“What it gets at is just facts:” MAGAts Learn to Love Long-Delayed Interview Reports

I spent much of my day reading the transcript from Hunter Biden attorney Kevin Morris’ deposition by the House. (xitter thread here)

It was a predictable shit show.

And some details — such as Morris’ disclosure that the only reason he contributed $11,000 on Hunter’s behalf pertaining to a Porsche in 2020 was to pay it off to the point that he could sell it — confirm that David Weiss was spinning Hunter’s expenses on the tax indictment to put them in the worst possible light.

But there’s a particular meltdown that deserves further attention. One of the GOP staffers was grilling Morris about the references to him recorded in a Joseph Ziegler interview report from a September 29, 2022 interview of James Biden, which would have been the last substantive interview of the investigation before David Weiss reopened it last year.

These bullet points are Ziegler’s representation of what James Biden had to say about Morris; they were asking him about a March 2020 communication from a period when Morris was putting together a plan to get Hunter’s life back on track, including by filing his tax returns. If Ziegler’s representation is accurate, the President’s brother is not terrifically enamored of Hunter’s benefactor.

Text Dated March 2020:

a. Kevin Morris (“Morris”) was an attorney for SouthPark and the Book of Mormon. Morris is a very wealthy guy. Morris had befriended RHB. James B didn’t know why or when this occurred.

b. James B was asked by DOJ-Tax attorney Daly what “World Class of People” referred to? James B thought that this could be attorneys and could mean anything. Morris has a huge ego in being a successful entertainment attorney. RHB wasn’t interfacing with anyone during this time except for Morris and one other guy who flipped houses named George.

c. Morris was helping RHB a lot, but James B didn’t know why. James B thought that this might have been because of his ego. RHB asked James B to thank Morris because Morris requested a thank you. James B had no understanding of what the team of people means and has no knowledge of what Morris had done for RHB. James B was not sure if there was a loan between Morris and RHB. James B thought that the money was significant enough that RHB asked his uncle to say something to Morris and thank him. James B didn’t recall a specific discussion only to say thank you “on behalf of the family”.

d. James B recalled that when RHB was being vilified by the media, Morris had sent a film crew to Bulgaria. Morris was there with his film crew monitoring a documentary trying to defame RHB.

e. James B only met Morris 3-4 times. Morris wanted James B to come work for him and James B told Morris that he was not interested. James B met Morris at his home. Morris also came to RHB’s house for a picnic in which James B attended.

f. James B recalled Morris making a comment that if RHB’s attorneys weren’t going to listen to him, then he wanted nothing to do with them.

g. James B stated that Morris thought he was very knowledgeable “politically,” but James B thought otherwise.

h. James B was not aware if Morris asked RHB for anything else other than a thank you. RHB was very closed lip about Morris. [my emphasis]

So a Republican staffer takes this passage and then asks Morris what James Biden meant when he said that he, Morris, was not very knowledgable politically, an observation there’s no reason to believe Morris had heard directly.

Mr [redacted]. If you go to 51(g), just a little bit lower, it says, “James Biden recalled Morris making a comment” — or excuse me.

Mr. Sullivan. (f), you mean?

Mr. (g): “James B stated that Morris thought he was very knowledgeable ‘politically,’ but James B thought otherwise.” Do you know why James Biden would say that you thought you were politically savvy?

Morris balks. Hours into this deposition, he doesn’t simply point out he would have no way of knowing. Based on what he knows about James Biden, he doubts the representation is accurate. He, a Hollywood lawyer, cites Law and Order.

Mr. Morris. I don’t believe that he said it.

Look, counsel, this is not a transcript. These are the notes of a law enforcement official, you know, trying to, you know, trying to get a case going. All you have to do is watch one episode of “Law & Order” to know that that’s not often — it’s not always accurate.

GOP staffer then makes of Morris’ comment something it isn’t.

Mr. [redacted] So you’re saying you never had any political conversations with James Biden?

Mr. Morris. No, I don’t remember any political conversations with Jim.

A Dem staffer, perhaps seeing this about to go off the rails, notes that this is not a contemporary record of the interview.

Mr. [redacted, seemingly a Dem staffer] And can we just establish for the record that this is a memorandum of interview for an interview that took place September 29th, 2022. And as is noted on the last page, Agent Ziegler notes in it, “I prepared this memorandum on over the period October 10th through November 2nd, 2022, after refreshing my memory –“

Which leads things to go after the rails. For at least the second time in the deposition, a Republican staffer defends Joseph Ziegler’s honor, as if he hadn’t already been caught in misrepresentations of these events.

Mr. [redacted] Are you disputing the accuracy of the — of this memo?

Mr. [redacted] “– from notes made during and immediately after the interview with James Biden.”

