Abbe Lowell Calls James Comer’s Bluff

When I read Abbe Lowell’s taunting letter to James Comer (to which Politico’s Jordain Carney posted a link), agreeing to have Hunter Biden testify before the Oversight Committee on December 13 or any other time in December, so long as it is public, I couldn’t decide whether it is:

  • A good faith effort to correct the record, including regarding multiple false claims Comer has made
  • An epic bluff-call by a former impeachment lawyer
  • An effort to let Jamey Comer fuck up David Weiss’ prosecution some more
  • A bid to show an effort to cooperate with a subpoena, thereby undercutting any possible contempt referral
  • An insanely bad idea

To be sure, the tactic — offering to testify, so long as it is public — is not new. For example, in a last minute bid to stave off his trial, Steve Bannon belatedly offered to testify, asking to appear publicly. In response, investigators have usually simply insisted on a deposition.

But this comes with a whole bunch of dick-wagging about how pathetic Comer’s investigation is — how pathetic Republicans say it is.

It is no wonder so many news articles report your own Republican colleagues criticizing your proceedings and commenting that your time would be better spent on critical issues facing the country.4

4 Annie Grayer & Melanie Zanona, Biden Impeachment Inquiry End Game Comes Into Focus, but Moderate Republicans Still Not Sold, CNN (Nov. 6, 2023), https://www.cnn.com/2023/11/06/politics/impeachment-inquiryhouse-republicans/index.html (Rep. Don Bacon stated: “I think it’s better to let the election solve this . . . I know a lot of people say they want revenge. I don’t think it’s right for the country”; Rep. Doug LaMalfa stated: “It probably isn’t quite in the nice package with the bowtie on top of it yet”; Rep. Steve Womack echoed a similar sentiment: “I’ve got so many other things to worry about. That ain’t one of them”; Rep. Mike Rogers stated about the inquiry, “I don’t think anything about it.”); Aaron Blake, 7 Skeptical Republicans to Watch on Impeaching Biden, WASH. POST (Sept. 13, 2023), https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/09/13/7-republicans-watch-impeaching-biden/ (Rep. Ken Buck stated: “The time for impeachment is the time when there’s evidence linking President Biden—if there’s evidence linking President Biden—to a high crime or misdemeanor. That doesn’t exist right now”; Rep. Mike Lawler stated: “For me, with respect to impeachment, we’re not there yet. . . . It is not about focusing on the impeachment; it is a question of, do the facts and evidence warrant any further action.”); Alexander Bolton, House Conservatives Face Deeply Skeptical Senate GOP on Biden Impeachment, THE HILL (Sept. 13, 2023), https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/4203181-house-investigators-skeptical-senate-republicans-impeachmentinquiry/ (according to one Republican senator who requested anonymity to comment frankly on the Oversight inquiry, “I don’t see what the evidence is, what the charge is . . . I hate to see an impeachment every other year.”). [emphasis original]

Lowell has found quotes from six Republican Congressmen, enough to sink any impeachment vote (something the White House has demanded before making any personnel available to subpoena).

He did so in a letter also substantiating two past attempts at cooperation.

In spite of our misgivings about your motives and purpose, we have offered, on more than one occasion, to meet or speak with your Committee to discuss whether there was something we could do to understand the basis of your inquiry, provide relevant information, or expedite its conclusion.3 You never responded, but now, in what appears to be a Hail Mary pass with your team behind in the score and time running out, you have subpoenaed or demanded interviews of Hunter Biden; his uncle James; James’s wife, Sara; Hunter’s brother’s widow, Hallie; Hallie’s sister, Elizabeth Secundy; Hunter’s spouse, Melissa Cohen; his lawyer Kevin Morris; the art gallerist who endeavors to help Hunter earn a living; an acquaintance who purchased a painting of Hunter’s; three of Hunter’s former business partners; two Biden-campaign donors; an inmate convicted for his involvement in a tribal bond scheme that never involved Hunter; and last, but certainly not least, a disgruntled and incredible “whistleblower” (Tony Bobulinski), from whom Hunter disassociated almost as fast as he met him. Your fishing expedition has become Captain Ahab chasing the great white whale. [emphasis original]

3 See Feb. 9, 202,3 Letter From Abbe Lowell to Chairman James Comer (transmitted via e-mail); Sept. 13, 2023, Letter From Abbe Lowell to Chairman James Comer (transmitted via e-mail).

