emptywheel Writes Letters: The FBI Extraction of the Hunter Biden Hard Drive Is 62% Bigger than the Laptop

As I did in January, I’ve written a letter asking Judge Maryellen Noreika to liberate two documents, the more interesting of which are the forensic reports FBI did of the Hunter Biden laptop and the hard drive John Paul Mac Isaac made of the laptop. (Yes, I know it has my personal information.)

In a key passage explaining the significance of the two forensic reports, I noted that the extraction of the hard drive that purports to be a copy of the laptop is 62% bigger than extraction of the laptop itself.

In the motion in limine in support (“MIL”) of introducing those communications via summary report (DE 120), SCO relied on the expert certification of Michael Waski, a Senior Digital Forensic Examiner who, as a Forensic Analyst, was involved in exploiting the laptop in 2019. Accompanying the MIL, SCO provided Mr. Waski’s certification, which in turn incorporates by reference his expert Disclosure. (DE 120-2) The only reasons given why SCO did not docket expert Disclosures themselves were, “because those documents are voluminous and because the defendant agrees these files are self-authenticating.” Nevertheless, Mr. Waski’s certification describes his Disclosure as, “attached hereto.” 

Mr. Waski’s certification, as docketed, does not by itself certify that the laptop was among the devices extracted. While the MIL describes that Mr. Waski’s certification pertains to, “two backup files from laptop and hard drive” (DE 120 at 3), Mr. Waski’s certification itself mentions neither. Instead, it references a “Digital Forensics Report and [an] Extraction Report,” singular. Compare Robert Gearhart’s certification at DE 120-1, which lists the four iCloud backups described in the MIL, “Apple Backup 1, Apple Backup 2, Apple Backup 3, Apple Backup 4,” which in turn match the warrant. (20-mj-165 DE 3 at 2) To confirm that Mr. Waski’s certification pertains to the laptop and hard drive incorporated into the summary and described in the warrant (19-mj-309 DE 3) requires inspecting the Disclosure.

Beyond that issue of completeness, Mr. Waski’s Disclosure holds additional significant public interest: (1) it would reaffirm the integrity of these proceedings, (2) it might address concerns raised in two separate Congressional investigations incorporating Mr. Biden’s devices (3) it would provide insight into derivative hard drives that have been the subject of controversy for years.

Some background explains why. The FBI obtained the two devices referenced in the MIL from computer repairman John Paul Mac Isaac. (19-mj-309 DE 3) One device, introduced into evidence as GTX16, is a MacBook Pro. The other device, a Western Digital hard drive, purports to be a copy that Mr. Mac Isaac made of the laptop; that copy is, in turn, the source of a number of other hard drives disseminated publicly, including to Congress, since 2020.

Because the hard drive purports to be a copy of the laptop, the content on those devices should substantially match. Yet the MIL suggests it may not. According to SCO, the “backup file” of the laptop (the original source) consists of 4,198 pages (DE 120 at 5). The “backup file” of the hard drive derived from the laptop (the purported copy) consists of 6,801 pages (Id.). In other words, the extracted copy made of the laptop is 62% larger, measured in pages, than the extracted original source. SCO’s office provided no response to an inquiry regarding the significant size difference in these backup files. [my emphasis]

Judge Noreika has asked the two sides to weigh in on these requests by end of day.

ORAL ORDER re Letter ( 247 ): IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that, by the close of business today, the parties shall provide the Court with their respective positions on the request for the unsealing of the two documents referenced in the letter. ORDERED by Judge Maryellen Noreika on 7/17/2024. (mdb) (Entered: 07/17/2024)

Boiled Frog Journalism: Is Trump an Agent of Saudi Arabia, and Other Pressing Questions Buried under Biden’s Age

A jury found Robert Menendez guilty on all charges yesterday, including those alleging he accepted payments from Egypt and Qatar (I didn’t follow the trial closely enough to figure out which country ultimately provided the gold). The verdict marks DOJ’s first successful conviction under 18 USC 219, basically, working for a foreign country while serving as a member of Congress.

Henry Cuellar faces the same charge.

While the RNC largely overshadowed the verdict, Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, and Governor Phil Murphy have all called on Menendez to step down.

The reasons why he should resign seem obvious: You can’t continue to serve the people of New Jersey after a jury determined you were actually using your position of power to serve two wealthy foreign countries.

Is Trump a Saudi foreign agent?

And yet we are two days into Trump’s nomination party, and no one has asked — much less answered — whether Donald Trump is a business partner, paid foreign agent, or merely an employee of Saudi Arabia.

This is not a frivolous question. Since Trump left office, his family has received millions in four known deals from the Saudis:

  • A deal to host LIV golf tournaments. Forbes recently reported that Trump Organization made less than $800K for about half the tournaments it has hosted. But Trump’s role in the scheme has given credibility to an influence-peddling scheme that aims to supplant the PGA’s influence. When Vivek Ramaswamy learned that two consultants to his campaign were simultaneously working for LIV, he forced them to resign to avoid the worries of influence-peddling. Yet Trump has continued to host the Saudis at his properties.
  • A $2 billion investment in Jared Kushner’s private equity firm, in spite of the fact that analysts raised many concerns about the investment, including that he was charging too much and had no experience.
  • A deal to brand a property in Oman slated to open in 2028, which has already brought Trump Organization $5 million. The government of Oman is a key partner in the deal, signed with a huge Saudi construction firm.
  • A newly-announced deal with the same construction firm involved in the Oman deal, this time to brand a Trump Tower in Jeddah.

These Saudi deals come on top of Trump’s testimony that Turnberry golf course and his Bedford property couldn’t be overvalued because some Saudi would be willing to overpay for them.

But I believe I could sell that LIV Golf for a fortune, Saudi Arabia. I believe I could sell that to a lot of people for numbers that would be astronomical because it is like — very much like owning a great painting.

[snip]

I just felt when I saw that, I thought it was high. But I could see it — as a whole, I could see it if this were s0ld to one buyer from Saudi Arabia — I believe it’s the best house in the State of New York.

And while Eric Trump, not his dad, is running the company, Eric also has a role in the campaign and his spouse Lara has taken over the entire GOP.

Trump never fulfilled the promises to distance himself from his companies in the first term. A very partial review of Trump Organization financial records show the company received over $600K from the Saudis during his first term. As far as I’m aware, no one has even asked this time around.

Which means as things stand, Trump would be the sole beneficiary of payments from key Saudi investors if he became President again. Trump would be, at the very least, the beneficiary of a business deal with the Saudis, as president.

Admittedly, under the Supreme Court’s latest ruling on gratuities, it might be legal for Trump to get a bunch of swank branding deals as appreciation for launder Saudi Arabia’s reputation (one of the things for which Menendez was just convicted).

But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored, politically. It doesn’t mean American voters shouldn’t know these details. It doesn’t mean journalists (besides NYT’s Eric Lipton, whose most recent story on this was buried on page A7) shouldn’t demand answers.

What deals has Trump made with Putin and/or Orbán?

At some point at the RNC, Don Jr claimed that his Daddy would get poor coverage from real journalists because “they lied about Russia Russia Russia.”

Only, they didn’t.

In guilty pleas, Trump’s people confessed that they were the ones lying. George Papadopoulos lied to hide when he learned of the Russian hack-and-leak operation. Mike Flynn lied to hide his efforts to undermine Barack Obama’s foreign policy with Russia. Micahel Cohen lied to hide his contact with the Kremlin during the campaign in pursuit of the kind of Trump Tower deal Trump has since inked with the Saudis.

Don Jr was spared charges, in part, because he’s too dumb to be expected to know he shouldn’t accept campaign dirt from Russian nationals.

Robert Mueller found that Trump’s campaign manager briefed someone Treasury has since labeled a Russian spy, Konstantin Kilimnik, on his plan to win the Rust Belt, even while discussing a deal to carve up Ukraine and get tens of millions in benefits. Kilimnik passed on polling data and the campaign strategy to Russian spies. Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Paul Manafort lied to hide that.

At the time the FBI obtained Roger Stone’s cell site location in August 2018, they had reason to believe he had gotten advance notice of both the dcleaks and the Guccifer 2.0 releases. Stone had multiple contacts with Trump about the releases and prosecutors hoped to obtain a notebook where Stone documented all of those conversations. A jury found that Stone lied to hide whence he learned all this.

Trump pardoned all but Cohen and Jr for the lies they told to hide what really happened with Russia. And we still don’t know why the clemency for Roger Stone Trump stashed in his desk drawer had a Secret document on Macron associated with it.

And Trump has only gotten more shameless since. In 2019, during his impeachment for extorting Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his kid, Trump was warned that among the Ukrainians from whom Rudy Giuliani was soliciting dirt on the Bidens was at least one Russian agent, Andrii Derkach.

Trump did nothing to stop Rudy from sidling up to a Russian agent. And when Rudy came back, Bill Barr set up a side channel to ingest that dirt — a side channel the resulted in an FBI informant with self-professed ties to Russian spies attempting to frame Joe Biden for bribery, an attempt to frame Biden that likely goes a long way to explain why the plea deal against Hunter Biden collapsed.

Once upon a time, it was a big deal that Trump refused to let an activist make the RNC platform’s defense of Ukraine more hawkish.

Now, however, Trump no longer hides that he’s willing to let Putin dismember Ukraine. He welcomed Viktor Orbán’s pitch of a plan to do just that — but there has been no readout from Trump’s side of what happened. Orbán, however, has told other EU nations that Trump will moved for “peace” immediately after being elected — a replay of what Flynn lied to cover up in 2017 — largely by withdrawing US support for Ukraine.

