In a raft of glowing reviews, Hunter Biden’s 2019 memoir “Beautiful Things” was celebrated as an “unflinchingly honest” (Entertainment Weekly), “confession and an act of contrition” (Guardian), that was “candid” and “doesn’t hold back details” (New York Times) of his substance abuse and broken relationships.
While describing the book as an “unvarnished confessional,” the Washington Post exalted it as a “harrowing, relentless and a determined exercise in trying to seize his own narrative from the clutches of the Republicans and the press.
In the years since, testimony from a former business partner, Devon Archer, and newly disclosed emails indicate that the president’s son’s memoir was an exercise in spin rather than truth-telling, especially concerning his father’s role in his foreign business dealings, which are now the subject of a House impeachment inquiry. That evidence shows how the Bidens used the memoir to create a politically charged narrative – one largely embraced by the mainstream media – that distorted the truth to protect the family.
On page 118, for example, Hunter writes that after accompanying then-Vice President Joe Biden to China on Air Force Two in 2013, he merely introduced his father to a well-connected Chinese investor. It was a quick greeting that lasted just long enough for a handshake. “While we were in Beijing, Dad met one of Devon’s Chinese partners, Jonathan Li, in the lobby of the American delegation’s hotel, just long enough to say hello and shake hands,” Hunter wrote. “Li and I then headed off for a cup of coffee.”
The account seems to comport with now-President Biden’s repeated denials that he discussed business with his son or had any substantive involvement with his partners.
However, Archer told a different story to U.S. lawmakers during a deposition earlier this year. “Jonathan Li and [Vice] President Biden had coffee,” Archer said, according to a recently released transcript of his interview with the House Oversight Committee. “They had coffee in Beijing,” he recalled, suggesting there may have been talk about their business relationship.
Li would later offer Hunter a 10% stake worth potentially millions in a Chinese investment fund controlled by the state Bank of China. The fund, BHR Partners, is based in Beijing.
Archer’s testimony included other details ignored or distorted in the memoir. He said the vice president called Hunter while he was meeting with Li in Paris, and Hunter put his father on speakerphone so he could join their conversation. And in early January 2017, while Biden was still in the White House, Hunter arranged for his father to write letters of recommendation for Li’s son and daughter to Ivy League colleges.
Before committee lawyers began questioning Archer during the July 31 closed-door hearing, they warned him that providing false testimony could subject him to criminal prosecution for perjury. Hunter, in contrast, was under no such legal peril while writing his manuscript.
The same Oversight panel that quizzed Archer will now lead a formal impeachment inquiry, announced this month by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to investigate whether Biden used his office to enrich his family. Investigators are weighing subpoenaing Hunter Biden, which makes examining his claims in his memoir highly instructive as to his and his father’s credibility. They’re also tracing millions of dollars wired from China into a maze of accounts that ended up in the hands of Hunter and several other Biden family members, belying claims by the president that Hunter received no money from China.
Hunter also raked in millions from Ukraine while his father was “point man” for Ukraine policy as vice president.
Hunter addresses the controversy in the sixth chapter of “Beautiful Things,” describing the allegation that he traded on his father’s influence in Ukraine to land an unusually lucrative five-year stint on the board of the corrupt Ukraine energy giant Burisma Holdings as “the decade’s biggest political fable.”
He insisted neither he nor his father, who as vice president husbanded Ukraine’s new regime, did anything criminal or corrupt. “There is, in short, no there here,” Biden wrote.
Hunter then explained how he came to serve on the Burisma board, raking in $83,000 a month despite having no experience in the energy sector. Biden claimed that Archer, his international consultancy partner, brought Burisma into their business orbit after first meeting Burisma’s founder in Kyiv.
“During one such trip to Kyiv, he met Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner and president of Burisma,” Biden said. “After returning from Kyiv, Devon told me about his talk with Zlochevsky.”
But Archer, who served on the Burisma board alongside Biden, relayed a different account to Congress, testifying he first met the Russian-tied Ukrainian oligarch in Moscow, not Kyiv.
In fact, Archer said he sat down with Zlochevsky in the Russian capital on the same day that Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. “It was just me meeting [with him],” Archer added. Within days, Burisma asked him to join the board. And Hunter Biden came aboard shortly thereafter.
Archer’s disclosure that their relationship with Burisma was hatched in Moscow is at odds with the political narrative President Biden has carefully crafted, demonizing Russia as Enemy No. 1 of America and NATO. Hunter’s telling of the genesis, with the initial meeting with Zlochevsky taking place in Ukraine’s capital, is far more palatable.
Hunter wrote that he only agreed to accept Zlochevsky’s offer in order to enable Ukraine to strengthen its energy independence from Russia. He said the prospect of helping build a “bulwark” against Russian oil and gas imports assuaged “whatever dissonance I might have felt between idealism and generous compensation.” He said he was more interested in “fighting” for the Ukrainian people against an aggressive neighbor, which aligns his employment with Burisma with his father’s pro-Ukraine, anti-Russia stance.
“Having a Biden on Burisma’s board was a loud and unmistakable fuck-you to Putin,” Hunter maintained.