The letter also lays out an argument that Comer’s purported legislative interest is debunked by his exclusive focus on Bidens, not Trump’s.

You state that one of your purposes is to review how a President’s family’s business activities raise ethics and disclosure concerns to inform the basis for a legislative solution. But all your focus has been on this President’s family while turning a blind eye toward former President Trump and his family’s businesses, some of which the family maintained while serving in office—an area ripe to inform your purported legislative pursuits. Unlike members of the Trump family, Hunter is a private person who has never worked in any family business nor ever served in the White House or in any public office. Notwithstanding this stark difference, you have manipulated Hunter’s legitimate business dealings and his times of terrible addiction into a politically motivated basis for hearings to accuse his father of some wrongdoing.

And while he doesn’t cite his several efforts to correct fabrications Comer has made, he repeats an allegation substantiated in repeated letters to others — Jason Smith and Mike Johnson — in Congress.

We have seen you use closed door sessions to manipulate, even distort the facts and misinform the public. We therefore propose opening the door. If, as you claim, your efforts are important and involve issues that Americans should know about, then let the light shine on these proceedings. Indeed, even you stated that “Hunter Biden is more than welcome to come in front of the committee. If he wants to clear his good name—if he wants to come and say, you know, these weren’t shell companies, they actually did something—he’s invited today. We will drop everything.”5

5 @Newsmax at 3:05, X (Sept. 13, 2023) (emphasis added), available at https://twitter.com/newsmax/status/1701928094003511311?s=46&t=a0UGYR3ho6S39dDafp8SGg. [emphasis original]

Which is to say that if Comer refused this offer but insisted on compelled testimony anyway, Lowell would have plenty of ammunition to argue that he had attempted to cooperate, only to be rebuffed. Lowell has covered his bases against a lawsuit or even a contempt referral.

And that’s before you consider that Comer can’t legally enforce that subpoena without either legislative purpose (debunked by his exclusive focus on the Bidens) or — per a Trump OLC memo — a full congressional vote.

My question is what happens if Comer, cornered by Lowell’s taunts, takes him up on the offer.

There is zero chance, for example, that such a hearing would occur without Marjorie Taylor Greene accusing Hunter of sex trafficking, as she has twice already. There’s a good chance that Hunter, perhaps after four hours or so, would slip up and say something useful for David Weiss (but not before further substantiating Lowell’s argument that Republicans have made his prosecution an electoral ploy, which may be why Lowell specified that this had to happen in December).

But there’s also a great chance that such a hearing would again highlight that Comer refuses to call Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas to understand the root of their concerns. It would provide Hunter the opportunity to call out what he claims to be false claims by people like Tony Bobulinski. It might even provide Hunter a public opportunity to disclose what his team has learned about the treatment of the laptop — on a copy of which this entire stunt relies.

Abbe Lowell has raised the stakes for Comer’s own political future on his decision. It’s unclear how that will serve Hunter and his father.

Update: Comer insists Hunter testify at a deposition.

Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules instead of following the rules required of everyone else. That won’t stand with House Republicans.

Our lawfully issued subpoena to Hunter Biden requires him to appear for a deposition on December 13.

We expect full cooperation with our subpoena for a deposition but also agree that Hunter Biden should have opportunity to testify in a public setting at a future date.

Update: Jamie Raskin mocks Comer.

Let me get this straight. After wailing and moaning for ten months about Hunter Biden and alluding to some vast unproven family conspiracy, after sending Hunter Biden a subpoena to appear and testify, Chairman Comer and the Oversight Republicans now reject his offer to appear before the full Committee and the eyes of the world and to answer any questions that they pose? What an epic humiliation for our colleagues and what a frank confession that they are simply not interested in the facts and have no confidence in their own case or the ability of their own Members to pursue it. After the miserable failure of their impeachment hearing in September, Chairman Comer has now apparently decided to avoid all Committee hearings where the public can actually see for itself the logical, rhetorical and factual contortions they have tied themselves up in. The evidence has shown time and again President Biden has committed no wrongdoing, much less an impeachable offense. Chairman Comer’s insistence that Hunter Biden’s interview should happen behind closed doors proves it once again. What the Republicans fear most is sunlight and the truth.

