Smoking Gun! FBI Didn’t Have “Sufficient Evidence” to Prosecute Firearms Crimes against Hunter Biden

Let’s go back to the Devlin Barrett story that kicked off the manufactured scandal about DOJ slow-walking the Hunter Biden investigation.

That story wasn’t just about tax charges, though those have gotten the bulk of attention. That story claimed that Federal agents had enough evidence to charge Hunter Biden with a false statement tied to purchasing a gun in 2018.

Federal agents investigating President Biden’s son Hunter have gathered what they believe is sufficient evidence to charge him with tax crimes and a false statement related to a gun purchase, according to people familiar with the case.


The gun paperwork part of the investigation stems from 2018, a time period in which Hunter Biden, by his own account, was smoking crack cocaine.

In October of that year, Biden purchased a handgun, filling out a federal form in which he allegedly answered “no” to the question whether he was “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”

According to a book Hunter Biden later wrote about his struggles with substance abuse, he was using drugs heavily that year.

While it is definitely true that prosecutors ham sandwiched their way through a grand jury on September 14, 2023, charging the President’s son with three felonies (potentially even by relying on the plea colloquy prosecutors obtained before reneging on the deal they made to get it), revelations from that last week have made it clear that while they had enough evidence to charge Hunter Biden, they didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute him.

At the time they indicted, David Weiss had the case file from local authorities showing state prosecutors declining to charge the case days after discovering the gun. Importantly, that case file included evidence photos of the gun itself.

[A]n October 2018 state police case file of the firearm incident that includes interview memoranda and deliberations among Delaware state prosecutors regarding whether to file charges—per the file, on October 30, 2018, after reviewing the facts, New Castle County prosecutors decided not to prosecute and closed the case.


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 also had the ATF case file, describing more about the gun purchase.

The prosecution also produced an ATF case file that has additional information about the firearm and statements about its purchase.

They had excerpts from Hunter Biden’s book. There’s no indication whether those excerpts include the multiple passages that explain why any digital evidence from 2018 would pose some evidentiary challenges. Indeed, when I asked about one of those challenges in December, Weiss’ spox had no explanation for it.

But there are three things David Weiss only sought after indicting the case — and so over a year after Devlin’s sources got him to publish that there was sufficient evidence to charge Hunter Biden.

Sometime in October, the month after the indictment, they sent the firearm for the first time to an FBI lab to test the residue on the pouch in which the gun was found; the residue tested positive for cocaine. The photos in the local case file are important, because the purported reason an FBI agent accessed the gun in October 2023, the month after the indictment, was to take photos of it.

In 2023, FBI investigators pulled sealed evidence from the state police vault to take photographs of the defendant’s firearm. After opening the evidence, FBI investigators observed a white powdery substance on the defendant’s brown leather pouch that had held the defendant’s firearm in October 2018. Based on their training and experience, investigators believed that this substance was likely cocaine and that this evidence would corroborate the messages that investigators had obtained which showed the defendant buying and using drugs in October 2018. An FBI chemist subsequently analyzed the residue and determined that it was cocaine. [my emphasis]

But the effort to obtain forensic evidence after the indictment was half-hearted; investigators did not test to see how long the residue had been in the pouch, nor did they test for other fingerprints.

(a) a brown pouch (obtained by a scavenger from a public trash can) with cocaine residue was in law enforcement’s possession for over five years, but was not tested until after the charges were brought; (b) even then no test was done for fingerprints or to date how long the residue had been there;

Then, sometime after convening a grand jury for tax crimes in November 2023, the second month after the indictment, Weiss obtained,

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.

Finally, in December 2023, days after Abbe Lowell asked prosecutors for their evidence of Hunter Biden’s mindset in October 2018, David Weiss obtained — Weiss claims, for the very first time — a warrant to search Hunter’s digital records for such evidence. (Side note: Lowell explains that prosecutors sent him that warrant the day they obtained it, December 4, something Derek Hines didn’t think was important to tell Judge Maryellen Noreika.)

According to the warrant return, Special Agent Boyd Pritchard was still searching for that evidence when Judge Noreika granted my request to unseal it.