In the past, Trump has gone even further than this, suggesting he’ll do nothing as Putin invades NATO states.

Meanwhile, JD Vance is, if anything, even more pro-Russian than Trump, as are some of the Silicon Valley oligarchs who now back Trump’s campaign since the Vance pick.

Trump’s plan of capitulation to Russia will go a long way to ending the Western rules-based order, the greatest wish of Putin and Xi Jinpeng.

And thus far we know just one of the things that Russia seems to be doing to help Trump’s campaign: detaining WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich until Trump gets elected, just as Iran held onto hostages to help Reagan get elected. Avril Haines recently made clear Russia is planning on helping in other ways as well.

That’s how “Russia Russia Russia” has worked. It’s a shameless lie that Mueller found nothing, a lie built off years of propaganda. Indeed, Trump’s willing acceptance — or, in Rudy’s case, outright solicitation — of Russia’s help to get elected has only gotten more brazen. Yet rather than call Don Jr on his “Russia Russia Russia” lie, reporters simply let the pressing question of whether Trump will end the alliance of democracies in a second term go unasked.

What happened to the missing classified documents?

Amid the focus on Aileen Cannon’s stall then dismissal of Trump’s stolen documents charges, something has been missed: There appear to be documents missing. Here’s what we know:

  • According to the indictment that Judge Cannon just threw out, after Trump tricked Evan Corcoran into searching only about half the boxes containing stolen documents, he flew to Bedminster with “several” of the boxes he had excluded from the search.
  • In July 2022, Trump and Walt Nauta snuck back to Mar-a-Lago from Bedminster — to check on the boxes, one witness told Jack Smith.
  • When the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago on August 8, 2022, they failed to search a closet in his bedroom to which he had added a new lock.
  • Several searches overseen by Tim Parlatore found no new documents, though he did find a new classified document folder.

Given FBI’s failure to do a complete search adn Parlatore’s failure to find documents at Bedminster, the most likely way to learn what happened to them would be to get Walt Nauta to flip, something that, as I suggested here, his indictment might normally have done. But (correct, as it turned out) expectations that the prosecution would go away kept Nauta from cooperating.

And as a result, we have literally no idea how many documents Trump managed to withhold from the FBI’s search, or what he did with them.

The continued focus on Joe Biden’s three year seniority over Trump

Again, this kind of betrayal of America once mattered in Trump’s campaigns.

No longer.

It’s not happening because journalists are so cowardly they can be cowed with a mere “Russia Russia Russia” chant.

And it’s not happening because journalists have lost all sense of proportion — and for many of them, all sense of public good.

Journalists are making much of a confrontation between Jason Crow and Biden, related by Julia Ioffe, in which Biden insisted he had been great on foreign policy.

The campaign did not, however, dispute this next part, about Crow and his Bronze Star. In a video of the Zoom that I was able to view, you can hear Biden chastising Crow, who asked about the importance of national security to voters. “First of all, I think you’re dead wrong on national security,” the president says, the emotion at times garbling his words. “You saw what happened recently in terms of the meeting we had with NATO. I put NATO together. Name me a foreign leader who thinks I’m not the most effective leader in the world on foreign policy. Tell me! Tell me who the hell that is! Tell me who put NATO back together! Tell me who enlarged NATO, tell me who did the Pacific basin! Tell me who did something that you’ve never done with your Bronze Star like my son—and I’m proud of your leadership, but guess what, what’s happening, we’ve got Korea and Japan working together, I put Aukus together, anyway! … Things are in chaos, and I’m bringing some order to it. And again, find me a world leader who’s an ally of ours who doesn’t think I’m the most respected person they’ve ever—”

“It’s not breaking through, Mr. President,” said Crow, “to our voters.”

“You oughta talk about it!” Biden shot back, listing his accomplishments yet again. “On national security, nobody has been a better president than I’ve been. Name me one. Name me one! So I don’t want to hear that crap!”

It’s another instance where Biden responds stubbornly when Democrats try to push the president to drop out of the race. And that’s why reporters are gleefully dunking on Biden’s comments.

But it’s also an instance where Biden is making a really good point: He has restored America’s alliances to what they were before Trump destroyed them.

And the press is only telling that story — and doesn’t even realize that they are only telling that story — as part of their singular obsession with Biden’s age.

It’s a confession, really, that they have abdicated any concern for the kind of accomplishments of which Biden is justifiably bragging (ignoring Gaza). They have been bullied out of covering any of Trump’s glaring betrayals of the country the leadership of which he wants to monetize.

Trump might literally be an agent of a foreign power — just like Robert Menendez has been adjudged — and this mob calling themselves journalists would exhibit the least interest, much less persistent concern. Journalists don’t even care that both of Trump’s most suspect foreign allegiances involve the exploitation of journalists for political gain, first Jamal Khashoggi and then Gershkovich. Journalists have ignored that recent history, even after he picked Vance, someone who formally asked Merrick Garland to criminally investigate Robert Kagan (a neocon whom Vance called left wing) for inciting insurrection because he discussed liberal states resisting Trump in a second term.

Trump might literally sell out the next journalist who opposes him to be chopped up by some foreign dictator. And yet the press corps seems not to give a rat’s ass.

Because Joe Biden is three years older than Donald Trump.

Imagine if Dana Bash Knew Trump Had Been President Before?

After letting Donald Trump lie non-stop in the debate, Dana Bash invited his aspiring running-mate, Marco Rubio, onto her show to  tell the same lies.

Ostensibly, she was asking Rubio about whether the Supreme Court immunity decision violated Rubio’s own stated dodge on accountability for January 6: “let history, and if necessary, the courts judge the events of the past.”

But Rubio quickly took over the segment, spending 37 seconds, and then another 22 seconds, falsely claiming that Joe Biden’s Administration was using DOJ as a legal weapon against Donald Trump. Rubio claimed, “The evidence is in the headlines every day. Every you day you open up it’s another Republican going to jail somewhere.” Bash let Rubio drone on at length, before interrupting to state there’s no evidence that Biden is doing this.

Worse still was Bash’s failure to rebut Rubio’s lies about Donald Trump’s first term. Rubio claimed, “I can’t think of a single prominent Democrat who was chased around, persecuted, prosecuted.” He followed up, “He was President for four years, he didn’t go after Hillary Clinton, he didn’t go after Joe Biden, he didn’t go after Barack Obama, he didn’t go after any other consultants. We didn’t see under him what we’re seeing now.” In one uncomfortable moment, Rubio cited the debate at which Bash had let Trump lie over and over about his future plans to criminalize his opponents, as if it represented the truth. Rubio then stated again that Trump, “was President before and he didn’t do it then.”

Those are all lies.

Those are all lies that Bash has a responsibility to debunk.

After Trump demanded it, Hillary Clinton remained under investigation — based off Peter Schweizer’s political hit job, Clinton Cash — for the entirety of Trump’s term, with a declination memo issuing only in August 2021.

Career prosecutors in Little Rock then closed the case, notifying the F.B.I.’s office there in two letters in January 2021. But in a toxic atmosphere in which Mr. Trump had long accused the F.B.I. of bias, the top agent in Little Rock wanted it known that career prosecutors, not F.B.I. officials, were behind the decision.

In August 2021, the F.B.I. received what is known as a declination memo from prosecutors and as a result considered the matter closed.

“All of the evidence obtained during the course of this investigation has been returned or otherwise destroyed,” according to the F.B.I.

Rubio mentioned, “consultants.” After Trump demanded prosecutions from John Durham, Durham indicted DNC cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann on flimsy charges. When Durham wildly misrepresented a report Sussmann made — showing the use of Yota phones inside Executive Office of the Presidency during the Obama Administration — Trump even issued suggested Sussmann should be put to death.

Yes, Sussmann was acquitted, but not before leaving his firm and spending untold legal fees to defend against a manufactured indictment and death threats from the former President.

Bash even seems ignorant of the first impeachment, in which Trump withheld funds appropriated to Ukraine in an attempt to extort the announcement of an investigation into Joe Biden and his kid.

On at least two more occasions, Donald Trump personally intervened into the criminal investigation of Joe Biden’s son. One was shortly after the NYPost unveiled material from a hard drive copy of a laptop attributed to Hunter Biden (as described in Bill Barr’s memoir), days before the 2020 election.

In mid-October I received a call from the President, which was the last time I spoke to him prior to the election. It was a very short con-versation. The call came soon after Rudy Giuliani succeeded in making public information about Hunter Biden’s laptop. I had walked over to my desk to take the call. These calls had become rare, so Will Levi stood nearby waiting expectantly to see what it was about. After brief pleasantry about his being out on the campaign trail, the President said, “You know this stuff from Hunter Biden’s laptop?”

I cut the President off sharply. “Mr. President, I can’t talk about that, and I am not going to.”

President Trump hesitated, then continued in a plaintive tone, “You know, if that was one of my kids—”

I cut him off again, raising my voice, “Dammit, Mr. President, I am not going to talk to you about Hunter Biden. Period!”

He was silent for a moment, then quickly got off the line.

I looked up at Will, whose eyes were as big as saucers. “You yelled at the President?” he asked, confirming the obvious. I nodded. He shook his head in disbelief.

Trump intervened again on December 27, 2020, when — during the conversation where Trump first threatened to replace Jeffrey Rosen if he didn’t back Trump’s false claims of election fraud — Trump also said, “people will criticize the DOJ if [Biden, to which Richard Donoghue added an “H” after the fact] not investigated for real.”

These non-public demands regarding the investigation into Hunter Biden accompanied public demands to “Lock him up!” Trump even raised Hunter Biden in between calls to march to the Capitol on January 6.

