations. (Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith after Trump announced his reelection campaign, to minimize the department’s influence over a case involving Biden’s political rival.)
Trump announced July 18 that Smith told him he was a criminal target in the Jan. 6 investigation.
Archer, meanwhile, was subpoenaed by the House Oversight Committee on June 12 to testify about his knowledge of Hunter Biden’s business dealings on June 16. Archer rescheduled his appearance at least three times before he testified before the committee in a closed-door hearing July 31.
Devon Archer, Hunter Biden's former business partner, gave closed-door testimony July 31, 2023, to the House Oversight Committee in the Republican-led investigations into President Joe Biden's son. (AP)
Let’s take a closer look at the person who sparked the latest allegations of suspicious timing.
Archer is a longtime business partner of Hunter Biden on a string of investment and consulting companies. He and Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma Holdings Ltd., a Ukraine energy company, in 2014.
During Joe Biden’s vice presidency, companies run by Hunter Biden and Archer sought business with "international entities that had a stake in American foreign policy decisions," The New York Times reported in 2019.
In a case unrelated to Hunter Biden, Archer was sentenced Feb. 28, 2022, to a year and a day in prison on felony charges of conspiracy to commit security fraud and security fraud. He was convicted of defrauding a Native American tribal entity and other clients of tens of millions of dollars. His sentence has been postponed because of appeals.
Hunter Biden is the target of a criminal investigation related to his taxes; a judge on July 26 gave lawyers for the Justice Department and Hunter Biden 30 days to revisit a plea deal.
The House Oversight Committee invited Archer to testify about his knowledge of Joe Biden’s involvement in Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
We won’t know exactly what Archer said until the transcript is released; CBS reported that a Republican committee aide said it will first go through formal review, which could take weeks.
Absent the closed-door testimony, we’re left with what we can corroborate between Republicans and Democrats who were in the room. Some summaries are similar, but their conclusions diverge.
Democrats reported that Archer described how frequently Hunter Biden speaks with his father. That wasn’t news by itself; Hunter Biden, while promoting his memoir in April 2021, said that he talks on the phone with his father nightly.
Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., said it wasn’t unusual to hear that Biden would put his father on to say hello or "occasionally put his father on to say hello to whoever he happened to be caught at dinner with." That included people Hunter Biden was trying to do business with and friends or other social engagements, Goldman said.
Goldman said Archer testified that Joe Biden was put on speakerphone about 20 times with his son and others, and that they were "casual" conversations.
Comer’s post-hearing statement corroborated the 20-call estimate. But to Comer, it was evidence that counters Biden’s claims of never discussing business with his son.
While campaigning for president in 2019, Biden denied having anything to do with Hunter’s business. Biden told a reporter: "I have never discussed with my son or my brother or anyone else anything having to do with their business."
It’s not yet clear how Archer framed Joe Biden’s involvement with Hunter Biden’s businesses.
Goldman said Archer "stated unequivocally" that he knew of no evidence that Joe Biden discussed business with his son or did anything on behalf of Hunter Biden’s business interests. But Comer’s statement also highlighted an encounter that Archer said occurred between Biden, as vice president, and Jonathan Li, the CEO of BHR, in Beijing. BHR is an investment company that Hunter Biden was involved with.
We’re unsure what Archer said, but a brief meet-and-greet between Joe Biden and Li was described in a 2019 New Yorker profile. The story quoted a Beijing-based BHR official who said Hunter Biden arranged for Li to shake hands with Joe Biden in a Beijing hotel lobby. This was followed by a "social meeting" between Hunter Biden and Li, The New Yorker reported.
Hunter Biden was an unpaid board member of BHR until October 2017, when he took a 10% financial stake in BHR. Biden’s lawyer said in October 2019 that he had not received any compensation and would resign by the end of that month.
Although Archer’s congressional testimony isn’t public yet, he spoke about the Bidens in an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson that Carlson shared Aug. 2 on X. It was described as part one of what Carlson said would be a longer interview that is so far unposted as of this writing.
In the interview, as in reports of his congressional testimony, Archer confirmed that Joe Biden was put on speakerphone about 20 times while his son was meeting clients. Archer said he can "definitively say" that at some dinners or meetings, Joe Biden knew he was speaking with Hunter’s business associates.
"I don't know if it was an orchestrated call-in or not. It certainly was powerful, though. If you’re sitting with a foreign businessperson and you hear the vice president’s voice, that’s prize enough," Archer said. "That’s pretty impactful stuff."
After Carlson scoffed at the notion that Hunter Biden putting his father on speakerphone during meetings wasn’t intentional, Archer said, "In the rearview, it’s an abuse of soft power."
CORRECTION, Aug. 4, 2023: This story has been updated to say that a judge on July 26 gave Justice Department and Hunter Biden lawyers 30 days to revisit a plea deal.
U.S. Attorney Southern District of New York, Letter to U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Abrams, July 29, 2023
U.S. Attorney Southern District of New York, Letter to U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Abrams, July 30, 2023
U.S. Attorney Southern District of New York, Devon Archer Sentenced To A Year And A Day In Prison For The Fraudulent Issuance And Sale Of More Than $60 Million Of Tribal Bonds, Feb. 28, 2022
Daily Mail, Hunter Biden's business partner Devon Archer testifies to Congress that then-VP Joe WAS on more than 20 business calls with his son - but Dem claims it was only to exchange 'niceties' and discuss 'weather'! July 31, 2023
PolitiFact, Who is the ‘Ukraine gas exec’ playing golf with the Bidens in Trump’s Nickelback post? Oct. 3, 2019
Politico, As he prepares for Hill testimony, Hunter Biden’s ex-business partner also trying to fend off jail, July 30, 2023
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House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Comer Statement on Devon Archer’s Testimony, July 31, 2023
House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Democrats, Ranking Member Raskin’s Statement on Transcribed Interview with Devon Archer, July 31, 2023
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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Tweet, July 31, 2023
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Tweet, July 31, 2023
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Ian Sams, White House spokesperson, Statement to PolitiFact, July 31, 2023
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House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Comer Subpoenas Devon Archer to Appear for a Deposition in the Biden Family Investigation, June 12, 2023