The December Warrant Shows David Weiss Wasn’t Going to Charge Gun Crimes Until Trump Elicited Threats

Over a week ago, NBC’s Gary Grumbach emailed me to figure out how he could access the then still-sealed warrant dockets I liberated.

To the best of my knowledge, neither he nor anyone else at NBC reported that the dockets revealed that David Weiss first obtained a warrant to search Hunter Biden’s iCloud content and a laptop attributed to him for evidence relating to the gun charges on December 4, 81 days after indicting him. Indeed, besides me, only right wing outlets (Fox, NYPost, Washington Examiner) reported on the warrant.

The existence of the warrant was first disclosed as part of a legal fight (MTD; response; reply) over whether David Weiss charged Hunter Biden only because pressure from Donald Trump and Jim Jordan generated threats that led Weiss to fear for the safety of his family.

Q Do you have concerns for the safety of individuals working in your office?

A Sure. I have safety concerns for everybody who has worked on the case, and we want to make sure that folks — yeah, folks are encouraged to do what they need to do with respect to the pursuit of justice generally and they not be intimidated in any way from performing their responsibilities.

Q Do you have concerns that the threats and harassment employees have received are intended to intimidate them into not doing their jobs?

A I really can’t speak to the intention of any actor in this realm. I just know that these — that certain actions have been taken by individuals, doxing, and, you know, threats that have been made, and that gives rise to concern. We’ve got to be able to do our jobs. And, sure, people shouldn’t be intimidated, threatened, or in any way influenced by others who — again, I don’t know what their motives are, but we’re just trying to do a public service here, so —

Q Have you yourself been the subject of any threats or harassment?

A I’ve certainly received messages, calls, emails from folks who have not been completely enamored of my — with my role in this case.

Q Do you have concerns for your safety or that of your family because of these threats?

A You know, I’m not — for myself, I’m not particularly concerned. Certainly I am concerned, as any parent or spouse would be for — yeah, for family, yep.

The fact that, in five years of investigating Hunter Biden, in the over two years after Hunter Biden’s book came out, David Weiss never obtained a warrant to search the iCloud content that he already had in possession for evidence to support gun charges (and also never sent the gun to the FBI lab for testing) is pretty compelling evidence that he never intended to charge Hunter for gun crimes until Donald Trump elicited threats that led Weiss to fear for the safety of his family. In his response, Weiss claims it is a Hollywood plot that such threats might lead him to renege on his decision to deal with the gun crime as part of a diversion agreement, making light of the same threats that, he told Congress, led him to be “concerned, as any parent or spouse would be for — yeah, for family, yep.”

This is unbelievably scandalous — that in the middle of a presidential campaign, Donald Trump ginned up threats against a prosecutor and then, for the first time, after the statute of limitations expired, that prosecutor sought new evidence to prosecute Joe Biden’s son.

Yet Gary Grumbach doesn’t think that’s newsworthy.

Instead, Grumbach is focused on important things: like whether Joe Biden will visit his son on his birthday.

Trump Spent $50 Million Paying Lawyers But Taxpayers Are Providing Loaner Laptops

As multiple outlets reported this week, Trump spent over $50 million of the money raised from his supporters to pay for legal representation last year, both for himself and for those whose loyalty and silence he needs to ensure.

That includes upwards of $250,000 to a solicitor in London who filed a lawsuit against Christopher Steele that got dismissed this week.

Meanwhile, the response to Trump’s motion to compel in his stolen documents case reveals that, in October, Jack Smith provided two of the most important lawyers being paid by Trump funds, Carlos De Oliveira attorney, John Irving, and Walt Nauta attorney, Stan Woodward, loaner laptops.

Here’s how the response filing describes the loaners and the attorneys’ delay (and subsequent difficulties) accessing the surveillance footage in the proprietary media player Trump Organization uses.

In an email on October 24, 2023, months after the materials were made available to the defense, counsel for De Oliveira for the first time mentioned problems that he had encountered when attempting to access specific CCTV files that the Government had obtained from the Trump Organization and produced in discovery. The Government immediately arranged a call with counsel and technical personnel from the FBI to help resolve the reported issues. Exhibit E at 2- 3. During the call, counsel for De Oliveira explained that he did not own or have access to a laptop or desktop computer and was instead attempting to review the entirety of the Government’s discovery on a handheld tablet. Id. The Government then offered to lend him a laptop computer to facilitate his review. Id. Counsel for De Oliveira accepted the offer, and on November 1, 2023, the Government hand-delivered a computer to him. Since then, whenever De Oliveira’s counsel has raised technical issues with viewing specific Trump Organization CCTV files, the Government has promptly assisted with resolving these inquiries, providing tips and examples, and offering to set up calls as needed. See ECF No. 252 at 2 n.1.

Counsel for Nauta was copied on the October 24, 2023 email and reported “having the same issues” as counsel for De Oliveira. Exhibit E at 3. The Government extended the same laptop offer to Nauta’s counsel, who accepted the offer but noted that he planned to “return it promptly assuming I have the same issues.” Id. at 2. The Government also emailed defense counsel with additional suggestions to facilitate expedited review of CCTV footage, and counsel for Nauta responded within minutes, explaining that he planned to “run a test to extract data” to a separate drive, “and report back” about how it went. Id. at 1. The computer was delivered to Nauta’s counsel on November 1, and has not been returned. The Government heard nothing from Nauta’s counsel about CCTV for more than two months and thus reasonably believed that defense counsel had watched and was continuing to review the footage.

Then, on January 11, 2024, Nauta’s counsel confirmed that he was able to extract all of the files but had encountered difficulty attempting “to launch the [M]ilestone video application.” Exhibit F. Counsel’s reference to “Milestone” was to a proprietary media player and camera system vendor platform used by the Trump Organization to record, archive, and play video footage. In response, the Government worked with counsel to identify his misstep in attempting to launch the player and provided detailed instructions and screenshots about how to do so. Exhibit G. This most recent problem—the apparent basis for the statement in defendants’ brief that “[d]efense counsel for Mr. Nauta was not able to launch the proprietary video player at all” (ECF No. 262 at 61)—omits that for over two months he did not even attempt to launch the player the Government provided (on the laptop that the Government also provided), and did not do so until days before the motion to compel was due. In any event, once notified of the problem, the Government provided prompt assistance in diagnosing the simple and easily correctable user error that has now been resolved. [my emphasis]

The filing is worth reading for more than the revelation that John Irving doesn’t own a laptop.

It starts with a 15-page section describing the course of the investigation.

As Politico first reported, it describes how upwards of 45,000 people entered Mar-a-Lago during the period when Trump was hoarding the nation’s nuclear secrets without getting their names checked by Secret Service.

of the approximately 48,000 guests who visited Mar-a-Lago between January 2021 and May 2022, while classified documents were at the property, only 2,200 had their names checked and only 2,900 passed through magnetometers;

And it provides details of Trump’s lack of security clearance and his loss of Q Clearance after he got fired by voters.

The defendants next request evidence related to the “attempt to retroactively terminate President Trump’s security clearance and related disclosures.” ECF No. 262 at 38-42. This request includes any information concerning “President Trump’s security clearances, read-ins, and related training,” as well as, “where applicable, the failure to maintain formal documentation and training that is typically required.” ECF No. 262 at 40-41. The defendants specifically assert (ECF No. 262 at 41) that the Government must search the Scattered Castles database (a database of security clearances maintained by the Intelligence Community) and a similar database maintained by the Department of Defense (the Defense Information System for Security, which replaced the Joint Personnel Adjudication System). The Government has produced the results of a search in Scattered Castles, which yielded no past or present security clearances for Trump.