The Reporter asks people to stop interrupting each other.

The Reporter. You have to repeat. I had two people talking at the same time.

Mr. [redacted] I’m just noting that at the end it says, “I prepared this memorandum on over the period October 10th through November 2nd, 2022, after refreshing my memory with notes made during and immediately after the interview with James Biden.”

I’m — this is just — I’m just reading from the —

[1:39 p.m.]

Mr. [redacted] It’s in the — we’ve entered it into the record. So the notes were made — if we’re going to — we’re going to pause if you want to maybe ask questions.

Ms. [redacted] We can pause.

A seeming Republican argues that since this is already in the record it must be taken as Gospel.

 Mr. [redacted] There were notes that were taken with this. So I don’t know what the point of that was since it’s already in the record.

Ms. [redacted] I think the point is that this is not a contemporaneous memorandum.

Another Democratic staffer notes this is not a contemporaneous record.

That this was actually written down several days, actually a couple weeks after the interview. And it says on the face of it that Mr. Ziegler had to refresh his memory from  notes. So I think, you know, it is — it’s as valuable as the paper it’s written on, but it says on its face that it’s not contemporaneous. I think that’s the point we’re making.

Mr. [redacted] And I’m just making that point in the interactions or comments that James Biden said X, and I just want to be clear that what this document says about what it is and what it is not.

A likely Republican says that because ten people attended the interview, all must have vouched for the accuracy of the memo.

Mr. [redacted] There’s also 10 people present here. And, presumably, Mr. Ziegler, when he prepared this, he circulated, at least to the internal folks, to make sure that he had it accurate, right?

Kevin Morris is not having it. He notes only one other person, Christine Puglisi, signed it.

Mr. Morris. No, we don’t know that. I’m not presuming what Mr. Ziegler said.

I mean, it is signed by Mr. Ziegler and by another special agent. And I am just reading the caveat that’s noted above his own signature. I’m not speculating —

Someone complains that they’ve gone off the rails.

Mr. [redacted] We’re getting a little bit —

The court reporter begs, again, for people to stop talking over each other.

The Reporter. Can we speak one at a time, please.

Morris’ attorney points out what Morris might have: The House shouldn’t be pushing on this in any case, because Morris has no personal knowledge of the interview.

Mr. Sullivan [Morris attorney]. Sorry. For me as the counsel for the witness, I am just saying, the questions are being asked about, based on this memo, that Mr. Morris has no personal knowledge of anything that was actually said. If this is true, we just don’t know. We don’t have any personal knowledge of whether this is.

Mr. [redacted] Fair enough.

Mr. Sullivan. That is my main concern — questions about that —

The Republicans will not be deterred.

Mr. [redacted] Jim Biden mentions —

The court reporter tries, again, to get people to stop talking over each other.

Mr. Reporter. One at a time, please.

The Republicans will not be deterred.

Mr. [redacted] Jim Biden mentions Mr. Morris. Here we’re simply asking questions to the extent you can answer it. Or if you disagree with it, you can tell us what you can tell us, and that’s where we’ll be.

Morris repeats that this transcript doesn’t sound like Jim Biden, but also notes that even if he did, it doesn’t get Republicans to where they want to get.

Mr. Morris. And counsel what I’m saying is, I do question the validity of this. I do question a lot of it. Some of it sounds lake stuff Jim would never say. But, in any event, I don’t believe — you know, were it all true, I don’t know where this gets you. Like if, you know — and I could be speculating about what Jimmy said in front of investigators, you know, written down by the memo and not on a transcript.

In response to which, a Republican asserts that this transcript, which Morris contests, relaying claims to which Morris has no personal knowledge, “gets at is just facts.”

Mr. [redacted] What it gets at is just facts. I mean, we’re just trying to ask you questions as fast as we can.

It’s nice to know these committees are just as much of a shit show behind closed doors as are the hearings hosted by James Comer.

But the dispute is worth closer look. The point the Democrats are making is that this interview of James Biden — the last interview of this investigation — was not written up for 34 days. The interview was held on September 29, 2022. Ziegler described that, starting 11 days after the interview, he wrote it up over a period of 23 days, from October 10 to November 2.

I prepared this memorandum on over the period October 10th through November 2nd, 2022, after refreshing my memory from notes made during and immediately after the interview with James Biden. [my emphasis]

Not only that, but Ziegler corrected himself: he didn’t write the memo on a particular day, he wrote it over a more than three week period just before the 2022 midterms.

Remember: It is an article of faith that there must have been political interference because it took 22 days to write up an interview report of Mike Flynn’s January 24, 2017 interview, which was finalized on February 15, 2017. This conspiracy theory frothed Republicans up but good for — I kid you not — 675 days until, after a series of backflips to invent some reason to throw out the Flynn prosecution, Bill Barr’s DOJ admitted the conspiracy theory was based on fluff. There was no original 302, they admitted after Sidney Powell spent years leading MAGAts to believe there was.

