This Week's Impeachment Inquiry Hearing Is Already Kind Of A Mess

Neither Hunter Biden nor Devon Archer, one of Republicans’ top witnesses, will appear at Wednesday’s hearing.

WASHINGTON — The top two witnesses Republicans wanted to call for Wednesday’s impeachment inquiry hearing won’t be there after all, and a third will have to testify from federal prison.

Democrats, meanwhile, announced Tuesday they had invited Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian American with extensive knowledge of Republican efforts to dig up fake dirt on Joe Biden, to be their expert witness.

In short: The hearing is already a bit of a mess.

The impeachment inquiry itself, of course, has also been a bit of a mess, as Republicans have struggled to substantiate corruption allegations against the president.

Republicans had hoped the president’s son, Hunter Biden, would testify this week alongside former business associates Devon Archer, Tony Bobulinski and Jason Galanis, all of whom have previously spoken to lawmakers in formal interviews behind closed doors. (Galanis was interviewed at a federal facility in Alabama where he’s serving 14 years for fraud.)

Despite his previous willingness to testify in public, the president’s son refused a request earlier this month from House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-Ky.) to participate in a public hearing. Comer has nonetheless said he still expects the younger Biden to show up on Wednesday.

In a Monday letter obtained by HuffPost, Archer’s attorney complained that nobody had contacted him about the hearing until late Friday afternoon, saying a previous request had apparently gone to the wrong lawyer. He said there wasn’t enough time to prepare Archer’s written testimony.

“It is not remotely reasonable to ask an important witness in what is sure to be a closely-watched public hearing that the Committee has provocatively entitled ‘Influence Peddling: Examining Joe Biden’s Abuse of Public Office’ to prepare witness testimony in one business day, and to prepare to give public testimony in less than three business days — particularly when he is traveling,” the lawyer said.

Archer may have been Republicans’ best witness so far. He worked with Hunter Biden for years and helped the Ukrainian gas company Burisma recruit him to its board in 2014. Republicans have claimed Hunter Biden’s ties to Burisma prompted Joe Biden, when he was vice president in 2015, to make Ukraine fire a prosecutor looking into the company — an allegation State Department officials have repeatedly debunked and that the Treasury Department has essentially labeled as Russian propaganda.

Archer told lawmakers during his interview last summer that he recalled Burisma officials asking Hunter Biden to “call D.C.” for help with unspecified government pressures in December 2015. Republicans have tried to make the phone call — which Archer said he didn’t actually witness —into evidence that Hunter Biden asked his dad get the Ukrainian prosecutor fired. In his own deposition last month, Hunter Biden said no such phone call happened.

Parnas first offered to testify in a letter to Comer last year, describing his efforts in 2018 and 2019 to help Donald Trump’s then-attorney, Rudy Giuliani, find incriminating material about the Bidens in Ukraine.

“Throughout all these months of work, the extensive campaigns and networking done by Trump allies and Giuliani associates, including the enormously thorough interviews and assignments that I undertook, there has never been any evidence that Hunter or Joe Biden committed any crimes related to Ukrainian politics,” Parnas wrote. “Never, during any of my communications with Ukrainian officials or connections to Burisma, did any of them confirm or provide concrete facts linking the Bidens to illegal activities.”

Bobulinski, one of the other witnesses expected to testify on Wednesday, first spoke out against the Bidens during a 2020 press conference arranged by Donald Trump’s campaign.

In his private interview with lawmakers in February, Bobulinski claimed Joe Biden was part of his son’s business schemes and that he “personally met with Joe Biden in Los Angeles in May of 2017 multiple times to discuss the broad contours of our business dealings.” At the time, Bobulisnki was part of a group with Hunter Biden working on an ill-fated investment deal with a Chinese company.

However, the actual conversations Bobulinski describes with Joe Biden are mostly social. After Hunter Biden introduced them in a hotel bar, Bobulinski told Joe Biden about his family’s military service, and Biden “talked about some of the things they had dealt with as a family, their appreciation for the military and stuff like that.”

Hunter Biden and his uncle James didn’t say much during the meeting, Bobulinski said, according to the transcript of his interview. “And then we ... called it a night.”

The next day, after Joe Biden made a speech at a conference in the hotel, Bobulinski said he met Biden backstage and walked with him to his car.

“In the walk out to the car, you know, he thanked me,” Bobulinski said. “And I just remember a comment of, ‘Hey, you know, look out for my brother and son and, you know, thank you for what you’re doing’ kind of thing.’”

In his jailhouse interview, Galanis ― who was indicted alongside Archer over a scheme to rip off a native tribe ― recalled a similar interaction with Joe Biden when Hunter Biden briefly put his father on speakerphone. (Hunter Biden said he recalled meeting Galanis once for 30 minutes and didn’t work with him.)

“The Vice President said, ‘Hello,’ and some pleasantries, ‘Hope you had safe travels,’ and seemed like he wanted to bring the call to an end by saying, ‘Okay, you be good to my boy,’” Galanis said, according to the transcript.

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