But Bash’s worst failures involve doing an interview with the Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and not asking him about two investigations conducted under Bill Barr that implicate confirmed and suspected disinformation with Russian ties.

As part of Barr’s effort to investigate Hillary Clinton for calling out Donald Trump’s embrace of Vladimir Putin, for example, starting in 2020 (as Trump demanded results), the Attorney General and John Durham relied on materials obtained from Russia that the Intelligence Community considered likely disinformation, a claim that Hillary had made a decision to “to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.” As it is, there’s a dispute about the use of those materials, with John Brennan, claiming in his House deposition last May that this claim involved a misrepresentation of what happened.

Mr. Brennan. Not out of hand, but I think it was — a week or two prior to that, there was a selective release of information that included my briefing notes to President Obama in the White House Situation Room that was misrepresenting, in fact, the facts, where it was pushed out in redacted version. And I did think that was a very, very unfortunate, unprofessional, unethical engagement on the part of the Director of National Intelligence in a Presidential election.

Marco Rubio is one person who could weigh in this dispute.

But Durham didn’t stop there. He then fabricated a claim that wasn’t included in the suspected Russian disinformation: That Hillary planned to make false claims about Trump’s fondness for Russia.

First, the Clinton Plan intelligence itself and on its face arguably suggested that private actors affiliated with the Clinton campaign were seeking in 2016 to promote a false or exaggerated narrative to the public and to U.S. government agencies about Trump’s possible ties to Russia.

At a time when Trump was publicly demanding results from Durham, then, the Special Counsel made shit up, politicizing intelligence, in an attempt to find charges against Hillary Clinton.

Bash let Rubio claim it didn’t exist.

Then there’s the blockbuster of which political journalists like Bash (and her colleague, Kaitlan Collins) appear aggressively ignorant.

In January 2020 (this was in the same time period he and Durham were fabricating claims about Hillary Clinton), Bill Barr set up a side channel to ingest dirt from Rudy Giuliani, including some from known Russian spy Andrii Derkach. Via still unexplained means, that side channel discovered false claims made by FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, who has subsequently claimed to have extensive ties to Russian spies. Even though the claim was easily debunked, that dedicated side channel nevertheless failed to discover real problems with the fabricated claim that Joe Biden had been bribed by Mykola Zlockevsky. Indeed, days after Trump pressured Bill Barr about investigating Hunter Biden,  on October 23, 2020, Richard Donoghue ensured the fabricated claim would be assigned to David Weiss for further investigation.

Worse still, through the efforts of Republican congressmen and Bill Barr, that fabricated claim of a Joe Biden bribe appears to have played a key role in the collapse of Hunter Biden’s plea deal and subsequent felony conviction.

For the entirety of the time that these twin efforts to use suspected Russian disinformation to frame Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, Marco Rubio has been either Chair or Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — one of the few people who can demand answers when the nation’s intelligence and counterintelligence system is so badly abused that Donald Trump’s political enemies can be framed, potentially in cahoots with Russian spies.

And Dana Bash had Marco Rubio sitting right there, in a position where she, in turn, could demand answers.

Instead, she let him lie and lie and lie about Trump’s past efforts to criminalize his political rivals.

Hunter Biden is on his way to prison in significant part because of Trump’s success at criminally targeting his political enemies. And Dana Bash never told viewers that Trump already has a documented record of doing just that.

“This is a rush job, as it needs to get out as soon as possible:” Jim Jordan-Led Investigation Discredits John Ratcliffe

In his latest effort to use the House Judiciary Committee as a goon squad to intimidate Donald Trump’s enemies, Jim Jordan actually developed proof that John Ratcliffe — and not the 51 former spooks he was after — inappropriately politicized intelligence to manufacture debate props.

And then Jordan did it himself.

I have the perfectly curated Xitter account to learn when Jim Jordan has released his latest installment of weaponization against democracy.

Last week, he issued his latest attempt to make a scandal out of the true free speech of the 51 former spooks who wrote a letter saying that the release of a Hunter Biden laptop days before the election “had all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” My replies were overrun with trolls chanting incoherent claims.

Of course the trolls in my Xitter feed didn’t know the most basic details of the letter or known facts about the copy of a hard drive referred to as a Hunter Biden laptop:

  • The former spooks didn’t say this was disinformation, no matter how many times Jordan or Glenn Greenwald lie and say they did. In fact, they specifically caveated that they didn’t know if the emails were genuine and did not have evidence of Russian involvement.
  • Nothing revealed about the laptop or the hard drives purportedly based on the laptop rules out Russian involvement. That’s true, in part, because the FBI never bothered to test the laptop to see if anything had been added, never indexed it, and when introduced at trial, the summary witness specifically said she had not looked for signs of tampering. Plus, there were enough Russian drug and sex workers in close proximity to earlier Hunter Biden laptop compromises to allow for a role, particularly in packaging up the device.
  • As the Democratic rebuttal notes, the 51 spook letter couldn’t have caused the social media companies to throttle the original New York Post story without a time machine, as Twitter and Facebook had stopped throttling the story several days before the letter was published. Linear time. It’s like magic to these trolls.

Even though Jordan’s latest report substantiates absolutely no misconduct, the trolls nevertheless yapped and yapped about it. Jordan showed:

  • While Mike Morrell did target the letter to the last debate (the same one where Trump invited Tony Bobulinski to make claims that have not held up), the other participants were not doing this for the Biden campaign; they were doing it to speak out against Russian interference in the 2020 election
  • The former spooks couldn’t have leaked classified information because none of them were read into pertinent information regarding the Russian spies cultivating Rudy Giuliani
  • The former spooks got preclearance to publish the letter via the normal process
  • After preclearance, the letter was forwarded for Gina Haspel’s attention, but neither she nor anyone else thought it was more important than vaccinating the CIA workforce
  • Some of the people involved were private citizens with contracts that did not strip them of their free speech

In other words, the 51 spooks followed the rules, and Jordan was stuck trying to turn it into a scandal.

The Jordan report was only 31 pages and, like a college freshman composition paper, blew entire pages with big screen caps repeating the complaints of two random spooks complaining about “random signatures” on the letter and some discussion of Mark Polymeropoulos getting something excluded from a follow-up.

Polymeropoulos’ attorney, Mark Zaid, explained that CIA redacted two lines, which had nothing to do with Hunter Biden, from the Polymeropoulos follow-up — but that was precisely how preclearance is supposed to work.

Mr. Polymeropolous submitted to the PCRB a two page talking points memo about the subject matter. Obviously, he knew that there was going to be media attention concerning the issue and he wanted to be properly prepared to address the topic if asked. He followed the standard procedure for review of information intended to be made public. No different than any other individual who has a prepublication review requirement. As part of its review, which was handled in the normal timely fashion for such a short document, CIA redacted two lines of information as being classified. Those two lines had nothing to do with the Hunter Biden laptop specifically and concerned Mr. Polymeropolous’ background experience with Russia and a comment concerning that country’s activities generally. Of course, that information was properly protected by Mr. Polymeropolous and never used. To say that this constituted an attempt to use classified information is farcical and reflects a complete lack of understanding how the prepublication review process works. The system operated exactly how it was supposed to and is being distorted for political purposes.

That’s it. That’s the best Jordan could rush out to give Trump something to complain about in a presidential debate over and over.

To think that I would, in front of generals and others, say suckers and losers – we have 19 people that said it was never said by me. It was made up by him, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was made up, just like the 51 intelligence agents are made up, just like the new thing with the 16 economists are talking.

It’s the same thing. Fifty-one intelligence agents said that the laptop was Russia disinformation. It wasn’t. That came from his son Hunter. It wasn’t Russia disinformation. He made up the suckers and losers, so he should apologize to me right now.

[snip]

I’ve dealt with politicians all my life. I’ve been on this side of the equation for the last eight years. I’ve never seen anybody lie like this guy. He lies – I’ve never seen it. He could look you in the face. So – and about so many other things, too.

And we mentioned the laptop, We mentioned “Russia, Russia, Russia,” “Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine.” And everything he does is a lie. It’s misinformation and disinformation. The “losers and suckers” story that he made up is a total lie on the military. It’s a disgrace.

This was Trump’s prepackaged answer to attempt to projection his own lying onto Biden. It was barely more vigorous than Biden’s rebuttals.

As flimsy as it was, though, Trump’s use of the 51-spook letter was part of a larger effort, one designed to bully those who speak up against Russian disinformation, disinformation generally, or in favor of rule of law. As John Brennan described, it created a furor about the letter that distracted from Russian intervention, which in turn serves to divide the country.

I think the firestorm, the furor has been created responding to the letter as opposed to the letter itself, as I responded to one of the Congressmen earlier. So it’s unfortunate that this is taking up all your time, it’s taking up my time, and it is, again, further dividing the country.

And, by design, it has chilled speech that talks about Russian interference.

One after another of the spooks interviewed confessed they or others would be chilled by the precedent of Jordan investigating private citizens for their free speech. Kristin Wood described how Mike Flynn put out all their names on a Telegram chat, leading to stalking and death threats.

Several ways. First of all, I’ve received death threats. I’ve received vicious calls, texts, emails from all sorts of random people. Mike Flynn — General Flynn posted on Telegram all of our names and said, you know, let them know how we feel. It unleashed this viciousness that had several other folks calling the police, calling the Threat Management Unit at CIA, to let them know what was happening.