That makes David Weiss’ failure, thus far, to actually provide Bates stamps of or describe where they found the messages that prosecutors intend to rely on at trial all the more notable. Even assuming Abbe Lowell’s promised motion to suppress that late warrant fails — and that’s likely — there are aspects of the forensics involved that may make it hard to introduce the messages themselves at trial. Plus, it raises questions about whether they actually found these texts or simply think they know they exist because they read them in some public news report? And if they saw it in a public news report, were those agents tainted by one of the many hard drive sets that have been tampered with?

You can definitely argue, and I’m sure prosecutors will, that some of this late obtained evidence was opportunistic. For example, they may argue that they really did need new photos of Hunter’s gun — photos they did not need to present their case to the grand jury — in advance of trial. They may argue that whatever witness whose November testimony they included in the December warrant was a key tax witness, and they simply locked the person into gun testimony while they had them under oath. That kind of stuff flies under precedents of prosecutorial dickishness all the time.

But, assuming David Weiss’ claim to have only obtained a warrant to search Hunter’s digital evidence for gun crimes on December 4, 2023, you cannot say they had the evidence to prosecute the crime.

They hadn’t looked — not in the over three years they had been combing through Hunter’s digital life. Or, if they had looked, they had done so unlawfully.

That’s not evidence, as Gary Shapley claims, of slow-walking the investigation. That’s evidence that in October 2022, when someone kicked off a scandal that has led to an impeachment inquiry by telling Devlin Barrett what to write down as if it were true, no one planned to take this to trial.

Republicans have spent the 15 months since Devlin’s October Surprise screaming about the investigation, based in significant part on the claims made in Devlin’s story.

But one key claim in Devlin’s story — about how much evidence they had to support the gun charges — has been debunked by David Weiss’ three months of scrambling to get more.

This makes Devlin’s gun claims the second scandal manufactured by the WaPo that has been at least partially debunked in recent weeks.

And Devlin, with his reporting partner Perry Stein, chased Derek Hines’ coke-in-gun stunt; that’s precisely the kind of stunt WaPo Dick Pic Sniffers will jump on every time. But they have not reported that that lab report and the warrant to search Hunter’s digital evidence for gun evidence came after the indictment.

In other words, this is, like Matt Viser’s story about the George Bergès testimony, yet another example of WaPo failing to admit that the scandals they manufactured years ago haven’t held up to the evidence found since.

75 replies
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  2. Gil Bagnell says:

    Reducing the matter to its simplest terms: because of speedy trial acts prosecutors almost never seek indictment before they are ready to actually try a case, all evidence in hand.

    • Shadowalker says:

      This has very little to do with the speedy trial act, and more to do with politics weaponizing the justice system. All the evidence they had in their custody for over four to five years. The delay is not because they had to go out and look for it in the wild. This case was weak from the very beginning, and is getting even weaker.

      • emptywheel says:

        It’s not a weak case, assuming they get this late collected evidence in. It’s a stupid prosecutorial decision.

        • Shadowalker says:

          I’m not sure they found what they were looking for, since the execution of the warrant was certified the same day it was unsealed. (at your request) The judge’s order probably rushed things.

      • Gil Bagnell says:

        I did not mean that the speedy trial act applied in this case; just that it is a big factor shaping how prosecutors go about their business.

        • emptywheel says:

          Yup. I understand. But if Lowell had NOT asked for a stay and gone to trial ASAP, what weret they going to do?

          Even the GJ testimony they used in the gun warrant would have been at least 45 days post-indictment.

        • Shadowalker says:

          It’s more a statute of limitations problem. Let’s not forget that they tried to get Hunter to plead guilty to these crimes, one would hope they had the evidence handy before they negotiated.

  3. Doctor Cyclops says:

    It’s not clear to me why the prosecution would need additional photographs of the gun. Guns are serially numbered, and the gun itself would be an exhibit in evidence at trial. The claim that FBI agents accessed the gun to photograph it sounds like a smokescreen.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      Did the FBI/Persecution tell the judge that they needed pictures of the gun when they had them already? If so is that perjury?