Meanwhile, Miranda Devine at first questioned what Comer is afraid of before deciding that Hunter’s “expensive lawyers” don’t get to dictate terms.

And Lauren Boebert didn’t get the memo.

Jordan:

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83 replies
  1. Rugger_9 says:

    I guess the next question is whether Lowell can force Comer into a public hearing. It would appear to me that Comer’s insistence upon a deposition (which can be ‘edited’) is a tell that Comer wants to control the narrative released to the public and the RWNM.

    I would agree that the gambit by Lowell tends to blunt the odds for success in a contempt prosecution, but is there any case law to support that?

    • emptywheel says:

      Given that Hunter Biden seems to have auspiciously lucked into a seemingly unlimited supply of Abbe Lowell, I assume that before it could get to a contempt proceeding, Comer would have a lawsuit on his hands.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        I really can’t see HB testifying in a deposition, because Lowell wants this fight in public. As noted by Legonaut below, it is a situation where the GOP also has skeletons in their closet which will be highlighted by Lowell in any litigation / contempt prosecution that results.

        I don’t see how Comer can exit this trap gracefully.

        • emptywheel says:

          I’m sure Abbe Lowell would be perfectly happy to simply lay out proof that Congress fabricated claims before a judge, rather than having Hunter testify at all.

            • JIC X says:

              I don’t see how Lowell can back off now. He must have known, damn near to a certainty, that Comer wouldn’t bite.

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      • Tech Support says:

        Is this implying that Hunter is getting outside financial support for Lowell’s services, or does this imply that Lowell is having too much fun wading into this fight to be worried about meticulous billing?

        • emptywheel says:

          Kevin Morris was paying for Lowell at the beginning of this process. I have no idea what the financial arrangement is now — and as bmaz notes, who cares? If Lowell wants to do this for free, he seems to be having fun with it.

          • Brad_13JUL2021_1249h says:

            Has to atone for all the lolly from Javanka?

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          • Tech Support says:

            Eh, I’m just a poor between-the-lines reader and was checking to see if there was some implication I was supposed to be inferring.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          If Hunter Biden is getting it, why should he not have help paying very large legal fees, when those prosecuting him in and out of court are doing so largely to get at a third party, his dad?

          It might be well for him to be transparent about who’s paying the bill, so as not to create the impression people are helping him to incur favor with his dad. Republicans will make that up anyway, but others might not believe it without a few facts.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    James Comer continues to lamely attempt to control the narrative, a ship over which he lost control some time ago.

  3. Purple Martin says:

    …I couldn’t decide whether it is:

    • A good faith effort to correct the record…
    • An epic bluff-call …
    • An effort to let Jamey Comer fuck up…
    • A bid to show an effort to cooperate …
    • An insanely bad idea

    All of the above? These do not seem mutually exclusive.

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      Ha!

      ‘All of the above’ was my first thought when I saw that menu, too.

      “And could I have a glass of schadenfreude with that, waiter, and perhaps something appropriately cold for Mr. Comer?”

      • bmaz says:

        Lol, I’m not sure about Item 1. Maybe, but mostly I think Abbe is just toying with them. I’ve never cared much about the big GET HUNTER LAPTOP thing. Comer and Johnson are total clowns, but Lowell’s defense is like catnip at this point.

    • IainUlysses says:

      I’m going with 2, 3, and 4 for sure with 5 being a possibility if Hunter hasn’t already decided that push comes to shove he’ll plead the fifth. He might not have the discipline to not be baited though.

  4. Sussex Trafalgar says:

    I doubt Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, would subject HB to public testimony under oath unless Lowell believed HB was competent to successfully testify in public under oath.

    And I doubt James Comer would allow HB to testify publicly and under oath without first requiring HB to submit to a closed door deposition.

    HB will probably agree to a closed door deposition, whereby in such a deposition Comer’s attorneys and colleagues will ask questions and make statements on the record/depo videotape so that those said depo statements and videotape can be played during any HB public testimony and in the news cycles between the day after the deposition and the day after the 2024 election.