And so for the first time ever, I looked at getting a gun and getting a concealed carry permit because it’s not just that people have been mean or say horrific things, but we’ve seen them take action. And so that feeling of vulnerability for speaking, exercising a First Amendment right, and for saying what I thought was as obvious as there’s air in — there’s air. Let’s just let the FBI do their work.

It has a profound effect on health as well. I’ve been to the emergency room for stress because of all of this. And so when you ask would I do this again, I would insist on a little more precision of language. But it has the effect of censoring people who have more than a thousand years of experience in this topic. And I would think the focus would be on stopping Russia and not on what feels like persecution.

Several of the spooks admitted the mob treatment would lead them to decline further involvement in anything political. Most described that it would chill others.

At that level, the spooks are just like the disinformation experts Jordan also targeted, those who tracked efforts to muddy reason and truth. Their lives have been upended because they attempted to track Russian disinformation that served Republican interests, and the personal and financial cost is shutting down those efforts during an election year.

But then something funny happened.

House Republicans kept pushing the spooks, arguing — notwithstanding the public reporting on Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to solicit dirt from known Russian agent Andrii Derkach — that the spooks should have known, somehow, that the hard drive called a Hunter Biden laptop wasn’t Russian disinformation (which, as noted, the spooks didn’t claim).

Republicans — often Jordan himself — kept asking whether the spooks knew that John Ratcliffe had claimed the laptop was not disinformation (which, again, was not what the letter claimed).

Chairman Jordan. Were you aware of Mr. Ratcliffe’s statement on the morning of the 19th, prior to the letter being sent, where he said in an interview on FOX News that morning that this is not part of the Russian disinformation campaign?

And that led multiple witnesses to explain why Ratcliffe simply wasn’t credible. Wood described that a proper counterintelligence investigation takes longer than would have transpired (no one knew how long the FBI had had the laptop).

Ms. Wood. So, I think what I would say in response to that is that the letter — the purpose of the letter was to say, Let’s not rush to judgment. Everyone, regardless of who they are as Americans, deserves due process. Let’s let the FBI do their work. And when DNI Ratcliffe said that — so as you have seen from all of these investigations, right, they take a very long time to do, to do the considered judgment of 17 or 18 intelligence agencies, and to come up with that to do the exhaustive search of asking new sources, of pulling in every bit of signals intelligence, there’s just no way that’s possible to have been done in the timeframe in which that statement was made. So our whole point was to say, Be careful here. Let us — we don’t know if this is all real. We don’t know if all the emails are real, and we don’t know if this is tied to the Russians. Let’s let the process work

James Clapper described that, not only didn’t he consider Ratcliffe a reliable source, but that he made the statement before any investigation of the laptop.

Mr. Clapper. Well, if the Department of Justice or the FBI or some other legitimate credible source of — who had done a credible forensic analysis — certainly I would accept that. That’s why I suggested that would be a good — would have been a good fix — a good addition to the letter had we said that.

Mr. Gaetz. Are you aware of Director Ratcliffe, the DNI at the time, contradicting the thrust of this letter you signed?

Mr. Clapper. Well, okay. He said that statement before, I think, an investigation had begun of the laptop. So I don’t know where he’s coming from making a statement like that.

In response to a follow-up question from the Minority, Clapper also agreed that Ratcliffe himself was making public statements in anticipation of the debate.

Q It’s an article reporting on Ratcliffe’s remarks, and it’s dated October 19th, 2020, 1:49 p.m. And we’re just introducing it for the fact of the date. The New York Post story in question was released on October 14th, correct?

A Yes.

Q So that would have been 5 days before Ratcliffe made his remarks?

A Right.

Q And I think you said earlier he couldn’t have even begun an investigation in that time period. Is that correct?

A Correct.

Q And can you explain what you mean by that?

A Well, I don’t know how — what his basis for making that statement is when the laptop itself hasn’t been investigated. The DNI, Office of the Director National Intelligence, has no organic forensic analysis capability at all. So they’re dependent on other components of the intelligence community, in this case the FBI, to render such a judgment, which hadn’t been rendered. So I don’t know how he could make that statement.

Q Okay. And even assuming that Ratcliffe — sorry. Withdraw that. And he made these remarks on October 19th, which was the day before the second debate, correct? The second Presidential debate was the 20th.

A Uh-huh.

Q So isn’t it possible that Ratcliffe also made his remarks in the hope that they would impact the debate?

A Well, one could conclude that, yes.

John Brennan was even more disdainful of Ratcliffe’s actions. He described that Ratcliffe’s release of his briefing notes, for the first 2020 debate, made it clear that Ratcliffe was involved in politics.

Chairman Jordan. Director, were you aware of what Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said on the morning of October 19th regarding this Biden laptop story, where he said that it wasn’t a Russian disinformation operation?

Mr. Brennan. I don’t know if I was aware of it at the time, but I would have dismissed it anyway.

Chairman Jordan. Why would you have dismissed it?

Mr. Brennan. Because I don’t think John Ratcliffe was an independent, objective leader of the intelligence community at the time.

Chairman Jordan. So you would dismiss the statement from the Director of National Intelligence — the Acting — the Director of National Intelligence at the time, in the administration, getting intelligence in real-time, you would just dismiss that out of hand?

Mr. Brennan. Not out of hand, but I think it was — a week or two prior to that, there was a selective release of information that included my briefing notes to President Obama in the White House Situation Room that was misrepresenting, in fact, the facts, where it was pushed out in redacted version. And I did think that was a very, very unfortunate, unprofessional, unethical engagement on the part of the Director of National Intelligence in a Presidential election.

Mr. Gaetz. So your dismissing Mr. Ratcliffe was somehow payback for the fact that you thought that your briefing to President Obama had been mischaracterized?

Mr. Brennan. No, that’s not what I said.

Mr. Gaetz. Okay. Well, I’m trying to understand how this event that seems to have aggrieved you regarding the briefing to President Obama impacted your view of the Ratcliffe assessment.

Mr. Brennan. It didn’t aggrieve me. It just indicated to me that John Ratcliffe was not going to be an independent, nonpartisan, apolitical actor.

Brennan is referring to the notes he got about materials found among hacked documents in Russia, which Republicans and John Durham spun up, first of all, as true (rather than suspected Russian disinformation), and then misrepresented to claim that Hillary had a plan to frame Donald Trump.

Not only did Brennan see this as an election season stunt (which I observed at the time), but he described that Ratcliffe “misrepresent[ed] the facts” about the materials.

Jim Jordan has been searching for a former spook to accuse of politicizing intelligence in 2020 for years, and he finally found one! Trump’s hand-picked Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, who was doing precisely what Jordan falsely accused the former spooks of doing, but did so while still an employee of the Intelligence Community.

Update: Corrected that the “laptop” was not just a “hard drive,” but in fact a copy of another hard drive.

Spirit of Revenge: John Roberts Says Joe Biden Can Demand an Investigation of Ginni Thomas

As I wrote in this post, John Roberts chose to cloak his radical opinion eliminating rule of law for Presidents by nodding to George Washington’s Farewell Address.

Our first President had such a perspective. In his Farewell Address, George Washington reminded the Nation that “a Government of as much vigour as is consistent with the perfect security of Liberty is indispensable.” 35 Writings of George Washington 226 (J. Fitzpatrick ed. 1940). A government “too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction,” he warned, could lead to the “frightful despotism” of “alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge.” Id., at 226–227. And the way to avoid that cycle, he explained, was to ensure that government powers remained “properly distributed and adjusted.” Id., at 226.

It is these enduring principles that guide our decision in this case.

As I showed, that was partly an attempt to spin the usurpation of Executive Branch prosecutorial authority between Administrations as, instead, protection of the separation of powers of co-equal branches.

But it was also an attempt to deploy Washington’s warnings against partisanship as if they counseled doing what Roberts was doing, rather than the opposite.

Roberts had the audacity, for example, to quote from a passage talking about how unbridled partisanship could lead to foreign influence, corruption, insurrection, and authoritarianism and suggest he was preventing that, rather than immunizing it.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another. [my emphasis]

As I described in the initial release of Ball of Thread, the podcast I’m doing with LOLGOP, the Republicans on SCOTUS really believe Trump’s garbage claims that his prosecution was about revenge and despotism, rather than an effort to stave it off.

Trump has gotten people who claim to care about the country to view up as down, fascism as freedom.

Never mind that a court riddled with corruption scandals invoked the passage of the Farewell Address warning against it.

Between the shock of the overall holding and the obsession with Joe Biden’s poor debate, though, there has been little focus on an equally troubling part of Roberts’ opinion: one sanctioning the wholesale politicization of DOJ.

In the passage throwing out the charges involving Jeffrey Clark altogether, Roberts prohibits review of not just DOJ’s prosecutorial decisions (except, of course, when they involve a President’s predecessor, in which case DOJ has very constrained authority), but also of the President’s involvement in those decisions.

The Government does not dispute that the indictment’s allegations regarding the Justice Department involve Trump’s “use of official power.” Brief for United States 46; see id., at 10–11; Tr. of Oral Arg. 125. The allegations in fact plainly implicate Trump’s “conclusive and preclusive” authority. “[I]nvestigation and prosecution of crimes is a quintessentially executive function.” Brief for United States 19 (quoting Morrison v. Olson, 487 U. S. 654, 706 (1988) (Scalia, J., dissenting)). And the Executive Branch has “exclusive authority and absolute discretion” to decide which crimes to investigate and prosecute, including with respect to allegations of election crime. Nixon, 418 U. S., at 693; see United States v. Texas, 599 U. S. 670, 678–679 (2023) (“Under Article II, the Executive Branch possesses authority to decide ‘how to prioritize and how aggressively to pursue legal actions against defendants who violate the law.’” (quoting TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, 594 U. S. 413, 429 (2021))). The President may discuss potential investigations and prosecutions with his Attorney General and other Justice Department officials to carry out his constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Art. II, §3. And the Attorney General, as head of the Justice Department, acts as the President’s “chief law enforcement officer” who “provides vital assistance to [him] in the performance of [his] constitutional duty to ‘preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.’” Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U. S. 511, 520 (1985) (quoting Art. II, §1, cl. 8).