[snip]

First, the Government has already produced all non-privileged, responsive materials. The Government produced to the defendants through discovery a memorandum authored by an assistant general counsel in DOE, dated June 28, 2023. Exhibit 59. The memorandum stated that DOE had granted a Q clearance to Trump on February 9, 2017, “in connection with his current duties” as President, see id., pursuant to a statutory provision that permits DOE to grant clearances without a background check if doing so is in the national interest, see 42 U.S.C. § 2165(b).25 The memorandum further stated that when DOE officials learned that Trump remained listed in DOE databases (its Central Personnel Clearance Index and Clearance Action Tracking System) as possessing a Q clearance after his term ended, they determined that Trump’s clearance had terminated upon the end of his presidency and that the DOE databases should be updated to reflect that termination. Exhibit 59. In response to the defendants’ motion, the Government made a second request for documents to DOE on January 24, 2024, and included the categories of information in Trump’s request described above. The Government is now producing approximately 30 pages of responsive materials, while withholding eight emails under the deliberative-process privilege.

24 The document charged in Count 19 may be viewed by someone holding an active and valid Q clearance. Trump’s Q clearance ended when his term in office ended, even though the database was only belatedly updated to reflect that reality. But even if Trump’s Q clearance had remained active, that fact would not give him the right to take any documents containing information subject to the clearance to his home and store it in his basement or anywhere else at Mar-a-Lago. No Q clearance holder has authorization to remove documents from a proper place of storage and keep them for himself. And a Q clearance would not even permit access to, much less offsite possession of, the documents charged in Counts 1-18 and 20-32.

25 The authority to classify and control access to national defense information rests with the President, see Dep’t of Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518, 527 (1988), and accordingly, during their terms in office, Presidents are not required to obtain security clearances before accessing classified information, see 50 U.S.C. § 3163 (“Except as otherwise specifically provided, the provisions of this subchapter [dealing with access to classified information] shall not apply to the President and Vice President, Members of the Congress, Justices of the Supreme Court, and Federal judges appointed by the President.”). Those exceptions for the President and other high-ranking officials apply only during their terms of office. See, e.g., Executive Order 13526, § 4.4(a) (authorizing access to classified information by former officials, including former Presidents, only under limited and enumerated circumstances). [my emphasis]

These details should, but won’t, resolve all sorts of confusion about under what authority Presidents and Vice Presidents access classified information.

Mike Roman, Donald Trump’s Spy and Vote Fraud Fraudster

WaPo has an overdue profile of Mike Roman, the guy who threatens blow up the Fani Willis prosecution by exposing a romantic relationship between her and prosecutor Nate Wade.

It describes how the guy who recruited a bunch of the most prominent Republicans in swing states across the country to sign onto fraudulent certificates claiming Trump won had previously served as — basically — a spy, first for the Kochs and then for Trump.

As Mike Roman spoke to a gathering of fellow conservative activists in March 2022, he offered a glimpse of the intelligence-gathering skills he had honed over the previous decade working as an opposition researcher for Donald Trump and Republican megadonors.

“I show my wife this all the time when we go to a hotel,” Roman told the crowd in Harrisburg, Pa., according to an audio recording reviewed by The Washington Post. “She logs on to the Hilton WiFi, and I go on and I ‘tap, tap, tap,’ and I show her everybody else that’s on there and how we could get into their computer.”

But it fails to make a few key points clear. Consider what it means, for example, that this is the guy that the Koch brothers would use to pick Republican candidates to back.

Roman’s unit compiled a “Weekly Intelligence Briefing,” with information about political races and recommendations about where the network’s donors should contribute, according to a person who worked there with Roman and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the organization’s internal operations.

Or consider the real implications that Roman served in Trump’s White House in the guise of “vetting” candidates.

Roman was made a special assistant to the president and White House director of special projects and research, reporting to then-White House counsel Donald McGahn and earning $115,000 per year. Roman was a private investigator of sorts for McGahn’s office, responsible for vetting potentially controversial nominations, according to a former senior administration official.

“It would be like, ‘We’ve heard an appointee might have a shady business deal,’ or ‘Counsel is hearing something about a presidential nominee that could cause a huge problem for us. Can you figure it out?’” the former official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive White House work.

Trump in no way eschewed “appointees [with] a shady business deal.” His Secretaries of Treasury and Commerce had fairly astounding shady business deals, as did Trump’s son-in-law (though he was never going to be subject to vetting). The culmination of Don McGahn’s tenure as White House Counsel was installing Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, and the rape allegations against Kavanaugh obscured further problematic allegations still further.

If Mike Roman was in charge of vetting, he let a lot of epically corrupt people through his “vetting” process.

So yeah, as I noted the moment the Fani Willis scandal broke and this story confirms, it was no surprise that any vulnerabilities Fani Willis had were discovered by Mike Roman.

Going on the offense against the prosecutor was a trademark Roman tactic, according to the former senior official on Trump’s 2020 campaign. “This is a classic Mike Roman move,” the former official said. “When I saw the filing, I said, ‘That’s Mike.’ It’s a good one.”

But once you understand that Roman’s focus has traditionally been trained on Republicans at least as much as Democrats, a lot else begins to make sense.

Update: As someone noted to me on Twitter, Roman had actually gone to RNC by the time Kavanaugh was nominated.

Update: Here’s Fani Willis’ response to Roman’s allegations. She doesn’t deny a personal relationship but says it post-dates when she hired Nate Wade. I’m not going to wade [sic] through it, but will link credible analysis when I see it.

The Hunter Biden Laptop: Two CARTs before the Horse

According to the property receipt that has been posted publicly (but not, as far as I know, been made available as separate PDF), FBI Special Agent Josh Wilson signed the receipt for a hard drive and laptop obtained from John Paul Mac Isaac. The date is obscure, but consistent with receipt on December 9, 2019.

The admittedly inconsistently dark case file on that form, as right wing frothers never tire of pointing out, is a money laundering case file, 272D-BA-3065729.

According to the warrant return I liberated this week, on December 13, 2019, Josh Wilson received the hard drive and laptop again. He received the laptop not from an evidence locker, where it might normally go while an agent gets Office of Enforcement Operations approval and then gets a warrant from a magistrate judge, but from a Computer Analysis Response Team (CART) Computer Analyst named Mike Waski.

The warrant I liberated is not for money laundering. The only crimes listed on Attachment B are tax crimes: 26 USC 7201, 26 USC 7203, and 26 USC 7206(1).

According to the notes Gary Shapley took after it became clear that, after sharing the laptop with the FBI, John Paul Mac Isaac shared a copy with Rudy Giuliani, after Josh Wilson took possession of the hard drive and laptop (a second time), the hard drive, at least, went back to CART — this time, a CART Agent named Eric Overly.

In spite of the fact that Shapley made these notes in order to explain precisely what happened with the laptop, Shapley doesn’t mention where the laptop was between December 9, 2019, when Josh Wilson took possession from JPMI and December 13, 2019, when Josh Wilson took possession again.

Joseph Ziegler returned the warrant on January 30, 2020. But it wasn’t until March before the FBI got an image of the laptop (though this may have been after a filter team review). Josh Wilson got that personally, too.

Putting two carts before the horse is not normal, here. When the FBI accepts a laptop, even if it is being used in multiple investigations, they image it once and then — as ultimately happened here, probably multiple times — they obtain new warrants for the same device, first for the tax investigation, then for a FARA investigation, and finally, 81 days after indicting the President’s son for gun crimes, for a gun investigation.

But this laptop, Hunter Biden’s laptop, went from the blind computer repairman to Josh Wilson to CART to Josh Wilson and then back to CART.