    And Comer will try to use the depo to pollute and defeat HB’s public testimony.

    The moves by both sides will be predictable and will be geared towards 2024 campaign ads and the November 2024 election.

    Personally, I’d rather see Mike Pence forced to testify under oath whereby, I believe, it will be revealed that he agreed with Trump to not certify the 2020 election, but then Pence got cold feet and reneged on his agreement with Trump. That’s likely why Trump was so PO’d at Pence.

    That is a more interesting story that the HB vs. Comer debacle.

    • bmaz says:

      Hunter Biden is a graduate of Yale Law and a licensed attorney (as far as I can tell). He is “competent” to testify. Not sure who would ever put him in the chair to do so though. Maybe one of Trump’s idiot lawyers? I’d never let Hunter testify to Comer or anybody else, even in “closed deposition”. That would be nuts.

      • Upisdown says:

        Why? What is his exposure in testifying to Congress? They’ve already accused him and his father of taking bribes and laundering cash.

        I have a hard time imagining how his testimony could damage his image more than he did to himself by publishing “Beautiful Things”, or by allowing the right to create their Hunterstein-Bidenzilla.

        I’m interested in what you think he risks by facing Comer’s committee?

        • Lisa B says:

          The risk is that he has an open criminal case pending and any statements he makes to Congress can be used against him in the open case. Of course this risk is far greater when you have Democrat’s with actual brain cells doing the questioning, not these pandering GOP morons

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          • Upisdown says:

            True, but Comer’s gang have their sights set on Joe, and not so much on Hunter’s gun and tax problems. After insisting that their investigation is strictly about oversight of the president, they can’t afford to focus on stuff that doesn’t involve Joe Biden.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Republican dirty tricksters will profit just by being able to say Joe’s son is under indictment. Like many of Trump’s allegations, they think they only have to make an allegation in order to reap the political benefit. Proving them in court is not a necessary part of the equation.

      • Sussex Trafalgar says:

        I don’t think Abbe Lowell would have agreed to let HB testify if HB and Lowell didn’t have the facts and truth on their side, and if HB has already proven to Lowell that he can articulate the facts of the case whilst, at the same time, keeping his composure and not quaking in his boots.

        Lowell won’t allow HB to answer any questions related to the ongoing investigation by the SC.

        Consequently, HB might not have a long and difficult depo as long as he doesn’t get nervous and, instead, remains calm.

        • Upisdown says:

          For questions surrounding his drug use and hookers, he should stand behind what’s in his memoir and stress that was written to the best of his foggy memories from that time period.

          Specifics about his laptop repair would be “I don’t really recall”.

          Questions pertaining to emails written by others (“big guy”, Burisma exec meeting Joe Biden) can be dismissed by: “I didn’t write that.”

          He should be forthcoming regarding his qualifications to serve on Burisma’s board and his previous lobbying experience. But he should also stress that he understood his limits under FARA and he disclosed to clients what he could not provide them directly, and that he would assist them farming those duties out to third parties such as Blue Star.

          He can pretty much stipulate to Devon Archer’s entire testimony.

          Mainly, he can, and should, crush Comer’s garbage about shell companies and bribes.

          Everything about this is political. The Biden mistake has been not participating for so long. It’s time to get in the game.

  5. jecojeco says:

    Comer blinked. He believes in transparency but filtered transparency. Amazing, Hunter’s investigation had been ongoing for nearly 5 years and then the reset button gets hit. Comer seems hellbent on bolloxing Weiss’ investigation. But the point is to keep the issue alive not to determine guilt or innocence.

    Hope everyone had an emjoyable holiday!

    • ColdFusion says:

      Yeah that’s… the opposite of transparency. What you are describing isn’t transparent but maybe translucent, where some things get through but it’s all blurry and there’s no clear details and you have no idea other than maybe the general shape of what’s on the other side. That’s the kind of thing liars like Comer likes: Selective leaks to help his narrative and keeps fact blurry.

  6. Harry Eagar says:

    I am not smart enough to be Abbe Lowell, but if I had his job, in addition to whatever else he’s plotting, I’d see to it that somebody got to Comer with the ‘Winter Soldier’ story.