But according to Archer’s testimony, Burisma hired them in part to help expand its energy operations outside of Ukraine – particularly in the U.S., where the energy industry is heavily regulated by the federal government, and having such politically connected Americans on the board was valuable to the oil and gas conglomerate. Plus, he and Hunter were motivated by the windfall Burisma was paying them: “It was a million dollars per year [apiece] on the board contracts,” Archer confirmed.
Hunter further contends in his memoir that his father didn’t know about his joining the Burisma board until he read about it in the Wall Street Journal on May 13, 2014. But White House emails show the vice president’s staff was coordinating damage control weeks earlier when the news first broke in the foreign press.
And Archer testified that a month earlier, he had met with Vice President Biden in his White House office with Hunter, who had arranged the meeting. Their high-level pow-wow took place on April 16, the day after records show Archer received his first payment from Burisma.
It’s not clear what the trio discussed in Biden’s office, but Hunter had emailed Archer a Burisma strategy memo just three days earlier. Also on April 13, Hunter had emailed Joe Biden’s best friend Ted Kaufman and the vice president’s then-deputy counsel Alex Mackler to discuss Ukrainian politics. On April 21, Biden visited Ukraine to offer energy and economic aid.
But that’s not the biggest whopper Hunter apparently told about Burisma in his book. On page 127, he claimed: “No one at Burisma had even hinted at wanting me to influence the [Obama-Biden] administration.”
Several Burisma emails to Hunter, along with Archer’s congressional testimony, put the lie to this claim.
On May 12, 2014, for instance, Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi sent an “urgent” email to Hunter – who by then was officially on Burisma’s payroll – demanding to know “how you could use your influence to convey a message / signal, etc. to stop what we consider to be politically motivated actions.” At the time, Ukrainian prosecutors were aggressively investigating Burisma for corruption.
Several months later, in the spring of 2015, Pozharskyi emailed Hunter to thank him for giving him the “opportunity to meet with your father and spent [sic] some time together.” Archer confirmed that the then-vice president sat down for dinner with the Burisma official and others at the Cafe Milano in D.C. the previous evening. The meeting, long denied by Biden officials, was held in a private room in the back of the restaurant.
In late 2015, after Viktor Shokin took over the prosecutor general’s office in Ukraine and turned the screws on Burisma, Pozharskyi again turned to Hunter Biden for assistance.
Archer testified that Hunter called his father to help deal with Shokin’s investigation at both Pozharskyi’s and Zlochevsky’s request following a Burisma board meeting at the Four Seasons in Dubai on Dec. 4, 2015.
“They were getting pressure and they requested Hunter, you know, help them with some of that pressure,” Archer said, explaining the pressure was coming “from Ukrainian government investigations into Mykola [Zlochevsky].”
Archer suggested their benefactors wanted Hunter to use his influence with the vice president to get Kyiv to take “the heat” off Burisma. He testified he did not overhear Hunter’s phone call, but noted “he called his dad.”
At the time, Hunter Biden was not registered as a foreign agent as required by federal law when lobbying the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign entity. Federal prosecutors revealed at a recent court hearing that Hunter is actively under investigation for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law that was used to prosecute several Trump advisers.
Two days after the Dubai phone call, Biden flew to Kyiv and warned the Ukrainian president that he had to fire Shokin or he wouldn’t get a promised $1 billion in aid. Three months later, after withering pressure from Biden, Shokin was removed from office.
“[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko fired me at the insistence of the then-Vice President Biden because I was investigating Burisma,” Shokin said in a recent Fox News interview.
In his memoir, Hunter maintained that his father had Shokin ousted because he wasn’t doing enough to tackle corruption, which matches the current spin of the White House.
“A priority for my dad was the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, for his failure to adequately investigate corruption,” he wrote. “Among the high-profile companies that Shokin was criticized for not pursuing: Burisma.”
In effect, Hunter implied he relished more criminal scrutiny for his own employer, an odd position to take particularly given the millions he was getting paid. But as Archer testified, it’s simply not true.
Democratic counsel for the Oversight Committee tried to get Archer to agree with the White House spin that Shokin’s firing was “bad for Burisma … because they had Shokin under their control.”
“No,” Archer said. “Burisma never informed me of that.”
Quite the opposite, he said, Burisma viewed Shokin as a threat after the prosecutor seized its founder Zlochevsky’s assets, including his house and cars.
If Shokin was not in fact soft on Burisma and Joe Biden did not press for his ouster to better fight corruption, it would seem to leave just one possible reason for his ham-fisted demand: to protect Burisma for the sake of his son – and the millions he was hauling in.
House impeachment investigators want to know whether Biden engaged in a quid pro quo: shaking down Ukraine’s former president for a political favor that would benefit his son by threatening to withhold a U.S.-backed aid package from the country. According to one Republican staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, they also want to know if Joe Biden or his staff helped Hunter draft the chapter of his book, titled “Burisma,” or had a hand in editing it.
“Beautiful Things” was published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which had no comment. Hunter’s attorney Abbe Lowell did not reply to requests to speak about the discrepancies in his client’s book.
This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.