I currently have theories why that happened. But no answers.

I’ve asked David Weiss’ spox for clarification about zscoreUSA’s observation: why the caption for the warrant obtained last month lists a different device serial number for the laptop:

Then the laptop for the actual laptop obtained from JPMI, which is what appears in the Attachments that were only released pursuant to Judge Maryellen Noreika’s orders after I made some follow-up calls.

The serial numbers are just off by two characters:

  • FVFVC2MMHV2G
  • FVFXC2MMHV29

David Weiss’ spox hasn’t acknowledged that inquiry. This could be a typo or, as was suggested, FBI Agent Boyd Pritchard may have used the serial number for a laptop into which (as Shapley described) FBI dropped the removable hard drive from the laptop obtained from JPMI. In that case, it would normally note that the laptop contained the hard drive liberated from a prior laptop.

Perhaps all this will get sorted if and when Abbe Lowell makes good on his promised suppression motion. But until then, I only have theories, not answers.

Chessboard(s): Hunter Biden’s Replies

I’m going to write two posts on Hunter Biden’s reply motions in his gun case. Here are all the relevant filings:

Motions to dismiss

Information collection motions

This post will address the point I made here: Abbe Lowell is managing eight different legal challenges for Hunter Biden that, with the exception of the Patrick Byrne defamation suit, all interrelate. He seems to be managing them to optimize timing and information collection.

This totally ugly illustration captures how I’ve begun to think of these (anyone remember Howard Johnson motels?).

The most immediate threat against Hunter Biden is the stuff in the middle: the threat of imprisonment in the (so far) twin prosecutions of him; I’ve included a column to allow for the possibility that David Weiss is still considering more. But that threat exists within — indeed, Lowell argues in his selective prosecution motion, was demanded — as part of the larger GOP impeachment and election effort. Lowell has responded to those threats with lawsuits — a countersuit against John Paul Mac Isaac, hacking lawsuits against Garrett Ziegler and Rudy Giuliani (all three are marked in blue), and a gross negligence lawsuit against the IRS (in green) — that will or may provide a second way of collecting information, outside the prosecutions.

For example, countersuing JPMI provided a way to get the data the blind computer repairman had shared with the FBI and the rest of the world, as well as to subpoena Apple (data obtained in discovery may parallel that subpoena). The judge in that case has stayed some nuisance subpoenas from JPMI targeting Hunter’s family, and dueling motions for summary judgement are all briefed for a hearing. If Lowell succeeds with his argument that JPMI violated Delaware law by snooping through a laptop the computer repairman claims was dropped off by Hunter Biden before sharing it with the FBI and the GOP, it would destabilize Weiss’ prosecutions (both of which, given the December warrant, build off it) and impeachment (in which the GOP has been relying on a hard drive they were withholding from Democrats). Not only did that countersuit make lawsuits against Rudy Giuliani and Garrett Ziegler possible, but if Lowell prevails, then those lawsuits will become a lot more precarious for the men who destroyed Hunter’s life if those suits survive a joint motion to dismiss hearing — largely based on venue and the applicability of Lowell’s hacking theory — in March.

That’s important background to the new motion to compel filed yesterday, which follows on two other efforts to gather information — a motion to subpoena Trump and others, and a motion for discovery. Among other things, that motion asks David Weiss to describe specifically where in the Apple data his team obtained the texts cited in his response to Hunter’s selective prosecution claim. As I alluded to yesterday, not only do the July 2020 warrants almost certainly build off the laptop in a way that Weiss seems to be trying to obscure, but the way in which and timing that devices were embedded within the laptop may pose some interesting legal problems for the government, particularly given that the warrants aspire to obtain attribution information that (thus far at least) Weiss’ team seems blissfully unconcerned with. While that same motion suggests it is seeking expert reports about the gun, if Weiss plans to rely on evidence obtained directly or indirectly from the laptop, he’s going to have to call the guy who, JPMI claims, was trying to boot it up before obtaining a warrant on December 9, 2019, as well as the “computer guy” who didn’t bother to check when files were added to the laptop for 10 months after receiving it, precisely the kind of attribution information that would be critical to actually admitting any of it as evidence.

Relatedly, Lowell has also promised a motion to suppress the laptop evidence.

The search warrant on December 4, 2023, which post-dates the firearm indictment by almost three months, is the first time in the course of this five-year investigation that DOJ obtained a warrant to search the alleged laptop (and iCloud account and backup data) for evidence of federal firearms violations. The prosecution then used that warrant to purportedly review and seize, for the first time, text messages, photos, and other evidence in support of its felony charges, several of which the prosecution cited in its pleadings on January 16, 2024. (See DE 68 at 8–9.) Moreover, that warrant contained testimony (in support of finding probable cause) about the firearm obtained from a witness in a grand jury empaneled in the Central District of California in November 2023 after this indictment had already been brought. Accordingly, the issue raised—as a result of the prosecution’s recent filings—is one to explore at the evidentiary hearing Mr. Biden requested (DE 64) and a motion to suppress which will be filed promptly.

Partly, this motion to suppress will be a complaint about Weiss’ post-indictment use of a California grand jury in this case (a complaint that, by itself, likely wouldn’t work). But there are other parts of even what I can see in the warrant that make it ripe for challenge. At the very least, defending a motion to suppress will force the government to commit to certain technical claims that, thus far at least, they appear to be dodging.

The motion to compel also asks Judge Noreika to get a commitment from Special Counsel that they have provided all Brady evidence. As it is, Weiss’ team is adhering to a far stingier discovery standard than Jack Smith is and Robert Mueller and the post-Mueller Mike Flynn challenge did. But there are things out there — the most notable of which is the Perfect Phone call between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the most important of which are the threats that David Weiss and his team received before he reneged on a plea deal — that Lowell likely can argue are solidly Brady which, from the sounds of things, Weiss has not provided. Lowell has, thus far, not called out Derek Hines for claiming it would take a Hollywood plot to explain how the political pressure ginned up by a guy who has elicited dangerous threats against every prosecutor and judge deemed to be adversarial to him might have led David Weiss to renege on a deal. Hines’ silence about those threats basically amounts to license, given by an AUSA, for stochastic terrorists to target all his AUSA colleagues. I’ve been puzzled that Lowell has never mentioned these threats — except in passing in the selective prosecution reply — but wonder whether Lowell is simply leaving it there for Weiss to fail to mention with the repercussions that will have on the case.

Litigating a motion to suppress and a motion to compel will also delay any trial in this case, assuming none of these motions to dismiss work. Those are not Lowell’s only bid for delay. In the reply challenging that the gun charges against him are unconstitutional, Lowell responded to Weiss’ optimism that SCOTUS will review other gun cases by bidding to stay the entire gun trial: “this Court should await that guidance from the Supreme Court before allowing this case to proceed to trial.” That’s probably not going to work, but Lowell’s Bruen-related challenge will ensure that Weiss can’t close up shop until the constitutional question is decided. More interestingly, given the tight schedule Judge Mark Scarsi has set in the Los Angeles case, with a trial scheduled for June, delays in Delaware (assuming the case is not dismissed) could have the effect of putting the tax case before the gun case.

As I’ll show in a post on the selective prosecution claim, such a claim may work better in the tax case than the gun one.

Potential delay may be one point of Lowell’s challenge to both the manner of David Weiss’ appointment as Special Counsel and his funding for it. In his reply, Lowell claims that Weiss has responded to the challenge by arguing that Weiss would have been able to prosecute Hunter as US Attorney for Delaware, so there’s no legal problem with doing so as Special Counsel.