    I’d pay money to see HBiden sit down in a public hall with somebody (Adam Schiff?) feeding him the questions the Republicans ask in a closed session.

          • Harry Eagar says:

            I know, but I have lots of doubt whether both, or either, of the existing charges will get to a jury. And I cannot believe any prosecutor will want to enter new charges.

            The Hawaiians have a word — manini — that has no exact equivalent in English. It means small but also inconsequential, less than trivial, not worth bothering about. I would not want to be a prosecutor presenting such stale and manini charges to a jury.

            Of course, if the continuing investigations turn up a new crime . . . then I’m wrong.

            • Rayne says:

              Don’t pull that shit with an indigenous language you don’t speak. You can stick to English.

              Definition of “manini” via Ulukau Hawaiian Dictionary

              ADDER: Let me make this clear to you, ʻōkole, that my father’s family is Hawaiian — and not merely kamaʻāina but kānaka maoli. Your use of the term above is appropriative and doesn’t capture the accurate meaning about smallness with regard to stinginess.

              You are on thin ice here. Or should I say you’re skimming the edge of the ʻaʻā.

              • velcroman says:

                Then there’s this pidgin English definition.
                (Not sure how to URL, so I will leave the http off and space it out)
                e-hawaii.com / pidgin / manini/

                “Definition: small-time; minute; minuscule; stingy;”

                Two comments:
                -I respect bmaz, and have no problem with curmudgeonly. And I do not agree with everything Harry says. But when a comment consists entirely of “you are full of shit”, it is entirely ad hominem, and a distraction from the discussion.
                -Rayne – do you use any Latin terms? :)

                • Rayne says:

                  Yeah, I use Latin from which the romance languages are derived along with a fair amount of contemporary American English — as much as 60% when discussing science. Do tell me how Latin is an indigenous language, mansplainer, when it’s the language of occupation and colonialism.

                  If you think any website without an About page without any documentation about its definitions is the correct source to cite about an indigenous language you do not use and of which culture you are not a member, you need to check yourself. In fact the site you used says this at the bottom:
                  “Any unauthorized reproduction of the content of this site is strictly prohibited.”

                  If you think I’m going to tolerate this racist crap — someone not Hawaiian telling a person of Hawaiian heritage how to use their own language using a site promulgating pidgin colloquialisms — you’ve got another thing coming to you.

                  You can butt out for starters; you are not going to police language here.

                  • velcroman says:

                    My bad, Rayne, I did not know you were Hawaiian.
                    I was not policing language, I was providing more information.

                    • velcroman says:

                      I posted before your ADDER, or at least before reading it.
                      I understand your point, but what purpose is served by being insulting?

                    • Rayne says:

                      Stop. Just stop. Tender white male fee-fees are of no concern to me on this issue because you and Harry clearly have ZERO understanding of indigenous people’s concerns. Holy Goddess Pele, you think you were helping. I can’t.

                    • velcroman says:

                      I’m sorry you were offended by my comments.
                      I am sincerely interested in learning your viewpoints about the concerns of indigenous people.
                      If you would like to help me understand, you have my email.
                      If instead of increasing understanding, you choose to leave your insults as the last word, then that does not make anything better.

  7. Twinkie defense says:

    Unlike most of Trump’s sycophants, Hunter Biden has a law degree. From Yale! I think he can stand up to moronic maga’s questioning and can see why Comer doesn’t want that to be public.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Your first sentence is ambiguous and your observation seems to ignore Hunter Biden’s known frailties, which could make him vulnerable to the pressures of extended cross-examination. Besides, most defense counsel don’t volunteer to put their client in the chair.

  8. ernesto1581 says:

    Comer’s first paragraph above, “Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules…,” is rich. Not an ounce of irony or self-awareness. I wonder what, if anything, Comer sees when he looks in the mirror.

  9. Matt Foley says:

    Gym Jordan transitions from wrestler to ultramarathoner.
    18 months non-stop running from his subpoena.
    Look at Gymmy go!

  10. Mister_Sterling says:

    I’m calling it. This impeachment campaign is dead. If the GOP couldn’t impeach Biden before Christmas, it wasn’t going to happen.