    • Rugger_9 says:

      One would think the locals had inspected and taken pictures of the gun before the feebs got it. IIRC, no mention is made in those reports of residue so I have to question why it magically appeared like pixie dust. Planting drug evidence is a favorite tactic of crooked cops.

  4. Upisdown says:

    The January 11th article by Stein and Barrett still contains the following false claim:

    “He also received another $1.2 million in 2020 and spent the money to fund an “extravagant lifestyle,” including drugs, escorts and girlfriends, exotic cars and clothing, the indictment alleges.”

    I do not believe that is what the indictment claims. Weiss’ team knows that Hunter Biden told the judge last summer that he has not had a drink or done drugs since 2019. How does the WaPo allow these two to spread false claims?

    Here is that article:

    • emptywheel says:

      Yup. That’s riddled with false claims too.

      It’s like Phil Rucker has dispensed with any need to adhere with the truth bc Hunter Biden’s an easy sacrificial lamb to make to appease right wingers.

      • Spencer Dawkins says:

        Hunter Biden’s an easy sacrificial lamb to make to appease right wingers.

        That sounds right, and I’m guessing Hunter Biden looked like an even easier lamb to sacrifice when these guys were getting started.

        One could have guessed that he would have capable representation in court, but if you thought Hunter’s self-description of himself in the book was even partially still true, it would be just as easy to convince yourself that he was likely to relapse at some point, and he might not even show up for trial. Not everyone does.

        • RJames0723 says:

          I’ve had friends that got too deep into drugs. When things started to get out of control, several OD’d and one threw himself off a building. Joe Biden passed on the 2016 election to morn the loss of a son. I would not put it passed some of these players to hope for a repeat in 2024.

      • Brad Cole says:

        With the new WaPo management Barrett is more apt to get promoted than fired. He did a period of public martyrdo., when his book came out about 2016 and his acting the useful idiot in attacking the Comey FBI and the Obama DoJ. He’s probably a true believer and self righteous prig who justifies being a conduit for Russian disinformation by his faith.

      • wetzel-rhymes-with says:

        Anyway, I made up a thing in other comments about Hunter Biden’s Laptop being a Trickster archetype. Rayne liked it, which made my day, and then she made a fascinating comment about fascist propaganda and Baudrillard. Now you are saying Hunter Biden is the Sacrificial Lamb.

        It got me thinking how the Trickster and the Sacrificial Lamb are the same character in the Midsummer Night’s Dream, well the same two characters. Puck is Trickster/Sacrificial Lamb in the play, and Bottom is too in the play-within-the-play.

        Shakespeare gives the clue in a reference where Bottom re-enacts Diana and Akteon. Akteon saw Diana naked when he was out hunting. She punished him by destroying his power of speech and turning him into a stag In deer form. He was torn to pieces by his own hunting dogs. I think there is commonality between Akteon and Hunter Biden’s story of how sexual taboos have often played a role in mob violence or lynching, for example.

        I am sorry for going off with another weird philosophical comment. I am glad bmaz isn’t here to tell me I am full of shit. I’m sorry if it’s a little long. Philosophy ideas are like a knitting hobby left over from childhood where I can’t hope to make what my grandma made. For my part, I proofread clinical trial protocols and study reports for a living and don’t have the reading or training to make useful philosophy ideas.

        I do have a hobby book idea about Bruno Latour and the social construction of scientific knowledge in the context of clinical trial design and execution. I did have an idea to do an unconventional MD PhD about it. Now I am too old. I am fortunate in my job and where I work. I think the integrative complexity of systems levels scientific understanding becomes perceptual and creative in an everyday common-sense way which Heidegger calls ready-to-hand or what Kuhn calls ‘paradigm’. I think understanding a little philosophy of science could help premeds and M1 M2 students to organize their scientific ideas properly in their education to be better doctors and researchers.