Investigative and prosecutorial decisionmaking is “the special province of the Executive Branch,” Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U. S. 821, 832 (1985), and the Constitution vests the entirety of the executive power in the President, Art. II, §1. For that reason, Trump’s threatened removal of the Acting Attorney General likewise implicates “conclusive and preclusive” Presidential authority. As we have explained, the President’s power to remove “executive officers of the United States whom he has appointed” may not be regulated by Congress or reviewed by the courts. Myers, 272 U. S., at 106, 176; see supra, at 8. The President’s “management of the Executive Branch” requires him to have “unrestricted power to remove the most important of his subordinates”—such as the Attorney General—“in their most important duties.” Fitzgerald, 457 U. S., at 750 (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted).

The indictment’s allegations that the requested investigations were “sham[s]” or proposed for an improper purpose do not divest the President of exclusive authority over the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the Justice Department and its officials. App. 186–187, Indictment ¶10(c). And the President cannot be prosecuted for conduct within his exclusive constitutional authority. Trump is therefore absolutely immune from prosecution for the alleged conduct involving his discussions with Justice Department officials. [my emphasis]

Here, Roberts turns the Take Care Clause on its head. Whereas conservative judge Karen Henderson viewed the Take Care Clause to require that the President obey the law, Roberts instead sees that as a source of permission for the President to demand investigations, even if they are proposed for an improper purpose.

In doing so, Roberts gives Joe Biden permission to demand an investigation of Ginni Thomas for the purpose of revenge against her spouse.

To be sure, in spite of Roberts’ expansive permission for President’s to politicize DOJ, there appear to be limits. Joe Biden cannot order the IRS to review whether Clarence Thomas has written off all the undeclared boondoggles Harlan Crow has given him.

One of the only laws specifically mention the President, it turns out, is 26 USC 7217, which prohibits certain people, including the President himself, from asking the IRS to take investigative action against a taxpayer.

(a)Prohibition
It shall be unlawful for any applicable person to request, directly or indirectly, any officer or employee of the Internal Revenue Service to conduct or terminate an audit or other investigation of any particular taxpayer with respect to the tax liability of such taxpayer.

(b)Reporting requirement
Any officer or employee of the Internal Revenue Service receiving any request prohibited by subsection (a) shall report the receipt of such request to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

[snip]

(e)Applicable person
For purposes of this section, the term “applicable person” means—
(1)the President, the Vice President, any employee of the executive office of the President, and any employee of the executive office of the Vice President; and

This law could one day, in the not-too-distant future, come before the Justices. It could even do so in the specific context at issue here, Donald Trump’s pressure on Jeffrey Rosen on December 27, 2020.

That’s because, as laid out in Hunter Biden’s selective and vindictive prosecution claim, in the very same conversation where Trump demanded that DOJ make false claims about election fraud, he also pressured Rosen to investigate Hunter Biden “for real.”

On December 27, 2020, then Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue took handwritten notes of a call with President Trump and then Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, showing that Mr. Trump had instructed Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue to “figure out what to do with H[unter] Biden” and indicating that Mr. Trump insisted “people will criticize the DOJ if he’s not investigated for real.”57

57 Dec. 27, 2020 Handwritten Notes of Richard Donoghue Released by H. Oversight Comm. at 4 (emphasis added), www.washingtonpost.com/context/read-richard-donoghue-s-handwrittennotes-on-trump-rosen-calls/cdc5a621-dfd1-440d-8dea-33a06ad753c8; see also Transcribed Interview of Richard Donoghue at 56 (Oct. 1, 2021), H. Oversight Comm., https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-J6-TRANSCRIPT-CTRL0000034600/pdf/GPO-J6- TRANSCRIPT-CTRL0000034600.pdf.

Hunter Biden’s as-applied challenge to his gun charges are more likely to get to SCOTUS and do so more quickly.

But his prosecution, with the President privately and publicly intervening both as President and as candidate to replace his father raises fairly unprecedented questions about the due process rights of a person whom the President has demanded be investigated for the purpose of revenge.

Until such a case gets reviewed, however, John Roberts has invited Joe Biden to call up Merrick Garland and demand not just that DOJ open an investigation into Ginni Thomas, but to appoint a Special Counsel who could continue the investigation for the foreseeable future.

By refusing all review of improper pressure on the Attorney General, John Roberts has not eliminated the risk of revenge and despotism.

He has, rather, sanctioned it.

“Double Jeopardy Protection … Is [Hunter Biden’s] Right”

“Mr. Biden took the case to trial,” Abbe Lowell wrote in a reply brief arguing that an June 25, 2022 amendment to the statute that previously made 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3) a crime made the possession charge filed against Hunter non-viable retroactively, “so that either by conviction or acquittal from the jury or by this Court, he would have double jeopardy protection against future prosecutions. That is his right.”

The means by which Lowell hopes to make the third count of which Hunter was convicted go away are a bit tricker than that: basically, when Congress changed the gun law in 2022, they added another one, increasing the penalty on the charge. But there was no way (Lowell argues) to charge Hunter under a law enacted four years after he owned a gun if he hadn’t already been charged.

The Special Counsel’s invocation of the 1871 savings clause now found in 1 U.S.C. § 109 is off base, because that statute only saves prosecutions that already had been filed when the law was amended. It does not allow the Special Counsel to bring new prosecutions post-amendment based on conduct that violated a pre-amendment statute, which is exactly what the Special Counsel has done. Not only does the language of Section 109 itself make this clear, but the 153-year history since the statute was enacted confirms this reading. Congress regularly attaches savings clauses to legislation to allow new prosecutions to be brought for violations of prior law, when it chooses to do so, and it did not do so here.

As I said here, I was persuaded by Derek Hines’ argument that this complaint is untimely. I’m no longer so sure.

What I am humbly reconsidering, though, is whether when I scolded others for oversimplifying the reasons why Hunter would go to trial, I was not myself also oversimplifying.

Take the new motion Lowell filed today (though he accidentally posted, then withdrew it, last week), arguing that because the Third Circuit never issued a mandate after rejecting Hunter’s second bid for interlocutory appeal, Maryellen Noreika did not have jurisdiction over this case when she held a trial.

The Third Circuit entered an order dismissing Mr. Biden’s second appeal on May 28, 2024, and denied Mr. Biden’s rehearing petition on the first appeal on May 31, 2024. The Third Circuit, however, did not then and has not yet issued its mandate as to the orders dismissing either appeal. Thus, when this Court empaneled the jury on June 3, 2024 and proceeded to trial, it was without jurisdiction to do so.

This particular motion would not win an acquittal if it were to succeed. It would only get Hunter a new trial.

But if Lowell was really confident that this jurisdictional ploy would work, it might explain some of the things he appeared to let slide at trial. If Lowell expected he might get a second trial, potentially even one with the core gun charge eliminated, he might let some things slide he otherwise would not, thereby preserving those arguments for a potential second trial.

That leaves the substantive reply submitted today, Lowell’s post-Rahimi support for Hunter’s as-applied Second Amendment challenge, which like Derek Hines’ response, is longer than his initial Rule 29 motion (though the reply is still have the length of Hines’ response).

This fight — because of the nearly unique nature of the charges against a non-violent offender like Hunter, because of the circumstances of his charging, because of the timing — was always going to be interesting.

It does not disappoint.

This filing mocks SCOTUS as much as David Weiss’ folks.

The Special Counsel often relies on post-Founding Era purported precedents, but those come too late to inform what was intended by those who ratified the Second Amendment. As Rahimi explained: “A court must ascertain whether the new law is ‘relevantly similar’ to laws that our tradition is understood to permit, ‘apply[ing] faithfully the balance struck by the founding generation to modern circumstances.’” Slip op. at 7 (quoting N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1, 29 & n.7 (2022); see also Slip op. at 3 (Gorsuch, J. concurring) (noting the relevant timeframe is the time of founding for interpreting the Constitution); Slip op. at 2 (Barrett, J., concurring) (explaining post-ratification practice may not reflect Founding Era views); Slip op. at 28 (Thomas, J., dissenting).

But the key point does something similar to the other tactical moves Lowell took today: It uses Leo Wise and Derek Hines’ prosecutorial dickishness against them. It notes that, against Lowell’s wishes, Judge Noreika granted prosecutors’ bid to keep all Second Amendment claims out of trial.

It was only told to find whether the statutes as written were violated—without any further finding necessary to satisfy the Second Amendment. 6/10/24 Tr. at 1298. In fact, the Special Counsel sought, and this Court granted, a motion in limine to prevent reference to a Second Amendment defense. D.E.189 at 3 (Order granting government’s motion (D.E.124) to exclude argument, evidence and questioning relating to the constitutionality of the firearm statute). The Sixth Amendment prevents Mr. Biden’s conviction from resting upon any judge found facts, those facts must be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, and—over Mr. Biden’s objection—the jury was not even asked to find the facts necessary for his conduct to be a crime consistent with the Second Amendment. Erlinger, Slip op. at 11 (“Judges may not assume the jury’s factfinding function for themselves, let alone purport to perform it using a mere preponderance-of-theevidence standard.”).