The delay in finalizing Flynn’s 302, which is actually far too routine, was a core piece of “proof” in the conspiracy theories that Flynn was wrongfully prosecuted.

And here, an interview report of the President’s brother took 12 days longer to complete than Flynn’s (which is still not that long compared to far too many interview reports). Worse still, during that entire period, Ziegler’s boss and close ally on this case, Gary Shapley, was busy inventing a reason to blow up the case. Ziegler didn’t even begin to write up this interview until after the October 6 leak and the October 7 meeting that has since roiled the case.

Honestly, Morris should have started where he ultimately ended up: noting that even if the interview report recorded James Biden accurately, it didn’t help Republicans’ conspiracy theories.

But by raising questions about whether Ziegler, at a time when he and Shapley were inventing conspiracy theories about this case, accurately recorded the President’s brother, he invited Republicans to demonstrate just how little they really care about delayed interview reports.

40 replies
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  2. Peterr says:

    After reading this, the decision by Hunter Biden and Abbe Lowell to have Hunter do a deposition sounds a lot more solid. Yes, there’s a certain risk for Hunter, but the quality of those asking the questions lowers that risk in my mind, based on how well (or should I say, poorly?) they deposed Morris.

    Lowell has to be poring over this, to prep Hunter for exactly this kind of crap inquisition and to prep himself on how to call bullshit in creative, non-duplicative ways.

    “When they ask you what someone else thinks, tell them to ask that someone else and not you.”
    “Be nice to the Reporter. Let the other side look like jerks.”
    Etc. etc. etc.

    • emptywheel says:

      Not sure how many of these staffers were from HJC. But Steve Castor is many things, but he is definitely a sound lawyer.

      • Peterr says:

        The kicker will be how the House structures the deposition. Will they let staff take the lead, or will they allow Jordan, Comer, MTG, et al. run amuk?

        Castor may be many things, including a sound lawyer, but one thing he is NOT is in charge.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Can you imagine the GOP Members *not* asking questions, after all this? They should let staff do it (although staff questions about why other Bidens think things don’t seem fruitful), but this one’s for Fox ‘n’ The Big Orange Friend.

  3. rosalind says:

    typo: last sentence: “just how little they really care about delated interview reports.” – delated = delayed?

  4. RJames0723 says:

    I apologize if this is a stupid question but, why are the staffer’s names redacted? Talk about looking like the Spanish Inquisition.

  5. Sussex Trafalgar says:

    Timing is everything in life, including in law.

    Lowell always knew HB would testify to the House Committee. He simply waited until the timing was right. It’s now right. He wasn’t ever going to defy a Congressional subpoena like Jordan did.

    Lowell will stymie all BS questions from the House Republicans during the deposition. The House Republicans are fearful of Lowell’s knowledge and professional and social relationships with key Republican benefactors. Lowell has more power than they do and they know it.

    After the deposition, the House Republicans will be left with trying to sculpt the history of the HB deposition to fit into their 2024 campaign. Such sculpting will be ham-handed, clumsy and easy to disprove.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Republican staffers also seem to have never seen Rashomon. If there were two or ten witnesses to a conversation or an event, they would tell two or ten different versions of it. Reconstructing a conversation over a month after the fact is far from a verbatim transcript, as the Democrats kept trying to tell these hasty Republicans. “Shit show” is being kind.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I notice the missing snark tag. But it’s also a modern cliche even cultural Philistines would have heard of, though they might be loathe to admit, since it makes obvious how difficult investigations really are, and questions the certainty they need.

  7. Phaedruses says:

    Question, in this quote;

    Mr. Morris. And counsel what I’m saying is, I do question the validity of this. I do question a lot of it. Some of it sounds lake stuff Jim would never say. But, in any event, I don’t believe — you know, were it all true, I don’t know where this gets you. Like if, you know — and I could be speculating about what Jimmy said in front of investigators, you know, written down by the memo and not on a transcript.

    Should “lake” be like?

  8. Adam Treat says:

    This is a fairly weak argument against Republican hypocrisy. All you have here is a few anonymous republicans who are seemingly ok with an interview report written up weeks later. This does not indict *other* republicans for hypocrisy who objected to Flynn’s overdue interview report, because the few republicans here are anonymous. We simply don’t know if any hypocrisy took place or not.