        So now Marcy’s comment has me thinking of Hunter Biden as the Sacrificial Lamb. There are many atrocities everyday online. You can destroy your life by making your debut in a bad Star Wars movie, what George Martin recently described as the ascendancy of the “anti-fan” online. This can ruin your life. The internet is becoming like a stochastic mob violence exercise. Though still useful, Twitter is becoming increasingly disturbing with the Street Fighting and Race Science nobody is asking to see burbling up all the time, and Elon using the social feedback mechanisms of likes and engagement or submerging accounts as a kind of Skinner Box.

        Hunter Biden is a surrogate victim for something with intentionality where there’s powerful domestic and foreign political agency and state-of-the-art propaganda expertise. To get your head around FSB-style phenomenology, where hangings in the square are “expressive”, I think you can make a bridge between Jung and Baudrillard with René Girard’s philosophy of Mimetic Desire to try to understand how the prosecution of Hunter Biden could be conceptualized and exercised as a form of propaganda.

        I think some state and corporate actors around the globe have sophisticated phenomenologies or game theories for propaganda. I think Putin’s theory of social change is based on Stalinism and Ivan Ilyin’s White Russian fascist philosophy. In both frameworks there is the bureaucratic instrumentation of terroristic violence to create new social reality. A show trial is a form of terror like a public hanging.

        There was Timothy Snyder’s great essay on Ivan Ilyin, Putin’s favorite philosopher,

        In René Girard, I think, there is a way to describe the sacrificial mechanism, like the crisis of spilling blood on the altar in a Greek Tragedy, that serves as a governing principle.

        René Girard developed a kind of anthropology for understanding sacrificial rituals and customs. ‘Violence and the Sacred’ is his great book on it, where he lays out the philosophy of Mimetic Desire. I believe some of the disordering of meaning we experience is being engineered as a kind of phenomenological propaganda method. The Internet is going to Hell because language is becoming purely instrumental just like fuel becomes greater than blood in the Russian military. They are meat. Cargo 200 or 300. I think atrocious spectacle and sacrificial crisis has become Putin’s form of government, and attempts are being made to make it our form of government, as well. I think a dark and iterative social process is being engendered to make our society more fascistic, although it’s very difficult to describe the structure of intentionality because of human fallenness. Who is responsible for the mob that stormed the Capital? We need a rebirth in Democracy, which is where the blood spilled became consecrated as a sacrifice that seemed to work. George Washington gave up power and became a Sacred King.

        Hunter Biden is a sacrificial lamb, but also the Beast Lysander and Demetrius are chasing through the forest. Lysander and Demetrius have made the Devil out of of each other, but they are the same. That’s our politics.

        • Rayne says:

          You get a pass on length for introducing concepts new to community members. More links to references might be helpful, though, since there are community members who may not be familiar with some of the concepts/persons/characters you’ve mentioned.

          The show trial and sacrificial crisis resonate when looking at Putin’s handling of Pussy Riot and Navalny. He can’t kill them outright because doing so makes them even bigger cult figures. But he can use show trials to take these sacrificial lambs and whip up outrage against them because they are offensive to the unified state, to “White Spirit” fascist Russia.

          Your connection of duality of beast/hunter may explain the underlying DARVO-ness of Trumpian attacks on Hunter Biden. The decades-long drug abuser, sexual offender, and tax cheat hunts the sacrificial creature Hunter Biden in order to project his sicknesses onto HB. In his demands that the public and the state destroy HB for his human failings, Trump is purged and whitewashed with the blood of the sacrificial lamb.

          • wetzel-rhymes-with says:

            Thanks for the interesting reply, Rayne. I went looking, and here is something from the Britannica article on “Sacred Kingship”:

            “Inasmuch as the king is filled with supernatural power, everything he touches can take on some of that power (as in Tahiti) . . . The king’s consecration could involve ritual incest . . .”

            How do you explain Trump and the evangelicals? He is purged and whitewashed. Not through baptism. René Girard described one tribe where by tradition the new king commits royal incest with his sisters while the tribe is sacrificing a camel and consuming it down to the hoof. Anthropologists find the monopoly on violence and origin of law in human sacrifice. The sacrificial animal becomes a totem for the taboo, and so the Devil has goat horns.

