As we approach Monday’s much-anticipated closed-door congressional testimony of Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s longtime friend and business partner, here’s my theme for the week: obstruction of injustice.
In a normal universe, we would be considering questions members of the House Oversight Committee ought to be asking Archer about Biden family corruption. For example, what was the extent of President Biden’s participation in the business of cashing in on his political influence?
The president’s ne’er-do-well son Hunter appears to have steered that business, with copious assistance from Archer and such other confederates as the president’s brother Jim Biden, and business partners James Bulger, Rob Walker, James Gilliar and Eric Scherwin, among others.
Why do business with agents of corrupt and anti-American governments?
If the business was legitimate, why does it appear that these foreign regimes, so anxious to pay the Bidens, do not appear to have gotten comparable value in exchange… unless you count access to Joe Biden (both while he was vice president and as he was planning his 2020 presidential run)?
If the business was legitimate, why not have straight payments – money directly exchanged for goods and services? Why, instead, did the Biden business structure payments in the manner of money launderers: parsing multimillion-dollar foreign transfers into smaller slices – the better to draw less attention – which were routed through a labyrinth of transfer channels, bank accounts and business entities that appear to have existed almost exclusively to collect money rather than produce value?
Why set up 20 limited liability companies? Why payments to no fewer than nine Biden family members – including grandchildren and others who can have had nothing to do with the relevant business transactions?
That is all straightforward enough, or at least it would be if this were a normal corruption investigation.
But there’s nothing normal about it. That’s because, as we saw in connection with Hunter Biden’s Delaware debacle last week – the collapse of his sweetheart plea deal – the Biden Justice Department is not really investigating the Bidens. It is protecting the Bidens – particularly the president.
Indeed, the first question to ask Devon Archer is: Why are you here?
If there were a real criminal investigation, the Justice Department would not be allowing Archer to testify in a congressional hearing.
In a normal situation, federal prosecutors tightly control access to essential witnesses until they can testify in court. They fight against any grandstanding attempts by Congress to question their witnesses until the criminal investigation and prosecution are complete.
In a free-wheeling congressional hearing, witnesses are insufficiently prepared for the questioning. (By contrast, prosecutors prep witnesses for days on end, walking them through the evidence to ensure the accuracy of eventual trial testimony.)
In a House committee hearing, members rush through five-minute interrogation rounds, asking loaded questions or badgering and interrupting the witness. There is no presiding judge, as there is in criminal trials, to sustain objections to the politicians’ poorly formed, error-ridden, and argumentative questions. This leads to errors, half-baked explanations and misimpressions that are not – or at least not primarily – the witness’ fault.
Yet, they would become the witness’ problem, and the prosecution’s. Testimony at congressional hearings can later be used to cross-examine the witness at criminal trials. The witness may have been trying to be truthful, accurate and complete. But committee testimony comes out garbled in spots, enabling skilled defense lawyers to paint the witness as a liar – or, at least, as an unreliable source whose version of events at trial is at odds with what he said in Congress.
It’s an unusual problem. Most of the time, members of Congress respect the criminal process. They do not want to be seen as obstructing it. Just as prosecutors typically object that premature congressional testimony would compromise the government’s active criminal investigations, congressional committee members usually fret about being accused of undermining a potential prosecution. Congress thus customarily defers to DOJ and refrains from forcing the witnesses to testify until their cooperation with prosecutors is complete.
In the Biden case, however, we have immense reason to believe there is no real investigation. Last week’s Hunter Biden plea hearing blew up because the Biden Justice Department tried to sew up the case on pleas to two trivial misdemeanors. Before that, whistleblower IRS agents testified that they had been forbidden from asking questions that could implicate President Biden in Hunter’s lucrative overseas business dealings.
The Justice Department says it is investigating, but its every action – beginning with Attorney General Merrick Garland’s long-standing refusal to appoint a special counsel from outside the Biden DOJ – shows that it is actually protecting the president.
If there were a real, aggressive DOJ investigation, Devon Archer would not be testifying before Congress. But here, the Biden DOJ does not appear to be fighting his appearance. Prosecutors seem unconcerned about hurting “the ongoing Biden investigation.” That’s undoubtedly because the ongoing investigation exists in name only. It is just a pretext allowing Garland to stonewall congressional demands for information.
So what should the committee ask Archer, besides, “Why are you here?” Members should get to the bottom of what the Justice Department, the FBI and the IRS have been asking Archer: How hard have you been pressed on President Biden’s role in the business?”
Have you been given subpoenas asking specifically about President Biden?
Were you asked about the meeting you had with then-Vice President Biden just before you and Hunter were appointed to the board of Burisma and paid millions of dollars?
Have you been asked about the Georgetown dinner in 2015, when you and Hunter arranged for several of your business partners, including Burisma’s CFO, to meet the then-vice president – right around the time Burisma’s founder told an FBI informant he bribed Vice President Biden, and before Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. funding from Ukraine unless it fired the prosecutor who happened to be investigating Burisma?
If Republicans ask such questions, committee Democrats and Biden Justice Department officials will accuse them of obstructing the Biden investigation.
But in this highly suspicious situation, Chairman James Comer’s committee needs to find out whether there really is a Biden corruption investigation. They need to obstruct injustice – i.e., the failure of the Biden DOJ to pursue justice in the Hunter Biden case and the broader Biden corruption scandal.