By Catherine Yang
Everyone in Washington understands that advisory and consulting positions generally mean selling access, Devon Archer told Tucker Carlson in the latest episode of the former Fox News host’s self-produced show that for now resides on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Mr. Archer was a close friend and business partner of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, for about a decade when the president was serving as vice president of the United States. The two of them served together on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Looking back at the business relationship now, Mr. Archer said that Mr. Hunter Biden broadcasting his father on speakerphone during business dinners was inappropriate. “In the rear view, it’s an abuse of soft power, I’d say,” he told Mr. Carlson.
The pair had embarked on an advisory business created to provide clients with insight into navigating government regulations and pathways to raise capital. It didn’t mean Mr. Hunter Biden was an expert in those regulations, Mr. Archer said. It meant that Mr. Hunter Biden knew who to call to get the answers or better access.
“He was the guy who was an expert in knowing the guy,” Mr. Archer said. “Well, he knew a lot of people but obviously there was his brother, his father, he knew his father’s siblings.”
“Obviously, the brand of Biden adds a lot of power when your dad’s the vice president,” Mr. Archer told Mr. Carlson in the sit-down interview. “He had a career in Washington, graduated Yale Law School, and had a very big network in D.C., and brought that know-how and understanding of D.C., and ultimately the Biden brand.”
Mr. Carlson pointed out that Washington is not a business center. “Washington’s not a money town,” he said. “Most people aren’t in business … and don’t have business skills, that I noticed in 30 years of living there. So really, the business of Washington is selling access.”
“Yes, I think that’s one of the core misconceptions,” Mr. Archer said. “‘Understanding the regulatory environment’ means selling access at the end of the day. That’s how I interpreted it and I think that’s what most people on Wall Street—whether they admit it or not—interpret it.”
Mr. Carlson and Mr. Archer both broke out into laughter at several points during the 12-minute interview, finding comedy in the terminology that insiders use to obscure the perhaps cruder reality of how access is gained by consulting or advisory services.
Both agreed that certain politicians and media personalities have been disingenuous in their push back against the characterizations that Mr. Hunter Biden’s business role was selling access, instead insisting that it remained an open question whether his relationship to the then-vice president carried any weight for the business.
If someone overseas needs a visa for a business deal, they don’t call someone because they’re an expert in the process; they call the lobbyist who used to work at the relevant federal agency and still has agency connections, Mr. Archer explained. “You’ve got to know the guy that worked at the old agency, that now has a lobbying firm, that can go back to the agency and get things put to the front of the line.”
“When people say, ‘Well, there’s some question about whether Hunter was trading on his father’s name,’ if you live in Washington, that’s the whole city right there,” Mr. Carlson said.
“Right, you know the answer to that,” Mr. Archer said. “At the end of the day, he had the best advantage to do that. We thought that when we went into business, it was a great opportunity for us.”
“I get it, and you’re not the only one who did that,” Mr. Carlson said. “And Hunter Biden’s not the only son of a famous government official who’s done this, at all.”
“Right … it was almost like an Icarus issue,” Mr. Archer said. “It was too close to the sun, it was too good to be true; and the connections were too close, and the scrutiny too much … it left a wake of a lot of destruction in businesses over a number of years.”
Calls on Speakerphone
During Mr. Archer’s time working with Mr. Biden, he heard the vice president in about 20 calls being put on speakerphone during his son’s meetings with business associates.
Mr. Carlson—while noting it would usually be odd behavior for a grown man to put his father on speakerphone during a business meeting—said that Mr. Joe Biden, a veteran Washington man, must have known what was going on when he made those calls, and must have understood that was what his son was selling, prompting laughter and a reply from Mr. Archer who said, “It’s hard for me to speculate on that.”
Mr. Carlson then rephrased the characterisation, saying, “Joe Biden, then the sitting vice president, knew that there were Hunter’s business associates in the room?”
“I can definitively say at particular dinners or meetings, he knew there were business associates,” Mr. Archer confirmed. “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 business person and you hear the vice president’s voice, that’s surprise enough, that’s pretty impactful stuff.”
“You understand D.C., right? So the power to have that access and that conversation, and it’s not in a scheduled conference call and it’s part of your family; that’s the pinnacle of power in D.C.,” Mr. Archer said.
“At the time, I think I’d hit the jackpot in finding the regulatory environment or company that can navigate right to the top,” he added. “But being a little bit too close to the sun ends up burning you.”
Mr. Carlson added that while it is business as usual for private consultants to sell access, Mr. Joe Biden faced different constraints due to his holding a position in public office.
“As a business guy, you use every advantage,” Mr. Carlson acknowledged of Mr. Archer’s business. But he said of the then-vice president, “These are not business guys, this is the Vice President of the United States. He’s not allowed to be working on businesses with foreign governments while he’s vice president.”
Mr. Carlson was citing a letter that Mr. Joe Biden had personally sent to Mr. Archer, which read, “I hope you enjoyed the lunch. Thanks for coming.”
The president has denied any involvement in his son’s businesses, beyond being a supportive father. He told reporters on the campaign trial in 2020, “I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing on July 24 that “the president was never in business with his son.”