            Trump leads the evangelicals as an ersatz mob against their enemies, the pedos, the ultimate transgressors, also the foreigners and minorities, and they carry out the fascistic exercise Mussolini described as the “sacrifice of the Other”. Through mastery this dynamic, Trump has managed to purge the Republican Party and become their Sacred King. I agree with you. I think Trump’s immunity from taboos and sexual stigma is because the sacrificial dynamic he creates through finding a surrogate victim such as Hunter Biden provides a permission culture for the mob to enforce those taboos by destroying Hunter’s life. Trump’s immunity is part of his anointing.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          “…language is becoming purely instrumental…”

          Trumpism’s war on truth is centrally a usurpation of language to co-opt its meanings and reverse them. He is the tyrant who accuses Joe Biden (!) of tyranny, the fascist who labels Democrats fascistic, and the liar who labels anyone calling him to account Fake News.

          He has mustered an army behind him, demanding that they too relinquish truth for lies called Truths. This is the power God gave Adam in the garden, before He threw him out with his troublemaking mate–the power to name. For Trump, it is the power to decouple language from established meanings and assign new, corrupted meanings to it.

          This more than anything else keeps me running scared.

        • RLHall1961 says:

          Thanks for telling me so much about Rene Girard!
          I grew up connected to the Romance Languages Department at Johns Hopkins, because a close family member worked there. I remember him as a fellow with a huge sense of humor, smoking like chimney!
          I was way too young to appreciate what he and the other Deconstuctionists were about intellectually. Today, I would love to be able to go back and talk to them again.
          It’s great to think that their ideas still have relevance!

  5. harpie says:

    Devlin’s story was published by WaPo on 10/6/22, and I was trying to remember what other things were happening around that time. Here are two of those things.

    1] 10/3/22 Brandi Buchman post:
    Oct 3, 2022 · 12:46 PM UTC

    Good morning from inside the federal courthouse in Washington, DC where Oath Keeper ringleader Elmer Rhodes and co-defendants Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, Thomas Caldwell, and Kelly Meggs face trial for allegedly trying to stop the transfer of power by force on Jan. 6. [THREAD]

    2] 10/4/22 Zoe Tillman reports:
    Mar-a-Lago Documents Included Pardons, Emails, Legal Bills Exhibits describe documents flagged by DOJ filter team // Logs show what investigators thought Trump should get back
    October 4, 2022 at 9:57 PM EDT // Updated on October 5, 2022 at 9:10 AM EDT

    3] 10/5/22 Marcy posts about Tillman’s information [including the link]:

    As I have shown, had Judge Aileen Cannon left well enough alone, the government would have handed all Category B documents identified by the filter team back to Trump on September 1. Instead, she deliberately inflicted what she herself deemed to be further harm on Trump to justify intervening in the search of Trump’s beach resort. […]

    • earthworm says:

      Leather gun pouches, Mar a Lago docs — probably all have traces of cocaine!
      How is it credible — after years of law enforcement possession of gun pouch — not to infer the possibility of planted evidence?

      • Shadowalker says:

        For all we know they reused an evidence bag that contaminated the evidence. I also find it odd that residue was only found on the outside and not the gun, autoloader or ammunition which were all in the pouch. Nor the gun case that Hunter turned over personally.

    • emptywheel says:

      If you look at the article itself, they take a detour to talk about Trump’s stolen documents crimes. That October Surprise REALLY was an effort to distract from Trump’s crimes — which is basically what Will Lewis suggested it functioned as the other day.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Many of their worst ideas start as distraction attempts. I hope they don’t take their new Taylor Swift gambit as far as this; she and the threat they see in her seem like an obvious attempt to put a shiny object in front of an audience that might otherwise learn more about Trump’s actual legal foibles of late.

  6. Sussex Trafalgar says:

    “ (Side note: Lowell explains that prosecutors sent him that warrant the day they obtained it, December 4, something Derek Hines didn’t think was important to tell Judge Maryellen Noreika.)

    According to the warrant return, Special Agent Boyd Pritchard was still searching for that evidence when Judge Noreika granted my request to unseal it.”