It emphasizes that Derek Hines instructed the jury from the start that they were not to consider the one thing SCOTUS says should be considered: whether an individual is dangerous.

Beyond advancing this erroneous legal theory (or “invented” theory, according to Justice Thomas, Slip op. at 28 (Thomas, J., dissenting)), the Special Counsel is simply wrong in claiming that Mr. Biden posed any risk of violence. We do not quarrel with the Special Counsel’s claims and statistics that many users of crack are violent and have misused guns, but—while the Special Counsel has extensively chronicled Mr. Biden’s conduct over several years of crack use—the Special Counsel has not identified a single time in which Mr. Biden became violent. Not one. And there is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Biden ever loaded, fired, brandished, or threatened anyone with a gun, or that it was ever even in his actual physical possession at any time in which he was allegedly using any drug.

Mr. Hines conceded this point in his opening:

To be clear, Mr. Biden is not charged with a violent offense, the gun was taken from him just after 11 days before anything like that could occur. But it’s important to note that whether the defendant is dangerous is not an issue that’s relevant for your determinations in this case. He’s just charged with possession of a gun. 6/4/24 Tr. at 341 (emphasis added).

Not only is this an acknowledgment that no violent offense did “occur,” Mr. Hines told the jury it would not be making any finding as to “whether the defendant is dangerous.” Id. And he was right about that—nothing in the jury instructions asked the jury to find whether Mr. Biden was dangerous. Thus, even if this is an element of the offense that must be read into the statute to make it constitutional, the jury was not asked to find this element met as is required by the Sixth Amendment.

And it notes that Derek Hines cannot now argue that Hunter Biden was dangerous categorically.

The Special Counsel devotes much of its opposition to claiming that Mr. Biden’s drug use made him dangerous(D.E.234 at Sec. I.B.), but Rahimi clearly rejected the government’s argument that this is a basis for disarmament. A more particularized historical analogy is required. As the Supreme Court explained in Rahimi, while “holding that Section 922(g)(8) is constitutional as applied to Rahimi,” the Court “reject[ed] the Government’s contention that Rahimi may be disarmed simply because he is not ‘responsible.’” Slip op. at 17; see Slip op. at 6 (Gorsuch, J., concurring) (“Nor do we purport to approve in advance other laws denying firearms on a categorical basis to any group of persons a legislature happens to deem, as the government puts it, not ‘responsible.’”) (emphasis added). At oral argument, the government explained that “when it used the term ‘responsible’ in its briefs, it really meant ‘not dangerous.’” Slip op. at 28 (Thomas, J. dissenting) (emphasis in original). With respect to this argument “that the Second Amendment allows Congress to disarm anyone who is not ‘responsible’ and ‘law-abiding,’” Justice Thomas emphasized: “Not a single Member of the Court adopts the Government’s theory.” Id. at 27. To highlight thisfact, Justice Gorsuch requoted Justice Thomas’ point in his concurrence. Slip op. at 6 (Gorsuch, J., concurring) (“Not a single Member of the Court adopts the Government’s theory”).

The reason for that is self-evident. The Government’s proposed justification is also far too general. Nearly all firearm regulations can be cast as preventing ‘irresponsible’ or ‘unfit’ persons from accessing firearms. In addition, to argue that a law limiting access to firearms is justified by the fact that the regulated groups should not have access to firearms is a logical merry-goround. As the Court has made clear, such overly broad judgments cannot suffice.

Slip op. at 15 (Thomas, J., dissenting).

It’s the jury’s job to make findings of fact that might be required by SCOTUS’s fiddling with gun laws.

The Special Counsel devotes much of his brief to arguing the facts, but he is directing his repeated closing argument to the wrong forum. This Court properly told the jury that “you are the sole judges of the facts,” and this jury was not asked to find the constitutionally relevant facts.

This won’t persuade Judge Noreika. But it will bollox the posture of this case, particularly if Hunter wins a retrial based on the jurisdictional ploy. What kind of jury instructions would Noreika give, post-Rahimi?

Finally, Lowell notes that if SCOTUS eventually does change the rules on 18 USC 922(g)(3) prosecutions — perhaps by requiring that a jury find a defendant also posed a danger as an addict — Hunter would never have had notice of this standard before he violated it.

That begs the question:* where is this line that separates not only what is legal from what is illegal, but where the exercise of a constitutionally protected right becomes a felony? How does a person have fair notice of when he or she is allowed to possess a firearm if they used a prohibited substance a day, a week, a month or, as the Special Counsel argued, years before? This Court has not said, and the jury that would have to find a constitutionally permissible charge to convict was not told either. In other words, whatever more facts must be proven beyond Section 922(g)(3)’s statutory language for a conviction to be proven—such as active intoxication while physically armed and terrorizing people—remains an unknown and were never found by the jury.

Moreover, once the Court does announce where this line exists, that guidance is only of value to the people of Delaware prospectively. It comes too late for people like Mr. Biden to be able to conform their conduct within the constitutional bounds of the law previously. Thus, while courts may impose limiting constructions on a statute to resolve constitutional problems with them in some circumstances, principles of due process notice prevent those new standards from being applied retroactively. See, e.g., Marks v. United States, 430 U.S. 188, 194–95 (1977); Bouie v. City of Columbia, 378 U.S. 347, 362 (1964). Additionally, when courts add a judicial gloss on a statute, that gloss must be charged in an indictment like any other element. See, e.g., Simmons, 96 U.S. at 363. There is no point in saving a statute from being found unconstitutional through a limiting construction if the grand jury that makes a charging decision and the jury that is asked to convict are never told what is required by a court’s limiting construction. Consequently, if the Court finds that the Second Amendment places a gloss on Section 922(g)(3) that narrows the constitutionally permissible scope of the statute, Mr. Biden must be acquitted on that ground alone.

None of this is about contesting the circumstances of Hunter’s addiction when he possessed a gun. Rather, it’s about contesting whether his addiction would be enough to satisfy any new standard SCOTUS might adopt.

But these problems were always inherent in charging a non-violent offender on gun charges just days before the statutes of limitation expired even as multiple post-Bruen challenges threatened to change the landscape of the crimes charged.

This won’t win acquittal on all charges for Hunter. But it may well complicate things.


* Note: Having called out Judge Scarsi for his misuse of “begs the question,” I must call out Lowell’s usage here, too.

Derek Hines Ensures that Two Likely Appeals Will Implicate His False Claims about Hunter Biden’s New Haven Crack Pipe

Hunter Biden filed three Rule 29 motions after the government rested in its case in chief against him in Delaware: a motion claiming there was insufficient evidence against him that is a formality in advance of other appeals, a claim about a recent change in the gun law that David Weiss convincingly argued is untimely, and his promised Second Amendment as-applied challenge.

While I disagree with virtually every commentator that a Second Amendment challenge is Hunter’s best chance at overturning his conviction, the as-applied challenge, more than his more general Second Amendment challenge, may prove important in years ahead– and it will take years, not least because Judge Noreika is unlikely to grant this challenge.

After all, one thing that makes Hunter’s prosecution almost unique is that there was and is no other legal judgment to implicate a tie between his addiction and the purchase of the gun, such as a related crime. There was no legal fact-finding, as there had been in imposing the restraining order on Rahimi, that he posed a threat. No court had found Hunter’s addiction to pose a threat to others. When a Biden-hating cop interviewed him after Hallie filed a police report, that cop did not prosecute — or even test — Hunter for doing drugs in the recent days.

On Friday, hours after the Supreme Court ruled against Zackey Rahimi’s challenge to restrictions on domestic abusers’ gun ownership, Derek Hines filed Special Counsel’s opposition to Hunter’s as-applied challenge. Unsurprisingly (and uncontroversially), the opposition relies heavily on Rahimi decision.

At trial, the government proved that the defendant was a heavy crack cocaine user who frequently posed a danger to himself and others. Section 922(g)(3), as applied to the defendant, falls squarely within “this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” and comports with the Second Amendment. New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1, 17 (2022). The Supreme Court’s decision today in United States v. Rahimi, No. 22-915 (U.S. June 21, 2024) clarified that Bruen only requires the government to show “the challenged regulation is consistent with the principles that underpin our regulatory tradition,” not that it is “identical” to a regulation at the founding. Slip op at 7. This significantly undermines the defendant’s reliance on United States v. Daniels, 77 F.4th 337 (5th Cir. 2023), which cites repeatedly to the now-reversed Fifth Circuit decision in Rahimi. As to the Fifth Amendment challenge, because § 922(g)(3) provides fair notice of the conduct it prohibits, it is not unconstitutionally vague. The Court should therefore deny the defendant’s motion.

But aside from that tactical opportunism, Hines doesn’t argue why Hunter himself posed a danger as a gun owner in October 2018, beyond pointing to the specific gun paraphernalia that, Abbe Lowell argued fairly convincingly, Gordon Cleveland upsold Hunter Biden to purchase.

Indeed, having argued assertively at trial that Hunter was a very high functioning crack addict, Hines relies on general policy arguments about addicts’ impairment to explain the danger of him owning a gun.

It is beyond dispute that firearm possession while operating under significant cognitive impairment in critical areas like attention, speed of processing, emotional regulation, inhibition control, and the ability to prioritize negative long-term consequences—not to mention psychological and physiological effects like panic, paranoia, tremors, or muscle twitches—presents a significant public safety risk. Nat’l Treasury Emps. Union v. Von Raab, 489 U.S. 656, 670-71, 674 (1989). The dangerousness of the defendant’s cocaine use is vividly shown by the evidence presented at trial, in which the loss of inhibition, emotional regulation, and self-control was demonstrated. See, e.g., Ex. 19 at 170-74 (discussing an episode in which the defendant drove a 500-mile road trip on which he wrecked a rental car when he hit the curb and spun into oncoming traffic, chain-smoked crack cocaine while driving, and chased a possibly hallucinatory barn owl at high speeds “through a series of tight, bounding switchbacks”).