    [Moderator’s note: I’m going to ask you this once to STOP USING A URL IN THE URL FIELD because you appear incapable of entering the same valid URL each time you comment. You were asked a year ago to stop using a URL for this reason. You now have FIVE separate identities because of differences in the URL field and your inconsistency using an underbar character in your username. You’ve been here long enough to know better. /~Rayne ]

  11. Zinsky123 says:

    IANAL, but I would never allow my client to go in front of a clown show like Comer’s Committee. The questions would be convoluted and confusing, with the goal being to humiliate the witness and make the viewing audience believe the crime is bigger than it really is or that a crime occurred at all when it really didn’t. These people are not serious about enforcing the law. They are interested in performative theater.

  12. Southern Exposure says:

    Given that Bill Clinton couldn’t get through a deposition on trumped up BS without making things worse, if I was Hunter Biden’s defense attorney I wouldn’t bet on Hunter successfully doing it. Clinton is smarter, wilier, and has a far better rhetorical whip than Hunter Biden ever will. I think Lowell is 98% betting Comer will never take the bait and 2% figuring that if he does Comer and co. may be so dumb that Lowell/Biden can turn the situation to his advantage. Mostly he is just creating the appearance of cooperation to help blunt the attempt to compel testimony. My two cents anyway.

  13. zscoreUSA says:

    Folks like Jordan, Boebert, and Devine look like they got caught off guard.

    I’m really curious what Denver Riggleman has learned from his forensic involvement.

  14. David F. Snyder says:

    Gotta love having both the football and Ahab analogies. Even if Lowell is doing this for free, he’s going to be booked solid with clients for a very long time. Looking forward to seeing Comer get skewered on live TV.

  15. MsJennyMD says:

    “Joe Biden claimed he would be the most transparent president in the history of America. Once again, this is another example how I can make a strong case that Joe Biden is the least transparent president in the history of America.”
    James Comer, Fox News, Jan 17, 2023

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      James Comer wouldn’t know what a case is if it hit him like the bar bill for a gathering of Republican congresscritters.

      • Buzzkill Stickinthemud says:

        Comer: Woa, this is a huge bill. Guys, time to pony up. Guys? Hello? They’re dimming the lights, not funny anymore!

  16. SB317overthere says:

    I think former GOP Rep and current Hunter Biden defense team member Denver Riggleman has been reading Empty Wheel.

    He explained that a big reason he wanted to take on the role is “I hate bullies.” Another point he realized is that many of the people pushing the Hunter Biden conspiracy theories are the same people pushing Jan. 6 conspiracies, like Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Peter Navarro, and others.

    “There are some things I can’t talk about, unlike the grifters. I have to have transparency and verification to stand up in a court of law, but I can tell you this,” Riggleman continued. “What we want to look at first is the data out there purported to be Hunter Biden’s laptop, and we wanted to see if there was any forensic format, and make sure there was no forensic validity to it and Jim, there was none. Jim, if you’re looking at 4chan or from a site like MarcoPolo, you have to have forensic validity. And I am shocked that anybody in Congress would use that data, or any journalist would use those sources because [of] what we found out. We do have the data, we have the 1s and 0s. We do have the facts based on the 1s and 0s that we have found that it’s the very same folks. We have videos. We have them self-identifying and manipulating the data. We have people like Steve Bannon using words like ‘editorial creativity,’ and we have specific instances of fabrication and manipulation of the data.

    https://www.rawstory.com/hunter-biden-laptop-lies-fabricated-tech-proof/

  17. harpie says:

    Marcy just Tweeted about this:

    Vish BURRA [worked for BANNON and SANTOS]
    admits that he HACKED Hunter Biden’s “shit”…and “would do it AGAIN”.

    After SANTOS’ press conference this morning,
    Agent of Chaos followed Vish BURRA, asking questions:

    https://nitter.net/RumsMick/status/1730219975074345037
    Nov 30, 2023 · 1:39 PM UTC

    [THREAD][…] [0:40] [Agent of Chaos]: Yeah, did you hack Hunter Biden’s shit, his phone or something?
    BURRA: [turns to face Agent of Chaos] Yeah, and I’d do it again. […]

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