    Continued excellent research and analysis on EW’s part! Thank you!

    I’m continually troubled by the examples of younger attorneys, e.g., Derek Hines as copied and pasted above, failing as officers of the Court, to tell the Judge the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    Trump has (or had in several cases) a fleet of young attorneys, i.e., those born in the 1970s and later, who’ve proven they either never learned to respect the legal ethics that were taught in law school, including but not limited to, the obligations of being an officer of the Court, or are simply greedy scoundrels looking to make quick money before they turn fifty.

    It’s pretty obvious who Trump and his controller, Putin, are in the grand scheme of things as both of them try to destroy Joe Biden so Trump can return to the presidency. That’s what HB case is really all about.

    But the behavior of younger attorneys like Derek Hines, Jenna Ellis, and on and on is equally nauseating and very sad to witness.

    • harpie says:

      But the behavior of younger attorneys like Derek Hines, Jenna Ellis, and on and on is equally nauseating and very sad to witness.

      Word. Like termites.

      • emptywheel says:

        I have yet to make fun of Derek Hines for using the same highlighter technique as Catherine Herridge. I might yet get around to it though.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Although not a young attorney, and certainly a smart and accomplished one, every time I see Chris Kise my mind can’t help but see him as a Campbell’s Soup kid grown up and gone deranged. Same with Susie Wiles. I’d add a photo of some collectibles showing the pair together, but it freaks me out too much!

        • bmaz says:

          Eh, it is not that hard to be a decent lawyer, even when young. Especially if schooled properly. In my first two months as a licensed attorney, I did an “unwinable” three and a half week jury trial because nobody else at the firm wanted it. I won.

          Kise may be one of Trump’s more competent lawyers, but don’t let that hollow veneer fool you.

  7. Jared Shoemaker Jr says:

    I cannot help but find it hilarious how twisted people are getting about Hunter biden and the news about Ronnie Jackson running a pill mill out of the White House medical unit doesn’t seem to register

  8. chubbco1550 says:

    Not sure I got my name right but this isn’t intended as a public comment, just a note that the link is broken to “ manufactured by the wWaPo”

    [Moderator’s note: You last commented in Oct. 2021 as “Cotty Chubb” using a different email address. Pick one of the names and email addresses you’ve used so far and continue to use them going forward. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  9. bloopie2 says:

    Off topic but interesting parallel between Elon Musk and Donald Trump. Both love power and control. The other day, Musk’s $55 billion compensation package was rejected by a Delaware court as being, well, unlawful. I quote from a Law360 article thereon. (Note the last sentence specifically.)

    “Minor Myers, professor of law at the University of Connecticut School of Law, said Chancellor McCormick’s decision made clear that “at the board level and at the level of the stockholder vote, there was simply no credible disinterested decision-maker who passed on the advisability of Musk’s grants.”

    “Neither the board, because of directors’ personal ties, nor stockholders, because crucial information was withheld, rejected the proposal at the time, he said.

    “That of course may be the way Musk likes things. And that may also explain the splenetic public reaction he had to the decision in saying how much he dislikes Delaware’s corporate law regime,” Myers said. “In the chancellor, Musk finally confronted someone who was not cowed by his personality or bank account and who did nothing more than apply to him the same rules of corporate governance that apply to everyone else, and that may ultimately be what he hates so much about Delaware.”

    How about that?

    • Sussex Trafalgar says:

      One inherent problem with capitalism as found in the US is that corporations are structured and operated as authoritarian dictatorships. The Boards are filled with sympathetic directors ready, willing and able to embrace anything the Chairman (the authoritarian dictator) covets.

      Musk is an authoritarian dictator in his company. So, too, is Trump.

      When corporate heads like Trump or Musk become POTUS, they manage and operate their Administration as an authoritarian dictatorship.

    • earthworm says:

      “Off topic but interesting parallel between Elon Musk and Donald Trump. Both love power and control.”
      An easy to grasp set of guidelines recently expanded upon by George Monbiot in his “King of the Extrinsics” (still unsure about links; just google it) is the contrast between personalities who are governed by “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” values.
      Musk appears to join Trump in this category of characterization.