In response to both the lack of authorization and lack of appropriation issues, the Special Counsel claims the Court should let him go ahead and prosecute this case in the wrong way because he believes he could find a right way to prosecute the case if he wanted to. Opp. at 20. With respect to his lack of authorization to bring the case as Special Counsel, Mr. Weiss claims that he could have brought the case in his capacity as U.S. Attorney even though he did not. Opp. at 22– 23 (conceding that he signed the indictment as “Special Counsel,” rather than bringing it in his capacity as U.S. Attorney). Perhaps Mr. Weiss could resign as U.S. Attorney and seek to be reappointed as Special Counsel, consistent with DOJ regulations, and then seek to indict Mr. Biden again. Perhaps he could find a way to prosecute this case with the costs and expenses of gathering new evidence that was not obtained in violation of the Appropriations Clause as well (see supra at 15). But such issues are premature as he has done none of those things. It is telling that Mr. Weiss’s last argument is that, if all else fails, he can put back on his U.S. Attorney hat, change the nameplate on his door, and start again

But that’s the point of the appropriations clause aspect of the challenge; Lowell argues that Weiss would have to go back and collect new evidence (testing the pouch the gun was found in for cocaine residue, getting new grand jury testimony, and getting a warrant to use laptop content for the gun crimes) without violating the appropriations clause. I don’t like this motion nor do I think it will work. But by making an appropriations clause challenge, Lowell may be able to enjoin certain things — like issuing a final report, replete as John Durham’s was with fabrications — until any appeals are exhausted.

Which brings me to the claim that the diversion agreement must be honored and the related discovery motion. Those are the arguments I’ve always thought stood the best chance (though the briefing on it has devolved into a squabble about language). In the body of the latter argument, Lowell notes that Weiss’ claims he was always considering charging Hunter doesn’t defeat Hunter’s claims, because he ultimately decided not to, before he changed his mind for no apparent reason.

The prosecution’s response to Mr. Biden’s motion to dismiss for selective and vindictive prosecution further confirms the need for discovery should the Court not dismiss the indictment outright. The prosecution claims that its reasons for charging this case were based on “overwhelming evidence” (DE 68 at 2, 24) it obtained in 2019 and 2021, and on the unexplained “deterrent effect” (DE 68 at 33, 40–41) that it claims this prosecution of Mr. Biden serves. And the prosecution suggests “it had been considering” charging Mr. Biden “long before plea negotiations began.” (DE 68 at 17, 40, 48.) But this explanation is entirely pretextual because— even with all these factors in play—the prosecution still determined that the appropriate resolution was a diversion on the gun charge and a probationary sentence on two tax misdemeanors. The prosecution even signed a Diversion Agreement and Plea Agreement to that effect, and openly advocated for the Court to adopt the Plea Agreement at the July 26, 2023 hearing. What the prosecution has not explained is why it deemed this agreed upon resolution of its issues with Mr. Biden appropriate on July 26, 2023, but chose to abandon that approach and charge Mr. Biden with multiple gun and tax felonies afterward. It is undisputed that extremist Republicans criticized the prosecution’s deal heavily, and since then, House Republicans have declared that pressure is what caused the prosecution to reverse course. The fact that the prosecution’s explanation for its charging decision does not explain why it chose to change its proposed resolution of the dispute does nothing to show those House Republicans are wrong to claim causing the prosecution to reverse course.

Then a completely predictable footnote notes that the efforts to collect new evidence after indicting raise more questions about Weiss’ claims than they answer.

1 The prosecution’s opposition briefs reveal some new evidentiary issues (e.g., seizing electronic evidence for the gun charges for the first time pursuant to a December 4, 2023 warrant; using a grand jury in California in connection with the tax case to elicit evidence for already-indicted gun charges in Delaware; seeking a search warrant in December 2023 to search for evidence in support of its charges three months after having charged; testing a leather pouch for cocaine residue in October 2023 that it had in its possession for five years; denying there was Probation’s approval for the diversion agreement) in addition to those raised in Mr. Biden’s motions to dismiss themselves (e.g., how a Delaware agreement for a diverted gun charge and two tax misdemeanors turned into multiple felonies in two jurisdictions following massive political pressure to do just that). Based on the prosecution’s admissions made only recently in its filings, Mr. Biden will expeditiously file a motion to suppress improperly gathered evidence.

This is what I pointed out: Admitting that you never sent the gun to the lab until weeks after indicting the case is a confession that you were never really going to prosecute it until Jim Jordan demanded you do so.

And the excuse offered in the filing — that an FBI agent first saw cocaine residue when taking a picture of the weapon — is debunked by the fact that Weiss received photos of the weapon in the case file he has had for years.

The prosecution produced a Delaware state police case file, which includes a summary of an interview Mr. Biden gave police in October 2018 and other information about the purchase, discard, and recovery of the firearm, as well as evidence photos from its case file. [my emphasis]

They didn’t need a new photo. They have photos! They needed evidence they didn’t bother to seek in the over five years since the gun was seized.

But all that comes against the background of three arguments about how and why the plea deal fell apart, something that Weiss has very assiduously avoided. In the diversion reply, Lowell argues that judicial estoppel prohibits Weiss from claiming the diversion agreement is not valid because Leo Wise stood before Judge Noreika and made assurances about the degree to which the diversion would protect Hunter’s rights. In the selective prosecution reply, Lowell reminds Judge Noreika that her concerns with the plea deal were not that it was not draconian enough, but rather, whether Hunter would be protected to the extent he understood he would be.

The Court did not accept the Plea Agreement that day, but the Court was clear: “I’m not saying I’m not going to reject the plea, I’m not saying I’m going to accept the Plea Agreement. I need more information.” (7/26/23 Tr. at 109.) The Court expressed no concern with whether the parties had struck a fair bargain, rather the concern the Court expressed to Mr. Biden was with “making sure that your plea gets you what you think it gets.” (Id. at 108.) The Court wanted assurances that the immunity provision in the Diversion Agreement that would have the Court decide whether Mr. Biden had breached his obligations under the Diversion and Plea Agreements before the prosecution could charge Mr. Biden with conduct that would otherwise be immunized was constitutional. (Id. at 105–06.) In other words, the Court’s concern was with making sure that Mr. Biden received the benefit of the bargain that he struck, not with changing that bargain to be more punitive against Mr. Biden.

At the end of that filing, Lowell describes how David Weiss sat in the back of Judge Noreika’s courtroom, watching Leo Wise advocate for measures (negotiated by Lesley Wolf before Wise was brought in) to protect Hunter.

On July 26, 2023, Mr. Weiss sat right behind his prosecution team when they urged this Court to accept those agreements.

As of today, the motion for a subpoena for Trump has been fully briefed for 50 days, but Judge Noreika has not addressed it.

Indeed, the only thing we’ve heard from Judge Noreika since she granted Lowell’s request for a delay to do all this briefing on October 19 was her order granting my request to unseal the Apple warrants in this case (And thanks to Judge Noreika and her courtroom deputy and the clerks who scrambled to make it possible for doing so). That is, it’s not clear yet what she makes of these competing arguments.

But it is absolutely the case that Leo Wise stood before her and made certain representations about the plea deal. And my impression at least accords with Lowell’s: that her concerns arose from protecting Hunter Biden’s rights, not granting Jim Jordan the head of the President’s son.

Judge Noreika could just rule that the diversion agreement is binding (which as noted in my ugly table, will have interesting repercussions for the LA case). She could order an evidentiary hearing, granting the long-briefed motion for subpoenas.

Based on reports, in the initial appearance in the LA case, Judge Scarsi implied he’d be cautious against granting discovery about deliberations (presumably including the recommendation Los Angeles US Attorney Martin Estrada’s top prosecutors made about problems with the case). But he sounded more amenable to discovery about other topics — possibly the threats that Derek Hines treats as a Hollywood plot, including threats targeting Estrada.