As the Fried court noted, “unlawful drug use . . . causes significant mental and physical impairments that make it dangerous for a person to possess firearms.” 640 F. Supp. 3d at 1262-63. People who habitually use a substance like crack cocaine that impairs the ability to think, judge, and reason “are analogous to other groups the government has historically found too dangerous to have guns.” Id. at 1263; see also Wilson v. Lynch, 835 F.3d 1083, 1094 (9th Cir. 2016) (“It is beyond dispute that illegal drug users . . . are likely as a consequence of that use to experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgment and that can lead to irrational or unpredictable behavior.”); United States v. Carter, 750 F.3d 462, 469-70 (4th Cir. 2014) (finding “convincing” the government’s argument “that drugs ‘impair [users’] mental function . . . and thus subject others (and themselves) to irrational and unpredictable behavior’”); Yancey, 621 F.3d at 685 (“habitual drug abusers, like the mentally ill, are more likely to have difficulty exercising self-control, making it dangerous for them to possess deadly firearms”).

Perhaps the weirdest thing Hines does, as he did at trial, is to present evidence of Hunter’s later condition to substantiate his case, citing evidence of Hunter’s crack use in November and December 2018 and February and March 2019.

By March 2019, he claimed he had “no plan beyond the moment-to-moment demands of the crack pipe” and that this period followed “four years of active addiction.” Id. at 219-20.

[snip]

The defendant also discussed purchasing drugs in text messages with several individuals, showing a pattern of consistent drug use from spring 2018 to spring 2019. See, e.g., Ex. 18 at Row 1-22 (April 2018); id. at Row 23-65 (May 2018); id. at Row 66-72 (June 2018); id. at Row 73-85 (July 2018); id. at Row 86-87 (August 2018); id. at Row 169- 80 (November 2018); id. at Row 195-206 (December 2018); id. at Row 217-49 (February 2019). [my emphasis]

Admittedly, Hines would have had virtually all of this written before Rahimi. But the SCOTUS decision stresses temporary prohibitions, not permanent ones. And particularly absent a focus on Hunter’s drug use between the time of his August rehab and the gun purchase (Hines cites but does not quote Zoe Kestan’s testimony describing Hunter’s use in September 2018), Hines’ inclusion of so much evidence that post-dates Hunter’s ownership of a gun entirely makes the constitutional question more interesting.

Can an addict really lose his Second Amendment rights for future addiction?

And in the middle of one of those passages about Hunter’s future drug use months after he owned the gun, Hines includes the false claim he won’t stop making: that Hunter’s description of “me and a crack pipe in a Super 8” pertained to the state of his addiction in fall 2018, shortly after he owned a gun, rather than four months later, after Fox News pundit Keith Ablow’s treatment had made Hunter’s addiction worse.

The defendant characterized his daily experience in November 2018 as “me and a crack pipe in a Super 8 [motel], not knowing which the fuck way was up,” explaining that “[a]ll my energy revolved around smoking drugs and making arrangements to buy drugs.” Id. at 208. According to the defendant, by March 2019, he had “no plan beyond the moment-to-moment demands of the crack pipe.” Id. at 219-20.

Now, Hines’ obtuse misrepresentation of this passage presents more problems for a defense against a vindictive prosecution appeal. After all, by repeating this false claim six times (he repeated it in his response to the sufficiency challenge, as well, because apparently Hines doesn’t know “which the fuck way [is] up”), Hines is either confessing that he grossly misread the memoir which he successfully argued before Judge Noreika distinguished Hunter from other non-violent addicts who never get charged…

…Or he simply framed Hunter Biden before the grand jury, just like a corrupt Baltimore cop would frame someone by planting a crack pipe, claiming that conduct that took place long after the charged crime instead took place just weeks later.

Derek Hines had little of the evidence he used to prove his case at trial when he indicted Hunter Biden in September of last year. He didn’t have the cocaine residue in the leather pouch, he didn’t have a warrant to search Hunter’s text messages for evidence of gun purchases, he had some, but not all, of Kestan’s testimony.

Did he falsely tell the grand jury, as he told Maryellen Noreika and insinuated to the jury, that this passage pertains to “fall 2018”?

Did he make an easily disproven false claim to the grand jury to get that indictment? (The materials below show how easy this should be for a literate prosecutor to understand.)

But it is in Kestan’s testimony where his continued recitation of this line poses problems.

To win this constitutional challenge, Hines needs Kestan’s testimony that Hunter was doing drugs between his August rehab and his October gun purchase to be credible, because otherwise there are questions about the status of his addiction when he purchased the gun.

Q. And this was September the 18th of 2018, right?

A. I believe I was in the room by myself when I took that photo, so I think the day that we woke up there and he left later was the 17th.

Q. Okay. The day or — and the night he was there with you, did you see him smoking crack at The Freehand?

A. Yes.

[snip]

Q. All right. Now, when you get there on September the 20th of 2018, you’ve already testified he was smoking crack at The Freehand. Was he smoking crack at the Malibu house, when you were there in that week starting on September the 20th?

A. Yes.

But — on top of the full excerpt and spending records I place below, showing that Hines is wrong about his claims about the Super 8 passage — Kestan’s testimony debunks Hines’ unhealthy obsession with that line about the Super 8.

Q. And when you got there, where was he staying?

A. He was staying on an island called Plum Island, next to, or part of a place called Newburyport, Massachusetts, he said he was doing a ketamine infusion treatment.

Q. What did you understand that to mean?

A. It sounded like it was an outpatient type thing, where he would go to a clinic during daytime hours and get the treatment. And he was staying in a, like a rental house on his own otherwise.

Q. And when you went to visit him, did he in fact leave for whatever these treatments were?

A. Yes.

Hunter Biden wasn’t in New Haven in November 2018, when Derek Hines claims he was smoking the crack pipe Hunter described himself smoking in a Super 8 in New Haven (though in reality, only a few of the hotels at which he stayed in New Haven were as sketchy as a Super 8, and the only obvious one was a Quality Inn, not a Super 8).

He was, per Hines’ most important witness for this as-applied challenge, in a house out on Plum Island, outside Newburyport, still getting the Ketamine treatments that preceded the scene that Hines won’t stop falsely claiming happened in 2018.

Again, Hines’ persistent false claims about New Haven matter more in a hypothetical selective prosecution challenge, because Hines’ false claim was central to his assertions that there was reason to charge Hunter when he did.

But this as-applied constitutional challenge will implicate the timeline, what came before and what came after. And Derek Hines has persistently and obtusely made false claims about the timeline so he could rely on his favorite passage from Hunter’s book, including in his response to this as-applied challenge.


Memoir excerpt

The following excerpt shows the full context of Derek Hines’ favorite passage from Hunter Biden’s memoir. The italicized text was not included in the exhibit and audio-recording presented to the jury, which clearly places this description after his treatment from Ablow.

The therapy’s results were disastrous. I was in no way ready to process the feelings it unloosed or prompted by reliving past physical and emotional traumas. So I backslid. I did exactly what I’d come to Massachusetts to stop doing. I’d stay clean for a week, break away from the center to meet a connection I found in Rhode Island, smoke up, then return. One thing I did remarkably well during that time was fool people about whether or not I was using. Between trips up there, I even bought clean urine from a dealer in New York to pass drug tests.

Of course, that made all that time and effort ineffective. I didn’t necessarily blame the treatment: I doubt much good comes from doing ketamine while you’re on crack.

The reality is, the trip to Massachusetts was merely another bullshit attempt to get well on my part. I knew that telling my family I was in rehab meant I could claim they wouldn’t be able to contact me while I was undergoing treatment. I’d made my share of insincere rehab attempts before. It’s impossible to get well, no matter what the therapy, unless you commit to it absolutely. The Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book”—the substance abuse bible, written by group founder Bill Wilson—makes that clear: “Half measures availed us nothing.”

By this point in my life, I’d written the book on half measures.

Finally, the therapist in Newburyport said there was little point in our continuing.

“Hunter,” he told me, with all the exasperated, empathetic sincerity he could muster, “this is not working.”

I headed back toward Delaware, in no shape to face anyone or anything. To ensure that I wouldn’t have to do either, I took an exit at New Haven.

To ensure that I wouldn’t have to do either, I took an exit at New Haven. For the next three or four weeks, I lived in a series of low-budget, low-expectations motels up and down Interstate 95, between New Haven and Bridgeport. I exchanged L.A.’s $400-a-night bungalows and their endless parade of blingy degenerates for the underbelly of Connecticut’s $59-a-night motel rooms and the dealers, hookers, and hard-core addicts—like me—who favored them. I no longer had one foot in polite society and one foot out. I avoided polite society altogether. I hardly went anywhere now, except to buy. It was me and a crack pipe in a Super 8, not knowing which the fuck way was up. All my energy revolved around smoking drugs and making arrangements to buy drugs—feeding the beast. To facilitate it, I resurrected the same sleep schedule I’d kept in L.A.: never. There was hardly any mistaking me now for a so-called respectable citizen. Crack is a great leveler.

New Haven area spending, February to March 2019

The following collects a non-exhaustive summary of money Hunter Biden spent in and around New Haven between February 11 and March 9, 2019. There is no other similar presence in New Haven that is easily identifiable.