  10. Badger Robert says:

    Attorney Lowell and Mr. Biden need to have the older Mr. Biden re-elected and to win these cases with dismissal or based on a not guilty verdict. Then the next stage of this operation begins. I am not sure that the attorney and the defendant would accept the diversion agreements now.
    As Ms. Wheeler writes or implies, the cases were never about reaching trial or the government obtaining a conviction.

    • timbozone says:

      Huh? You’d think that this case would be conducted on its merits. In fact, Biden and Garland have bent over more than backwards to let this case proceed without interference.

  11. Desidero says:

    With the wonders of AI image creation, I’m surprised Weiss didn’t find a selfie of Hunter with a big cocaine moustache playing with the gun. Guess he or his “aides” didn’t have a good grasp of GPT-4 yet.

  12. sleutherone says:

    I have no knowledge of this case but as a forensics person I can make suggestions as to why the gun and pouch may have been handled as they were. Since they were being held at a state police office for storge, the FBI may have wanted to photograph the gun prior to any lab processing. Super glue fingerprinting can change its appearance. As for the pouch, a qualified analyst could look at it and determine it was unsuitable for printing. Unless the pouch was polished leather it would be too porous for details necessary to see prints. Cloth is worse, though some finishes may allow analysis.

    Guns are not always great sources of DNA. There are often only a small number of cells on guns owned privately. Guns circulating among criminals may have a large number of contributors of DNA on them. These complex mixtures are considered inconclusive. There is a reason the FBI rules on DNA analysis of guns is pretty strict. Only profiles from guns involved in crimes where the gun was not found with the suspect are allowed in CODIS. Possession cases like this one require a sample from the suspect to do a direct comparison. Hunter may not have given a sample until arrest.

    I have had a bit of experience where the AUSA would request last minute lab work “to cover their bases” for a jury. They were frequently rejected because lab work can be complicated and rushing creates errors. I doubt the FBI lab would say no in this case, which is unfortunate.

    • Shadowalker says:

      The only problem with that scenario is by their own words that they noticed the residue when they were in the process of taking photographs, only then did they decide on a lab analysis. I’m also not sure why they would look for DNA evidence since Hunter never disputed that the firearm was his.

      • sleutherone says:

        I am inclined to believe they were told to find anything and everything relevant to any crime because Weiss was under pressure. I’ve seen that happen, too, under weak leadership.

        FBI agents are not physical evidence experts. In cities they typically let local agencies do all their crime scene legwork. Unfortunately, when agents do collection, they do it on major incidents even though the locals may have far more expertise. Experienced crime scene people are far more thorough and careful than most agents, in my experience.

        • Shadowalker says:

          It’s ironic that the locals missed it in 2018 then, at the very least, they would have had probable cause to search the residence, then whatever turned up might have been useful.

          I agree, it is likely the agents were ordered to find more evidence, which should have been done years ago.

          • timbozone says:

            Maybe “the evidence” wasn’t there back in 2018? Seems odd that suddenly someone notices “some white powder!” in 2023, just before the statue of limitations runs out…

            • Ginevra diBenci says:

              Yes, that white powder that “resembled cocaine,” and shazam! turned out to be just that, praise be.

              I remain stuck on the difference between the gun and the pouch. These are two different objects which should have two different evidentiary histories, if memory serves. If FBI was sent to take new pictures of the gun, how did it end up finding cocaine on the pouch?

              Assuming the pouch is relatively soft (tumbled) leather, maybe with a few years’ wear, it would make a much more likely surface for any residue to adhere to. But it came out of a Dumpster! By way of a “scavenger”! Very much *not* from the defendant’s home by way of a search warrant.

              EW has elucidated so many of the problems with this case; this one just sticks in my craw. It really could happen to you…if you got crosswise with the wrong authoritarian.

  13. HanTran1 says:

    OT: for the last 2 days on my Android phone the top scroll has had all the articles listed but underneath that scroll the most recent article is from the 29th the article on Anna Reyes. Something’s not working right I think I don’t think it’s my phone.