In three weeks, Abbe Lowell will file most of these same motions before Scarsi, and if any work — especially the selective prosecution one — it might make the Delaware one unsustaintable as well.

Again, I’m not saying these will work. Selective prosecution has been made all but impossible to argue, for example.

But I am saying that Lowell is increasing his chances for success.

Hunter Biden Reply Motions to Dismiss

As a few of you have noted, Hunter Biden has filed his replies on his motions to dismiss.

As I noted on Xitter, the Reply on Discovery confirms I was right when I pointed out that the Coke-in-Gun ploy actually undermined David Weiss’ argument.

They never bothered to send the gun out for testing until October 2023 — five years after local authorities decided not to charge this.

I’m finishing up my initial review and will comment at more length, but here are all these filings:

In addition, Abbe Lowell filed a motion to compel.

IRS First Received Hunter Biden’s iCloud Data on Same Day White House Released the Perfect Phone Call

The Delaware District Courthouse has unsealed much of what Judge Maryellen Noreika ordered unsealed last week. The major piece still outstanding are the Attachments for the most recent warrant describing the crimes they’re investigating and the things they’re permitted to seize, which is actually one of the most important things I was seeking to have unsealed.

The story the warrants generally tell is that investigators obtained Hunter Biden’s entire iCloud account on September 25, 2019, literally the same day it became clear Donald Trump had demanded an investigation into Hunter Biden. Then they got the laptop. The laptop led them to discover four device backups of interest. In summer 2020, they obtained warrants specific to those devices to access data already in hand.

And then, years later, 81 days after charging Hunter Biden for gun crimes, they obtained a warrant to search all that same digital evidence for evidence of gun crimes.

They really are claiming they didn’t think to search all the data they had for evidence of gun crimes until after they had the indictment in hand, 81 days after they indicted the President’s son. That is, at least for the moment, they are claiming that they never bothered to check for gun crime evidence in Hunter Biden’s texts until after they charged him.

And they made that admission in a filing arguing, “oh sure, we’ve been planning on charging these gun crimes for years.”

This late disclosure will undoubtedly raise a lot of questions about whether any of this data was presented to the grand jury (particularly given that Abbe Lowell would only have had notice of this warrant not long before we got it); if it was, it’d strongly suggest that investigators unlawfully searched Hunter’s data for gun crimes. Though thus far, that’s the most likely way any of this becomes illegal under the very generous precedents for criminal investigators.

Before I look more closely at what the individual warrants show, remember that these are not the only warrants. We know from this filter document Joseph Ziegler shared, for example, that investigators also searched this same data for FARA crimes — so there are almost certainly a parallel sent of warrants for those crimes. There are known warrants, such as for the Google account tied to Hunter’s Rosemont Seneca email, for other content that would have been less interesting for the gun crimes. There’s some epic funkiness with the treatment of the laptop.

But this is the story David Weiss has decided he can bring to a jury: that investigators obtained two parallel sets of Apple data, and very belatedly, literally after they indicted, decided to search it for alleged gun crimes that were committed before they obtained the first warrant.

August 29, 2019: Original iCloud warrant; warrant return

The first warrant unsealed obtained all the content for Hunter’s iCloud account. It permitted the search for evidence pertaining to the three tax crimes charged in Los Angeles: 26 USC 7201, 26 USC 7203, and 26 USC 7206(1) (though the probable cause statement could not have covered those charges for 2018, the primary tax year charged, as those alleged crimes had not been committed yet).

It asked for the entire content of the iCloud account, from January 2014 through the present; I originally questioned how they could show probable cause to obtain information from 2018 and 2019, as no tax crimes could have been committed yet in those years, but realize that so long as Hunter hadn’t paid his earlier tax years, the willful failure to pay continued.

The warrant did not mention Burisma by name, though Burisma might be covered under permission to search for evidence about business operations. The warrant did not mention the sex workers on which this entire investigation was predicated, but those would be covered under “personal expenditures.”

The warrant only asked for content related to one of the several email addresses Hunter used with Apple, RHBDC at iCloud, though probably got everything in response under Apple’s normal response to legal process. That could become pertinent later.

Here’s how Derek Hines described it in his response filing that first identified these warrants:

In August 2019, IRS and FBI investigators obtained a search warrant for tax violations for the defendant’s Apple iCloud account. 2 In response to that warrant, in September 2019, Apple produced backups of data from various of the defendant’s electronic devices that he had backed up to his iCloud account.

2 District of Delaware Case No. 19-234M

There are three things of interest in Hines’ description. He emphasizes that both the FBI and IRS were on this warrant, which might be an attempt to cover later plain view expansions of this investigation. He suggests, inaccurately, that the warrant focused on backups from Hunter’s phone, which is likely because he only wants to introduce texts at trial, not emails.

Most interestingly, Hines notes that the warrant was served in August but the data was returned in September.

The warrant shows that before investigators filed for a warrant in August 2019, they twice preserved Hunter’s data, on April 11, 2019 (which is the day Joseph Ziegler submitted his tax package to DOJ Tax for approval to open a grand jury investigation), and July 11, 2019.

The docket itself shows that Magistrate Judge Sherry Fallon issued a Magistrate’s order on September 12 (which remains sealed). That suggests that Apple may have challenged this warrant, delaying the return of the content until after that.

We may learn more about the content of this order in motions in the Los Angeles case (though once it was issued, investigators would be working under a Good Faith exception). As the July 2020 warrant reveals, Apple turned over the content on September 25, 2019 — the very day the White House would release the Perfect Phone Call revealing that Trump had been demanding an investigation into Hunter Biden personally.

On August 24, 2020, investigators sought a renewal of the original order sealing the docket. At least from what got unsealed, that’s the only actual renewal of sealing orders investigators ever got.

December 13, 2019: Original laptop warrant; warrant return

The second warrant obtained authorized the search of the laptop turned over from John Paul Mac Isaac. Here’s how Hines explained it:

Investigators also later came into possession of the defendant’s Apple MacBook Pro, which he had left at a computer store. A search warrant was also obtained for his laptop and the results of the search were largely duplicative of information investigators had already obtained from Apple. 4

4 District of Delaware Case No. 19-309M

It was actually served by the FBI agent who served the subpoena on JPMI on the CART guy.

Mike Waski may know details of how — according to JPMI — the laptop came to be accessed four days before this warrant. Or he could be “computer guy” who didn’t bother to validate the content of the laptop for over 10 months.

In their (absolutely atrocious) coverage of these warrants, NYPost claimed to have seen an earlier warrant.

A third search warrant was obtained Dec. 13, 2019, to examine the now-first son’s infamous Apple MacBook Pro laptop and a hard drive — the same one containing a copy of Biden’s laptop that computer store owner John Paul Mac Isaac made to give to Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer Robert Costello, an earlier warrant reviewed by The Post shows.

Given that the rest of Priscilla DeGregory’s story betrays not the remotest inkling of understanding of what she’s looking at, McGregory may be thinking of the December 9 subpoena to JPMI, but I suspect Abbe Lowell may learn if there’s an earlier one when he points out that according to JPMI, the FBI accessed the content of this laptop before the December 13 warrant, possibly in a way that is forensically unsound.

Attachment B in this warrant is similar to the one in the first warrant. It has this boilerplate paragraph, which would cover the government if they sent Bill Barr a copy on December 14.

But, largely because of the difference between cloud data and devices, it has different language pertaining to attribution.