    Probably good speculation of hypocrisy is warranted, but far from proven.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:


      This isn’t a criminal case requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or even a civil trial. It’s fair to use Republican pattern and practice as well as the behavior recorded here to evaluate how this portion of the hearing was conducted. That this record omits only names of Republicans isn’t relevant to that. It is relevant to how Republicans, which are becoming the party of doxing opponents, protect their own, which is its own hypocrisy.

      • Adam Treat says:

        Never said it was a criminal case. Not sure why you would have a problem with the pointing out that speculation – however good and well motivated – is just that: speculation.

        • Rayne says:

          I don’t see the value in your initial comment at all. This isn’t the dead bird app for random drive-by mood dump shit posts. Don’t think it isn’t noted your initial comment introduces the word “hypocrisy” on this page and uses it four times.

          Perhaps with only (7) comments under your belt here to date you might take a seat in the shade and observe a while instead of commenting.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          A little ivory tower. My problem is not with speculation, it is with dismissing it as if it were sound science. Informed speculation is the primary tool humans have to learn about social interaction.

          In daily life, we don’t have the luxury of formally presented evidence, of the sort required in civil and criminal trials. That’s fine, because we’re forming opinions to guide personal conduct and to predict that of others. The consequences of a trial, on the other hand, are loss of money, life, or freedom.

    • John Paul Jones says:

      Why would you think that their names being redacted entails a lack of hypocrisy? If you are right that it does, it seems to me it cuts both ways equally, that is, we can’t absolve them of hypocrisy for precisely the same reasons we cannot (in your version) accuse them of hypocrisy. Given that, along with the way in which the [redactees] reacted – basically trying to shout down the other side because if it was written in an interview report it must be true – I’d say the balance of probabilities tips towards hypocrisy rather than against. In other words, this is a logical distinction that doesn’t really make a substantive difference. In other words, I agree with Earl.

      The transcript makes good reading, especially when Morris speaks about (apparently) a different Ziegler who he says is a creep and a doxer.

      • emptywheel says:

        Garrett Ziegler, the guy who posted the Hunter Biden emails — he’s the one Hunter is suing for hacking.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Let’s also include that he’s the one who let in the crazies on Jan 5. A true believer for whom more attention needs to be paid at a criminal level.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          It was the visit by Rudy, Kraken and the rest of Team Crazy and also off the official WH calendar. I may have been wrong on the date, though but not much else.

          They were there to rebut the rational briefing that preceded it.

        • harpie says:

          I’m pretty sure that that grouping of people was not together at the WH on 1/5/21, and that Rudy spent the day at the Willard, and an evening meeting at TRUMP Hotel.

          There definitely was a crazy meeting at the WH with Powell, Giuliani, Flynn and Lindell on 12/18, and ZIEGLER did let them into that one.

          Sorry, …not a big deal, but I wouldn’t want to miss that if it did happen…1/5 on the #J6TL is a very big mess right now.

        • bloopie2 says:

          Speaking of true believers, I’m finishing a nice novel by Tana French and just ran across this sentence, the writer’s reaction to a strong expression of certitude from a character: “You can knock down a genuine belief, if you load up with enough facts that contradict it, but a belief that’s built on nothing but what the person wants to be, nothing can crumble that.”

          Well put, I think. Is this the behavior of Trump followers?

      • Adam Treat says:


        That is why I said it was good speculation of hypocrisy. But speculation is just that: speculation.

  9. introbang says:

    “I prepared this memorandum on over the period October 10th through November 2nd, 2022, after refreshing my memory with notes made during and immediately after the interview with James Biden.”

    “There’s also 10 people present here. And, presumably, Mr. Ziegler, when he prepared this, he circulated, at least to the internal folks, to make sure that he had it accurate, right?”

    Presumably Ziegler, in an appeal to authority when he attached the caveat, would have also noted circulating the draft memo to the 10 attendees before finalizing it.

    [MODERATOR’S NOTE: This needs to be the username and email address you use on every comment here forward. Any deviation will result in comment not being cleared and possible blacklisting from this site. See the warning from 06-JAN-2024. /~Rayne]

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      “Presumably” is doing a lot of work. Assumptions have no role in competent investigations or prosecutions. Verify it.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        Yep, but it is also an indication that there may be virtual copies elsewhere to look at, or alternatively may prove that the so-called 10 signers was more like one. It’s not totally useless info.

  10. lastoneawake says:

    I can really see the value of HB showing up in person to answer questions, watching Comer and MTG go apeshit, then agreeing to go private.

    I mean, who REALLY wants to hear Jordan’s “okay then, you know, you know, yeah, I’m asking this, I mean, uh, I’m asking you, this, okay, I’m gonna ask you this, ahh, okay now, lemme ask you this—how about I ask you THIS question . . .”

    People make fun of Biden’s stutter, but Jordan has a really seriously disturbing something else going on. Nobody wants to have to sit through watching that.

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