    [Moderator’s note: believe developer has now fixed the problem; please refresh your browser tab. Thanks for the heads up. /~Rayne]

  14. Harry Eagar says:

    I realize this comment is not the thing that is top-of-mind to everyone else here, but as a retired newspaperman, where the hell are the ‘media critics’?

    Lord nose I considered news ombudsmen about as useful as cast-off snakeskins, but Professor Wheeler has done all the work; and all one of these busybodies has to do is recast it, seek comment from the guilty and a shelf-worn comment from some J-school dean, and, eh, voila!

    • emptywheel says:

      Honestly, I think it’s a combination of 1) Devlin is well-loved, and no one wants to admit he’s a hack 2) I’m increasingly abrasive this and so people believe they can ignore the underlying issue 3) many outlets are doing the same thing, chasing dick pics as an easy way to stave off claims of bias 4) Hunter Biden is icky, so no one much cares if so-called journalists make up facts about him because they know he is icky.

      • grizebard says:

        There is unashamed bias (something that only seems to trouble MAGA when it’s not one of their own egregious orifices) and there’s stenography, the failure (to quote the now-familiar meme) to check if it’s really raining outside or not. The apparent current obsession of the “quality press” with being “balanced” no matter what, even in the face of readily-verifiable facts, is a crime against both journalism and democracy. And for what possible benefit…?

      • Krisy Gosney says:

        Hunter Biden is being treated by the press like he’s a woman. This is what keeps coming to my mind as I read your reports. Most people, men and women, will believe or want to believe most anything of a woman esp if that woman is in or near power. And/or believes the woman deserves being smeared for being in or near power. There are many, many examples. HRC is a classic example.

        • Rayne says:

          Only need to watch what’s happening to Taylor Swift right now in real time — perfect example of right-wing influence operation demonizing a woman who in their worldview has too much cultural power, and the media amplifying their negative propaganda because it’s clickbait.

          • dopefish says:

            I hope idiot MAGAts keep attacking Taylor Swift because I get the impression her fanbase is somewhat larger and more strident than Trump’s.

            I will be sitting by with the popcorn to watch what happens, once a bunch of lunatic right wingers have made Swift fans angry enough.

            • Rayne says:

              The GOP has already done considerable damage with the largest single voting bloc — women — with its drive to denigrate their human rights via Dobbs and red states’ anti-abortion/forced birth legislation. They are only doubling down by attacking a role model for many young women, a self-made billionaire.

              Not a lick of self-awareness about radicalization working just as well on the left as it does on the right. They’re going to lose at least two generations at this rate.

              • bgThenNow says:

                Old(er) women like me so happy to call her “our TayTay” now. I paid no attention until I learned she is a cat lady. Now, we all pay attention to her for lots of reasons, and we love her fan base. Fuck the patriarchy indeed.

            • Harry Eagar says:

              As I understand it, Swift’s fan base averages about 11 years old, but it may be that their mothers will react.

              For sure, the rightwingosphere is terrified.

              • Rayne says:

                Don’t pull that citation-free ageist crap here.

                Some 45% of avid fans are millennials, people between the ages of 27 and 42, while 23% are baby boomers, 21% are Gen Xers and just 11% are members of Gen Z—those 26 and under.


                The rightwing *is* terrified of Swift because they’re investing a lot in denigrating her. Don’t help them in these comment threads.

                • Ginevra diBenci says:

                  Thank you, Rayne. Especially pernicious when the one promulgating false facts attaches what seems like a “real” number (Swift’s fan base “averages 11 years old”). It’s the eleven that will make too many, almost including me, just nod along, because it sounds authoritative.

                  Of course it’s nonsense. But it’s the kind of nonsense that spreads unless checked.

                  • Rayne says:

                    I think nodding along with a number pulled out of the ass is an indicator of our internalized oppression.

                    Not just age, either, but marginalization of women and girls — we’re all girls when it comes to personal agency, we’re not entitled to own our own tastes as adults so we’re surely minors who don’t know any better. Fuck that bullshit with a pointy stick.

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