The iCloud warrant describes it this way:

Hunter is undoubtedly the email account owner. But there is very good reason to believe that between January 1, 2014 and August 29, 2019, Hunter was not the only user. Indeed, this scope of time would cover the compromise that Lev Parnas says happened when Hunter was in Kazakhstan.

Among other things, this language should put the government on the hook for aberrations in Hunter’s iCloud access in advance of treating the laptop uncritically.

Now compare that with the attribution language used on the laptop warrant.

Most expansively, this device was only owned starting in October 2018 (when Hunter no longer owned it and whether he ever owned the hard drive remain very much contested), and I’ve got questions about whether others used it. And JPMI undoubtedly “used” both devices.

Bookmark that detail.

July 10, 2020 iCloud warrant; warrant return

The permission to search for passwords as evidence of “user attribution” could become mildly important given the third warrant which (as I’ve already noted), Derek Hines simply mentions as an afterthought.

a follow up search warrant, District of Delaware Case Number 20-165M.

In July 2020, investigators used this warrant to access content already in their possession tied to four specific devices. The warrant describes clearly that this is the content they received from Apple on September 25, 2019 (again, the same day the Perfect Phone Call transcript revealed that Trump was demanding investigations just like this one). And the warrant clearly shows that the data was stored at the FBI office in Wilmington.

I’ll return to the devices later. With these devices, as with all of Hunter’s iCloud content and devices from the period of his addiction, investigators would need to prove that content on the devices was put there while they were still in Hunter’s possession and that he was the one who backed up the phones.

But what Derek Hines is not telling Judge Maryellen Noreika is that the reason investigators came to have an interest in these four devices is because they accessed the content of those four devices from the laptop.

They got a warrant to access the same content from the Apple production. But they don’t claim to have obtained a warrant to access the same content on the laptop, and we know thanks to Gary Shapley that they only accessed one of these devices using a password they found on the laptop (again, that particular factoid is what sent me down this rabbit hole in the first place).

I’ll come back to the question of whether that’s a problem or not.

December 4, 2023: Post-indictment warrant; warrant return (less attachments) Attachments AB

Finally, there’s the December 4, 2023 warrant, the reason I asked to get these unsealed in the first place.

Law enforcement also later obtained a search warrant to search the defendant’s electronic evidence for evidence of federal firearms violations and to seize such data. 5

5 District of Delaware Case No. 23-507M.

When Derek Hines described this warrant, he tried to hide that by “later” he meant, “81 days after obtaining the indictment,” and — from the submission of the signed return dated yesterday, it appears that Special Agent Boyd Pritchard was still searching this content when the dockets were unsealed yesterday.

As noted above, the Delaware Clerk has not yet complied with Judge Noreika’s order with regards to this warrant. I’m going to see if I can’t get them to do so and if I succeed I’ll add some update. But for now, I can’t compare search protocols with those earlier warrants or see what crimes of which Pritchard said he was search for evidence. [Update: They have now provided the Attachments]

The Attachments basically just trace through the three earlier warrants (iCloud; laptop; backups — though they are not in order), then authorize searching the content for evidence of the gun crimes charged 81 days earlier.

Effectively, three days after a meet-and-confer phone call with Abbe Lowell following up on all the discovery requests David Weiss was blowing off, including these two bullets, they obtained a warrant to access his texts — they claim, for the very first time.

The user attribution could have some interesting repercussions, not least because it’s not clear these devices were “used” by Hunter when the content was added to them.

Of some interest, in the response, Hines didn’t mention the call from Joe Biden telling Hunter to get help reported by the Daily Mail. Since investigators seem to have so little appreciation for what happened with Hunter’s devices before and after the FBI obtained this warrant, they may not understand there’s evidence in the public record that won’t exist on the laptop, which therefore they would not have gotten a warrant to access.

In a different world, the serial discovery of what a mess Hunter’s digital mess was might have led law enforcement officers to start investigating whether there was a reason it was such a mess.

Not these guys. They just decided to take the assist criminals gave them to investigate Joe Biden’s son.

And with regards to the Apple content (it’s likely investigators got Hunter’s Rosemont Seneca account first, which shows even more evidence of deliberate compromise), they first received it on the same day the White House revealed that Trump had extorted Volodymy Zelenskyy for just such an investigation.

Updated with the AB Attachments from the most recent warrant.

Update: Corrected my reference to Matt/Mike.

Update: Corrected Pritchard’s first name now too. [Sigh!]

The Post-Indictment Hunter Biden Warrant Included the Laptop

The Delaware District Court has started unsealing the dockets Judge Maryellen Noreika ordered unsealed last week.

Remember how I said that getting a new warrant to parallel construct evidence already obtained wouldn’t cause a problem, but misleading a judge might?

Well, this is the kind of thing that might cause a problem.

Here’s how Derek Hines described the post-indictment warrant.

In August 2019, IRS and FBI investigators obtained a search warrant for tax violations for the defendant’s Apple iCloud account. 2 In response to that warrant, in September 2019, Apple produced backups of data from various of the defendant’s electronic devices that he had backed up to his iCloud account. 3 Investigators also later came into possession of the defendant’s Apple MacBook Pro, which he had left at a computer store. A search warrant was also obtained for his laptop and the results of the search were largely duplicative of information investigators had already obtained from Apple. 4 Law enforcement also later obtained a search warrant to search the defendant’s electronic evidence for evidence of federal firearms violations and to seize such data. 5

2 District of Delaware Case No. 19-234M and a follow up search warrant, District of Delaware Case Number 20-165M.

3 The electronic evidence referenced in this section was produced to the defendant in discovery in advance of the deadline to file motions.

4 District of Delaware Case No. 19-309M

5 District of Delaware Case No. 23-507M. [my emphasis]

That led me to believe that the warrant targeted only Hunter’s iCloud content.

It was broader than that. It also targeted the laptop itself.

Here are the RECAP links to the dockets that will, eventually, include the warrants.

August 29, 2019: Original iCloud warrant; warrant return

December 13, 2019: Original laptop warrant; warrant return

July 10, 2020 iCloud warrant; warrant return

December 4, 2023: Post-indictment warrant; warrant return (less attachments)

Update.

Oh. Here’s the search warrant return for the warrant obtained in December.

The FBI Agent didn’t sign the search warrant return until … oh! Today!

Parallel Poisons: Derek Hines’ (Mis)Representations about His Post-Indictment Investigation

As I noted in this post, I confirmed that a warrant that AUSA Derek Hines says he relied on to search Hunter Biden’s iCloud content for evidence of firearms violations was not obtained until December 4, 2023, 81 days after Hines obtained an indictment charging Hunter for those violations.

As I also explained, there’s no reason to doubt that that warrant is lawful. I imagine the affidavit for it simply quotes a bunch of Hunter Biden’s public comments about his addiction to establish probable cause. While it is dickish for a prosecutor to seek evidence that has been readily available for years between charging and trial, so long as he’s not relying on the grand jury that was exclusively focused on investigating that crime, it would be within the bounds of normal dickish prosecutorial behavior.

Where it starts to be a problem is in the way it undermines the argument at hand. In the same filing where he revealed that warrant, for example, Hines leant heavily on representations Chris Clark made, in a letter sent in October 2022, about a call he had in March 2022 (Hines only includes three pages of a 27-page letter; Politico describes the rest to be an extensive description of the political pressure to charge the gun charges), to claim that prosecutors were always going to charge Hunter for gun crimes, even before Jim Jordan demanded those charges.

