Republicans who for months have accused President Biden without proof of crime and corruption thought that a former business partner of his son’s could be the key to finally substantiating their most serious allegations.
“Hunter’s ex-business partner, Devon Archer, could blow the lid off Joe Biden’s phony claims of innocence,” blared an email on Friday from former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign.
Representative James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky, told Fox News that Mr. Archer could become a “hero” of the House G.O.P.’s investigation into what they call the “Biden crime family,” delivering the damning evidence they need to impeach Mr. Biden.
But the testimony this week of Mr. Archer, a former Yale lacrosse player who has been convicted of federal tax charges, fell well short of that, shooting down a bribery allegation Republicans have long promoted and generally rejecting the idea that the elder Mr. Biden had any material involvement in his son’s business dealings. It was the latest instance of House Republicans promising far more than they could produce in terms of proof of their allegations against the president.
“Are you aware of any wrongdoing by Vice President Biden?” Mr. Archer’s lawyer asked him at one point during the closed-door testimony before the House oversight committee, a transcript of which was released on Thursday.
“No, I’m not aware of any,” Mr. Archer replied.
Mr. Archer offered a wholly unflattering portrait of the actions of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter, providing an account that raised ethical questions about the way he conducted business. It also suggested questionable judgment on the part of President Biden, who, according to Mr. Archer’s testimony, repeatedly allowed himself to be in the presence — either physically or by phone — of business associates of his son’s who were apparently seeking connections and influence inside the United States government.
But the elder Mr. Biden never actually got involved, he told the panel.
In particular, Mr. Archer debunked an anonymous, unverified allegation that Republicans have trumpeted for months that Mr. Biden, while vice president, and Hunter Biden each accepted a $5 million bribe from an official with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Mr. Archer, who sat on the Burisma board along with Hunter Biden and handled his payments from the company, told lawmakers that he had never heard of any such transaction, and said the claims were most likely false boasting.
That testimony was consistent with evidence put forth recently from Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who served as the personal lawyer to Mr. Trump and who was assigned to dig up dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine.
House Democrats released an interview Mr. Parnas conducted with Mykola Zlochevsky during his investigation in which the Burisma co-founder wrote in all caps: “NO ONE FROM BURISMA EVER HAD ANY CONTACTS WITH VP BIDEN OR PEOPLE WORKING FOR HIM DURING HUNTER BIDEN’S ENGAGEMENT.”
Mr. Archer also undercut another Republican argument that the elder Mr. Biden had pressured Ukrainian officials in 2016 to fire Viktor Shokin, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine, because he was investigating the company.
On the contrary, Mr. Archer said, he heard from associates in D.C., that Burisma had Mr. Shokin “under control” and that his replacement could be more damaging to the company.
Although Mr. Archer’s testimony did not live up to Republican expectations, it also did not produce a clean political win for Democrats.
Mr. Archer testified that he could recall about 20 times when he and Hunter Biden were meeting with business associates, and Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone. The conversations, Mr. Archer said, were only about niceties — “How’s the weather? How’s the fishing?” — but he said the signal from Hunter Biden was clear.
“There was not business content in these conversations,” Mr. Archer told the conservative pundit Tucker Carlson in an interview after his testimony. “The idea of signals and influence — the prize is enough in speaking or hearing or knowing you have that proximity to power.”
At one point, Mr. Archer told Mr. Carlson, “In the rearview, it’s an abuse of soft power.”
Mr. Archer also said he believed it was false for defenders of President Biden to say that he had no knowledge of his son’s business activities. “He was aware of Hunter’s business,” said Mr. Archer, who played golf with both Bidens. “He met with Hunter’s business partners.”
Mr. Archer described the high-flying lifestyle he and Hunter Biden engaged in thanks to the wealth they had flowing in from overseas. He confirmed that he had received a wire from Kenes Rakishev, a Kazakh businessman, of $142,300 to pay for a pricey car for Hunter Biden.
“I believe it was a Fisker first and then a Porsche,” Mr. Archer testified.
Mr. Archer also said he believed Burisma as a company stayed in business through tough times through its associations with influential figures in Washington, and the “brand” that Hunter Biden brought to the board.
Asked what he meant, Mr. Archer said, “Because people would be intimidated to mess with them.”
He also said Hunter Biden attempted to get credit at Burisma when his father traveled to Ukraine as vice president.
“He was getting paid a lot of money, and I think, you know, he wanted to show value,” Mr. Archer said, adding: “It’s clear that he’s not bringing his dad, but he’s saying, you know, ‘I’m going to get credit for it.’”
Mr. Archer concluded that Hunter Biden was attempting to wield the appearance of influence beyond what he was actually delivering.
Asked by Representative Dan Goldman, Democrat of New York, whether it was “fair to say that Hunter Biden was selling the illusion of access to his father,” Mr. Archer responded, “Yes.”