No one is trying to put Hunter Biden’s former business partner behind bars before he can testify in front of a key House committee on Monday—but that hasn’t stopped some Republicans from speculating wildly about the situation following a development in an unrelated court case.
The strange saga began on Saturday when the Department of Justice sent an administrative request to a Manhattan judge asking her to set a date for Devon Archer to report to prison in a case entirely unrelated to his role as Biden’s buddy and longtime international business partner. (Last year, Archer was sentenced to serve a year and a day in prison after being convicted on felony charges of defrauding a Native American tribe. Biden was not implicated in the scheme.)
The request—penned by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York—came two days before Archer is expected to sit for closed-door testimony with the House Oversight Committee. As Republicans continue to expand their inquiry into Hunter Biden, Archer is expected to provide details related to the president’s son’s business dealings in Ukraine, sources told ABC News this week.
The timing of the letter struck some Republicans as “odd,” in the words of House Oversight Committee James Comer (R-KY). He made the comments during an appearance on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures, accusing the “Biden legal team” of coordinating with the Justice Department and Democrats to “intimidate our witnesses.”
“This is obstruction of justice,” he charged.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) similarly raged against the letter, tweeting that the “DOJ is now actively committing the crime of obstructing a congressional investigation.”
The comments sparked a round of breathless coverage across conservative media outlets, many of which alleged that the DOJ wanted to jail Archer “before” his testimony.
However, Archer was never expected to report to prison before the meeting with the House committee, as the court is highly unlikely to make a decision before Monday. Dave Aronberg, the Palm Beach County state attorney, told Newsweek that such letters were common among federal prosecutors.
“As for the timing, I wouldn’t buy the conspiracy theories, because there’s no chance that Archer would have to report to prison before his meeting with the congressional committee,” Aronberg added.
In a statement to Politico on Sunday, Archer’s own attorney stringently denied any link between the meeting and the timing of the Justice Department letter, and said that his client was still planning to testify before the committee.
“We are aware of speculation that the Department of Justice’s weekend request to have Mr. Archer report to prison is an attempt by the Biden administration to intimidate him in advance of his meeting with the House Oversight Committee,” lawyer Matthew Schwartz said.
“To be clear, Mr. Archer does not agree with that speculation,” he continued. “In any case, Mr. Archer will do what he has planned to do all along, which is to show up on Monday and to honestly answer the questions that are put to him by the Congressional investigators.”
The timing of the letter appears to more closely correspond with an appeals court’s decision last Tuesday to uphold Archer’s sentence. His attorneys previously argued that it was “premature” to set a sentencing date for him before the appeals process could fully play out, according to the Justice Department’s letter.
The Justice Department, for its part, echoed the sentiments and rejected the idea that it was asking Archer to “surrender before his Congressional testimony.”
In a Sunday letter to Judge Abrams obtained by The Daily Beast, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams wrote, “As the Court knows, to surrender and commence his sentence of imprisonment, the defendant first must be designated to a federal facility by the Bureau of Prisons—a process that can take several weeks or months after the Court sets a surrender date.”
“Nonetheless,” Williams continued, “for the avoidance of all doubt, the Government requests that any surrender date, should the Court order one, be scheduled to occur after the defendant’s Congressional testimony is completed.”
Despite the evidence offered by both Archer and the DOJ, Gaetz still appeared poised to use the case as an excuse to continue threatening to haul federal prosecutors before the House Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member.
“If Devin Archer isn’t in the witness chair Monday,” he thundered in a tweet, “we better haul every SOB at the DOJ before congress EVERY DAY to make them pay for this.”
The Florida Republican even suggested that he may move to end Congress’s summer recess early over the matter, adding, “Lmk - I’ll come back to Washington tomorrow to do this.”
Also quick to volunteer was Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL), who—while not on the Judiciary Committee—said, “Count me in @mattgaetz. Anything I can do to support.”