During the course of discussions between counsel for the defendant and counsel for the government, in a letter dated October 31, 2022, from Mr. Biden’s prior counsel to government counsel, the defense wrote:

Since December 2020, nearly all of our meetings, phone calls, and correspondence with your Office have related to the Government’s investigation of Mr. Biden for possible tax offenses. It was not until a phone call in March 2022—over a year into our cooperative dialogue—that your Office disclosed a potential investigation of Mr. Biden for possible firearms offenses (the “Firearm Investigation”). (footnote)

Exhibit 1 (redacted and includes only relevant pages).

The footnote in the letter stated, “Your Office informed us that the implic ated Title 18 provisions are Sections 922(g)(3), 922(a)(6), and 924(a)(1)(A).” Id. (emphasis added). The defense later released their letter to selected media outlets, 7 but the defendant did not include it in his materials filed with the Court in support of his motion to enforce the diversion agreement. The letter the defense sent in October 2022 shows that the defense was aware that the government was considering all of the charges later returned in the indictment, see Section I.G., as of March 2022. This directly refutes that the charges returned by the grand jury were the product of various statements by out-of-office politicians in 2023, as the defendant claims. [emphasis original]

In October 2022, prosecutors could still and likely were relying on content available on the laptop (including, per Daily Mail, a voice mail from Joe Biden on October 15, 2018 telling Hunter to get help). But in November 2022, John Paul Mac Isaac published a book claiming, among other things, that the FBI was attempting to access the laptop on December 9, 2019, four days before the warrant David Weiss is relying on here, meaning any reliance on the laptop would pose significant problems at trial (even before you consider some forensic problems I’m still trying to nail down).

Here’s the passage from JPMI’s book — it becomes important below:

Agent Wilson eventually shook my hand, saying, “Let us know if anyone comes looking for it. Call us immediately.” “What should I tell them?” I asked, hoping the conversation would never arise.

“Tell them you keep abandoned equipment offsite, like a warehouse location,” Agent DeMeo answered, taking over. “Tell them it will take a day for you to check and they should call back the next day. Then immediately text me at my cell number. From now on, only communicate through my cell number. Not Agent Wilson, just me. We need to avoid communicating through, ah, normal channels. I’m sure you can understand. Text me and we will get the equipment back to you and deal with the situation.”

[snip]

I went home and called my father. I was relaying the facts when an incoming call notification showed up: Agent DeMeo.

“I’ll have to call you back. I have one of the agents calling in,” I told my father before switching calls.

“Hello, this is John Paul,” I said.

“Hi, my name is Matt,” said a voice I didn’t recognize. “I work with Agent DeMeo and Agent Wilson. Do you have a second? I have some questions about accessing the laptop.”

Confused, I responded, “Sure, what’s going on?”

“Did the laptop come with any cables or a charger? How can I connect the drive to a PC? When I plug it in, it wants to format the drive,” Matt said.

“PCs can’t natively read Mac-formatted disks. You will only be able to access the drive from another Mac.”

This is fairly common knowledge among most computer users, and I was surprised that any kind of tech person wouldn’t know it.

“Sadly, Hunter never left the charger or any other cables,” I went on. “I have a charger and everything you need back at the shop. You guys are welcome to it.”

I was feeling really uncomfortable. This Matt guy definitely didn’t seem to have the training or resources to be performing a forensic evaluation of the laptop. Hadn’t the whole reason for taking the laptop been to get it to a lab for proper evaluation and dissemination?

“Tell him we’re OK and we won’t need to go back to his shop,” Agent DeMeo said in the background. “We’ll call you back if we need to,” Matt said before hanging up.

[snip]

“Hi, it’s Matt again. So, we have a power supply and a USB-C cable, but when we boot up, I can’t get the mouse or keyboard to work.”

I couldn’t believe it—they were trying to boot the machine!

“The keyboard and trackpad were disconnected due to liquid damage. If you have a USB-C–to–USB-A adaptor, you should be able to use any USB keyboard or mouse,” I said. He related this to Agent DeMeo and quickly hung up.

Matt called yet again about an hour later.

“So this thing won’t stay on when it’s unplugged. Does the battery work?”

I explained that he needed to plug in the laptop and that once it turned on, the battery would start charging. I could sense his stress and his embarrassment at having to call repeatedly for help. [my emphasis]

So this warrant was likely just parallel construction, an effort to make evidence already in hand admissible at trial. That’s also considered perfectly legal, just another of the dickish prosecutorial tactics considered normal.

But Derek Hines can’t very well tell Judge Maryellen Noreika that the guy who gave the FBI the laptop would testify, if called as a witness, that the FBI was, “trying to boot the machine!” before obtaining a warrant for it. Or at least before obtaining this warrant, the December 13, 2019 warrant that Hines claims to be relying on.

So instead, Hines told her that they first obtained a warrant to search for content on December 4, 2023, 81 days after obtaining an indictment.

The process of parallel constructing that content, if that’s what happened, now helps Abbe Lowell make the case that prosecutors weren’t really considering charging the gun crimes until Jim Jordan demanded they do so, because Hines has implied to Judge Noreika that they didn’t obtain a warrant to search for evidence of that crime until … after they indicted.

Things get worse from there. According to an unrebutted claim Lowell made in his December 11 motion for discovery, ten days before Lowell filed that motion, Hines responded to Lowell’s inquiry about whether he should expect, “any additional productions in the near-term,” by stating he would, “let the discovery stand for itself.”

During a meet and confer phone call on December 1, 2023, Mr. Biden’s counsel even asked Messrs. Wise and Hines for a status update of the prosecution’s discovery, and specifically whether the government intended to make any additional productions in the near-term or respond to our various discovery request letters, to which Mr. Hines responded that the government would “let the discovery stand for itself.”

Hines told Lowell, ten days before Lowell’s motions were due, that the discovery spoke for itself.

And then, three days later, he went and got a new warrant for content he wants to use at trial against Hunter Biden.

Note that, in the passage that discloses these warrants, Hines doesn’t say that he provided Lowell the warrant before his motions deadline? He only claims to have given Lowell the content, “in advance of the deadline to file motions.”

In August 2019, IRS and FBI investigators obtained a search warrant for tax violations for the defendant’s Apple iCloud account. 2 In response to that warrant, in September 2019, Apple produced backups of data from various of the defendant’s electronic devices that he had backed up to his iCloud account. 3 Investigators also later came into possession of the defendant’s Apple MacBook Pro, which he had left at a computer store. A search warrant was also obtained for his laptop and the results of the search were largely duplicative of information investigators had already obtained from Apple. 4 Law enforcement also later obtained a search warrant to search the defendant’s electronic evidence for evidence of federal firearms violations and to seize such data. 5

2 District of Delaware Case No. 19-234M and a follow up search warrant, District of Delaware Case Number 20-165M.

3 The electronic evidence referenced in this section was produced to the defendant in discovery in advance of the deadline to file motions.

4 District of Delaware Case No. 19-309M

5 District of Delaware Case No. 23-507M. [my emphasis]

You need to cross-reference this passage with Hines’ response to Lowell’s discovery request to discover that Hines doesn’t claim to have given Lowell anything after obtaining the December iCloud warrant until January 9, almost a month after the motions deadline.

On October 8, 2023, the defendant made a request for discovery under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 16.

On October 12, 2023, the government provided to the defendant a production of materials consisting of over 350 pages of documents as well as additional electronic evidence from the defendant’s Apple iCloud account and a copy of data from the defendant’s laptop. This production included search warrants related to evidence the government may use in its case-in-chief in the gun case, statements of the defendant including his admissions that he was addicted to crack cocaine and possessed a firearm in 2018, and law enforcement reports related to the gun investigation.

On November 1, 2023, the government provided a production of materials to the defendant that was over 700,000 pages and largely consisted of documents obtained during an investigation into whether the defendant timely filed and paid his taxes and committed tax evasion. These documents included information of the defendant’s income and payments to drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs in 2018, the same year in which the defendant possessed the firearm while addicted to controlled substances.

