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Another impeachment witness tells the GOP what it doesn’t want to hear

While the House Homeland Security Committee was (slowly) marking up articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the (slow) effort to build a case for impeaching President Biden continued apace.

Eric Schwerin, a former business associate of the president’s son, Hunter Biden, appeared Tuesday on Capitol Hill for sworn closed-door testimony before congressional investigators. The appearance triggered the usual response from right-wing media — new evidence emerges of Biden’s culpability!! — but the more important story is a quieter one.

Once again, an associate of Hunter Biden’s asserted explicitly and under penalty of perjury that the president was not involved in his son’s business.

If you are just tuning in — and who can blame you? — the Republican effort to impeach the president generally centers on two issues. (They’ve attempted to build more than two allegations, mind you; these two are just the ones on which they seem to think they’ll have the best shot.) One is that Biden, as vice president, acted on behalf of his son’s employer to change policy in Ukraine — an allegation that has been debunked multiple times. The other is that Joe Biden was intertwined with his son’s business partners more widely, benefiting from deals Hunter Biden made with individuals, including from China.

House Republicans have done a good job detailing the scope and timing of deals. They have done a remarkably poor job tying them to the president.

One way they’ve tried to do so is by misrepresenting money that Joe Biden received. The president’s brother, James Biden, and Hunter Biden (through his corporate account) made payments to Biden in the years before Biden became president. But those payments were demonstrably repayments for loans Joe Biden had extended, including so that Hunter could buy a truck.

The other way is by constructing a sweeping, flimsy set of circumstantial evidence. That Hunter Biden would sporadically put incoming calls from his father on speaker phone while around business partners. That Joe Biden had met his business partners or that Hunter Biden had brought partners to dinners that the then-vice president attended. That Hunter Biden told his partners that his last name was their best selling point, which — yeah. That has been understood for a long time.

The result is that Republicans and their media allies will pick out claims from Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former partner, in which he talks about those phone calls or how he understood that the “brand” he and Hunter Biden were leveraging was their perceived clout in D.C.

What they do not talk about, though, are other answers from Archer. Like:

Q: In fact, Hunter Biden never asked his father to take official actions on behalf of his business partners?
Archer: He did not. He did not ask him — to my knowledge, I never saw him say, do anything for any particular business.

Or:

Q: It is still true that you are not aware that Hunter Biden ever discussed policy with his father, discussed business with his father, influenced American policy for purposes of his business or otherwise caused the Vice President or asked the Vice President to do anything improper, right?
Archer: That’s my understanding.

Or, when presented with a 2014 email from Hunter Biden about an upcoming trip from the vice president:

Archer: [H]e’s saying that, you know, we can’t — I can’t guide my guy, you know, I can’t guide my father in what he’s going to do on this trip, but let’s get credit for it.

We know those answers because, unlike many interviews, the transcript was made public. We also got the transcript from an interview with Kevin Morris, a friend of Hunter Biden’s who loaned the president’s son an enormous amount of money. That, too, undercut Republican arguments.

A transcript of Schwerin’s testimony has not been produced (though, given precedent here, it is very likely that it won’t be). But through a person with direct knowledge of the transcribed interview who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, The Washington Post obtained quotes from Schwerin’s prepared testimony that directly addresses the question of Joe Biden’s involvement.

For example:

Schwerin: I am not aware of any financial transactions or compensation that Vice President Biden received related to business conducted by any of his family members or their associates nor any involvement by him in their businesses. None.

Or:

Schwerin: I cannot recall any requests for Vice President Biden to take any official action on behalf of any of Hunter’s clients or his business deals — foreign or domestic. In fact, I am not aware of any role that Vice President Biden, as a public official or a private citizen, had in any of Hunter’s business activities. None.

And so on.

The takeaway from Schwerin’s testimony at the GOP-friendly New York Post? That Schwerin did Biden’s taxes in the years before he was president without being paid.

Again, the lack of transcripts provided by Republicans conducting the investigation makes it difficult to know whether there are similar examples of witnesses contradicting the idea that Joe Biden was involved in his son’s business. In December, though, USA Today reported that a trustee for one of James Biden’s business partners — a health-care company called Americore — told investigators that “she possessed no knowledge that the president was directly involved in those dealings.” Money from Americore that went to James Biden was apparently used to repay the larger of the two loans his brother had extended.

The FBI is fastidious about transcripts, one of which was provided to House investigators: a December 2020 interview with Hunter Biden’s former associate Rob Walker. Like Archer’s and Schwerin’s testimony, it carries the threat of criminal sanction for false statements.

Walker was asked about an email suggesting that Joe Biden would get a cut of a proposed deal. His response?

Walker: I certainly never was thinking at any time that, ah … the V. P. was a part of anything we were doin’.

Walker was deposed by Republican investigators last week, as well. He offered a statement at the outset:

Walker: To be clear, President Biden — while in office, or as a private citizen — was never involved in any of the business activities we pursued. Any statement of the contrary is simply false.

It is certainly possible that each of these men is offering false testimony for which they might later be charged. In the case of Archer, who in addition to speaking to House investigators also sat down for a friendly interview with Tucker Carlson, that seems like more of a stretch, but: regardless. It’s possible.

We must wait for that, though, against the lack of evidence to the contrary. Beyond loan repayments, there’s no evidence of Biden benefiting from Hunter Biden’s work. The case is cobbled together from circumstance, often using claims that are themselves wobbly or viewed as significant only when viewed through red-tinted lenses.

On Tuesday evening, after Schwerin testified, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) appeared on Fox News.

“All of the people that we brought in for depositions,” Comer said, “they have a hard time remembering the bad things.”

Maybe. Or maybe Comer and his allies have a different problem.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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