On December 7, 2023, a grand jury in the Central District of California returned an indictment (hereafter the “tax indictment”) charging the defendant with the following tax offenses:

[snip]

In advance of his initial appearance on the tax indictment, the government made a production of materials to the defendant on January 9, 2024, which included over 500,000 pages of documents and consisted of additional information related to the tax investigation. [my emphasis]

That is, in his selective and vindictive response, Hines has suggested to Judge Noreika that Lowell had the opportunity to suppress content. But in his discovery response, Hines seems to suggest that he didn’t provide Lowell the warrant that he would need to suppress until after the motions deadline passed, in language that implies the January 9 discovery pertained exclusively to the tax case, and not the gun case.

Before I get into where Hines may really have created a problem for himself, let’s consider how it is possible that Hines could have provided Lowell with “the electronic evidence referenced in this section” before he had obtained a warrant to find it.

See the language I’ve turned red? On October 12, Hines gave Lowell,

  • Additional electronic evidence from the defendant’s Apple iCloud account
  • A copy of data from the defendant’s laptop

The texts he quotes in the filing may well be in both of those, the iCloud account and the laptop. They definitely were on the laptop; that’s where the Daily Mail got them.

It’s the iCloud content where things get interesting (but not yet to where Hines really created a problem for himself — not yet). When the FBI gets a warrant, they get everything, and then can search for the stuff that fits within their scope. So in either 2019 or — more likely — 2020, they got everything in Hunter’s iCloud from 2018. Often, prosecutors will give defendants both a complete and a scoped version of evidence, basically, “here’s everything Apple had on you, and here’s the stuff that complied with our warrant.”  So it could just be that Hines provided Lowell with Hunter’s iCloud and that’s the basis for saying that Lowell had everything before the motions deadline.

But Hines implies that the iCloud content he turned over on October 12 was scoped, pertinent to the gun crime.

If that’s right, it means Hines had a different warrant than the December 4, 2023 one authorizing the search of content for gun crimes. It’s possibly the one, 20-165M, he describes in a footnote but doesn’t explain in the text, the one that would have come after relying on the laptop for seven months without doing much due diligence on it. If so, we’ll learn that when the warrant actually gets unsealed on Monday; something to look forward to! Or, it’s possible there’s one from 2021 or 2022 that Hines doesn’t want to talk about, not to us and not to Judge Noreika.

It’s like that it’s not so much that prosecutors hadn’t already gotten the evidence to charge Hunter with gun crimes, it’s that they had to get a new warrant to make it admissible at trial without giving Lowell cause to subpoena JPMI to describe how the FBI told him they were booting up Hunter Biden’s laptop on December 9, 2019, before they got a warrant.

Or at least before they got this warrant.

If Judge Noreika were to ask about the confusion, Hines might just explain that they got a warrant relying on the laptop obtained in good faith, but have since gotten a new warrant to ensure it’s all kosher. Mind you, along the way, he might have to explain that something Abbe Lowell said on that phone call on December 1 — possibly following up on the discovery request he made on October 8 for any record of communications with John Paul Mac Isaac — led him to run out and get a new warrant that didn’t rely on the laptop.

Any documents and/or information reflecting communications (whether oral or in writing) between anyone in your Office or any member of the investigative team or their supervisors (including FBI and IRS agents) with John Paul Mac Isaac or any member of his family.

Who knows: Maybe Hines discovered, for the first time, that there were three calls made from Agent DeMeo’s phone to JPMI on December 9, 2019, a phone used, according to JPMI’s description of what DeMeo told him because, “We need to avoid communicating through, ah, normal channels.” Maybe Hines discovered corroboration for JPMI’s claim that the FBI was booting up Hunter Biden’s laptop four days before obtaining a warrant. Or at least before obtaining the warrant dated December 13, 2019.

Believe it or not, if they had a warrant — say, one obtained by Bill Barr’s office in advance of the time his Chief of Staff sent him a text on December 14 saying, “Laptop on way to you” — all this still might fly. There is a great deal of dickishness that prosecutors routinely get away with.

Where prosecutors get in trouble is not collecting evidence after indicting and not in parallel constructing evidence and not in relying on dodgy warrants so long as they were obtained in good faith — prosecutors get away with that kind of dickishness all the time!

Where prosecutors get in trouble is in misleading judges. And I have to believe that Judge Noreika might not look too kindly on Hines’ claim, in his discovery filing, that suggested he turned over the warrants “related to evidence the government may use in its case-in-chief in the gun case” on October 12, as if he turned over all the warrants relating to the gun case.

This production included search warrants related to evidence the government may use in its case-in-chief in the gun case,

He obviously couldn’t have turned over all the warrants relating to the gun case on October 12, because he hadn’t obtained the one he claims he is relying on, not for another 53 days yet!

Derek Hines might get away with obtaining evidence after the indictment and parallel construction and good faith reliance on a warrant that relied on the laptop. That’s all normal prosecutorial dickishness. But if Judge Noreika feels like he implied he turned over all the warrants in one filing even while, in another, he was hiding the fact that he didn’t turn over the warrant he is actually relying on until well after the motions deadline, then Hines might get into hot water.

You can get away with a great deal of prosecutorial dickishness, but you can’t mislead a judge.

Mind you, it may not matter. Whatever is going on, by obtaining a warrant 81 days after indicting Hunter Biden, Hines has created the appearance that he didn’t obtain his best evidence until after rushing an indictment that Jim Jordan demanded, making it more likely that this would be that almost unheard of example where a judge rules there’s reason to question the prosecutors’ decisions.

At the very least, Judge Noreika might just grant Abbe Lowell discovery to try to figure out why Derek Hines got a warrant 81 days after the indictment.

Update: Corrected Judge Noreika’s first name.

In Peter Navarro Sentencing, No Mention of Competing Claims about Official Acts

As you’ve no doubt heard Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Peter Navarro to four months in prison plus a $9,500 fine. Here’s Kyle Cheney’s account.

The punishment matched the sentence imposed — but stayed pending appeal — by Trump appointee Carl Nichols, but with a bigger fine.

At first, Navarro attorney Stan Woodward told Judge Mehta that Navarro would say nothing.

But then he did. He claimed, as a Harvard-educated gentleman, he was helpless to figure out what to do in response to a subpoena.

Navarro made a last-ditch appeal for leniency to Mehta, addressing the court even after his lawyers had initially said he wouldn’t. He said he grew confused about the thicket of precedents and rules around executive privilege and believed he didn’t have to comply with Congress’ subpoena.

“I’m a Harvard-educated gentleman, but the learning curve when they come at you with the biggest law firm in the world is very, very steep,” Navarro said.

Judge Mehta, a mere Georgetown/UVA grad, was having none of it. He noted that by the time Navarro defied the January 6 Committee, Steve Bannon had already been charged.

I’m just as interested in what wasn’t said at the sentencing. In spite of unsealing part of the communications pertaining to the Presidential Records Act lawsuit still pending against Navarro, which I wrote about here, I saw no mention of it in today’s hearing.

If I’m right that Navarro continues to withhold communications about the coup based on a claim they’re not protected by the Presidential Records Act, nothing would prevent Jack Smith from handing Navarro a subpoena. Indeed, Navarro’s testimony today would validate that Navarro now knows exactly how to respond to a subpoena — and that he doesn’t believe these are official records.

The big drama going forward is whether Judge Mehta lets Navarro stay out of jail pending appeal, as Judge Nichols did with Bannon.

But if Navarro were to defy another subpoena, it might be a way to get him jailed more quickly.

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