This timeline happens to coincide with some of Hines’ favorite proof of drug purchases, as well.

February 11, 2019: Courtyard, New Haven

February 13, 2019: Courtyard, New Haven

February 13, 2019: Purchase at Reruns Bar and Grill, West Haven

February 13, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Broadway, New Haven

February 14, 2019: Purchase at Zachary’s Package Store, New Haven

February 14, 2019: Purchase at Citgo, New Haven

February 14, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Broadway, New Haven

February 14, 2019: New Haven Parking

February 15, 20199: ExxonMobil, West Haven

February 15, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Whitney Ave, Hamden

February 15, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Elm Street, West Haven (4X)

February 15, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Sawmill, West Haven (2X)

February 15, 2019: Purchase at New Haven Pizza, New Haven

February 15, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Highland, West Haven (4X)

February 15, 2019: Purchase at Sawmill Package Store, West Haven

February 15, 2019: ExxonMobil payment, West Haven

February 16, 2019: Carriage House, New Haven

February 16, 2019: Purchase at Around the Clock, New Haven

February 16, 2019: Purchase at Walgreens, New Haven

February 17, 2019: Carriage House, New Haven

February 17, 2019: Purchase at CVS, Hamden

February 17, 2019: Purchase at Tommys Tanning, Hamden

February 17, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Whitney Ave, Hamden

February 18, 2019: Carriage House, New Haven

February 18, 2019: Uber used on new device in Hamden

February 18, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Hamden Plaza, Hamden

February 18, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Dixwell Ave, Hamden

February 18, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Whitney Ave, Hamden

February 18, 2019: Purchase at McDonalds, Hamden

February 19, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Whitney Ave, Hamden

February 19, 2019: Uber ride from West Haven to Hamden

February 19, 2019: Booking.com The Blake Hotel, New Haven

February 19, 2019: Purchase at Drizly, New Haven

February 20, 2019: Uber ride from Milford to New Haven

February 21, 2019: Uber ride from New Haven to Milford

February 21, 2019: ATM withdrawal Hemingway Ave, New Haven

February 21, 2019: Purchase at Zachary’s Package Store, New Haven

February 21, 2019: Purchase at Fatface Corporation, New Haven

February 21, 2019: Purchase at Patagonia New Haven

February 21, 2019: Parking paid in New Haven

February 21, 2019: Parking paid in New Haven

February 23, 2019: Booking.com Marriott Worcester

February 24, 2019: Purchase at Whiskey on Water, Worcester

February 26, 2019: Uber ride from New Haven to New Haven

February 26, 2019: Purchase at Energy, Berlin

February 26, 2019: Purchase at Walgreens, New Haven

February 26, 2019: Purchase at Pizza Plus, New Haven

February 26, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal College Street, New Haven

February 27, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal College Street, New Haven

February 27, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal George Street, New Haven

February 27, 2019: Uber ride from New Haven to New Haven

February 28, 2019: New sign-in to Twitter on Safari in New Haven

February 28, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Chapel Street, New Haven (2X)

February 28, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Church Street, New Haven

February 28, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal George Street, New Haven

February 28, 2019: Non-WF ATM withdrawal Broadway, New Haven

February 28, 2019: Purchase at Meat&Co, New Haven

February 28, 2019: Purchase at Rite Aid, New Haven

February 28, 2019: Pick-up iPhone XR at Apple New Haven

February 28, 2019: Uber ride from Naugatuck to New Haven

February 28, 2019: Uber ride from New Haven to Naugatuck

March 3, 2019: ATM withdrawal Campbell Ave, New Haven

March 4, 2019: ATM withdrawal Foxon Blvd, New Haven

March 4, 2019: ATM withdrawal Hemingway Ave, New Haven

March 6, 2019: Purchase at Sunoco, Naugatuck

March 6, 2019: Purchase at Family Dollar, Naugatuck

March 6, 2019: ATM withdrawal Whalley Ave, New Haven

March 6, 2019: New sign-in to Twitter on Safari in New Haven

March 6, 2019: ATM withdrawal Church Street, New Haven (X4)

March 6, 2019: Purchase at Temple Wine and Liquor Store, New Haven

March 6, 2019: Uber ride from New Haven to New Haven

March 6, 2019: Booking.Com Omni Hotel New Haven

March 7, 2019: Uber ride from West Haven to New Haven

March 8, 2019: Uber ride from point to point in New Haven

March 8, 2019: ATM withdrawal Hemingway, East Haven

March 9, 2019: Quality Inn, New Haven (2X)

Fridays with Nicole Sandler

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Garrett Ziegler Done in by His Chateau Marmont Field Trip

Judge Hernán Vera has denied Garrett Ziegler’s motion to dismiss Hunter Biden’s lawsuit against him.

I had thought that Ziegler’s defense against the hacking claims, which argued that because Hunter Biden never owned the hard drive on which Ziegler received all Hunter’s data (including the iPhone protected by a password), might pose some interesting legal arguments.

I’m sure we’ll see the argument return, but for this stage of proceedings, Judge Vera agreed with Hunter’s argument that the relevant hacking laws focus on data, not devices.

Defendants assert that “[n]either the CFAA nor the CCDAFA authorizes a party whose data has been copied to assert a civil action over any computer, device or system not in their possession.” Motion at 5. But Defendants fail to point to language in these statutes that require possession of the physical device. Neither the CFAA nor the CCDAFA contain any requirement that Plaintiff must “own,” “possess,” or “control” the physical device or computer that Defendants accessed. The statute concerns the ownership of the data accessed. Both statutes allow Plaintiff to assert claims based on the facts asserted. See 18 U.S.C. § 1030(g) (extending civil remedy to “any person” who suffers damage or loss); Cal. Pen. Code § 502(e)(1) (extending civil remedy to owners of “data” who suffer damage or loss). In fact, Defendants’ ownership-and-control argument has been rejected by the Ninth Circuit. See Theofel v. Farey-Jones, 359 F.3d 1066, 1078 (9th Cir. 2004) (reversing “district court [that] erred by reading ownership or control requirement into the [CFAA] . . . . Individuals other than the computer’s owner may be proximately harmed by unauthorized access, particularly if they have rights to data stored on it.”).

The next time some tabloid journalist makes big news about Hunter’s spouse calling Ziegler a Nazi, she can state with confidence that this is a lawsuit about hacking, not about merely disseminating data.

The means by which Vera dismissed Ziegler’s claim that there was no personal jurisdiction over his activities in California are a bit more fun.

Among the evidence that Ziegler’s activity included a focus on California cited by Vera was the picture Ziegler posted to Instragram showing himself posing outside the Chateau Marmont in LA, holding a copy of his report.

Vera also noted that Ziegler’s sales of the report rely on Stripe and its CA-based servers.

Defendant Ziegler notes that the report Defendants prepared using Plaintiff’s data is available at the website www.bidenreport.com. Ziegler Decl. ¶ 8 & n.1. On this website, a “Purchase” button is prominently displayed, allowing users to spend $50.00 for a hardcopy of the Biden report. Declaration of Gregory A. Ellis (“Ellis Decl.”) ¶ 6, Ex. A [Dkt. No. 30-2]. Clicking the purchase button then links to a purchase page operated by Stripe.com, a California-based entity whose purchase terms are governed by California law.7

7 See www.stripe.com/legal/consumer, Section 12.

And Vera noted that Ziegler had sent copies of the report to CA residents like Elvis Chan (the FBI Agent at the center of right wing conspiracy theories about Twitter briefings) and Hunter’s criminal defense attorney, Angela Machala.

For example, he sent copies to multiple California residents to verify Plaintiff’s information. Ziegler said in interviews that his team talked with each person named in the report. Ellis Decl. Exs. C at 12 (“I took the time to call each and every person that is in this report”) [Dkt. No. 30-5]; D at 8 (“we’ve sent the dossier to all 4,000 contacts on Hunter’s laptop) [Dkt. No. 30-6]. He even includes a table of alleged Plaintiff family crimes with California area codes, many listing “where (venue)” as C.D. Cal. Ellis Decl. Ex. E at 233–35, 400–01. Other California residents include an FBI agent in the San Francisco field office, Ellis Decl. Ex. E at 22. And Ziegler even sent the Report to the personal residence of one of Plaintiff’s California-based attorneys. Ellis Decl. ¶ 12.

Vera’s ruling opens the way for discovery of the specific means and personnel involved in the exploitation of the hard drive, including the chain of custody via which Ziegler obtained it. Among the issues ripe for discovery cited in Hunter’s response include how Ziegler obtained the data, who funded his efforts, and who helped Ziegler exploit the data.

Defendants will have to explain how many copies of Plaintiff’s data they received and from whom, as well as the precise data they came to possess, during discovery in this case.

[snip]

Ziegler’s assertions about Defendants’ website views and support from California also demonstrate that the Court should exercise its discretion to allow jurisdictional discovery, should it still have questions about jurisdiction even after reviewing Plaintiff’s evidence. See, e.g., Orchid Biosciences, Inc. v. St. Louis Univ., 198 F.R.D. 670, 672-73 (S.D. Cal. 2001) (noting that courts have broad discretion in allowing jurisdictional discovery, citing multiple authorities). Here, discovery would be appropriate to address the following issues, at a minimum: the total number of Defendants’ financial supporters based in California; the percentage of their total financial supporters based in California; the total amount of money donated from California; the percentage of Defendants’ monetary donations emanating from California; the total number of unique website viewers from California; the percentage of unique website viewers from California; the number and percentages of website purchases of hardcopies of the Report emanating from California locations; and the number of California residents Ziegler sent hardcopies of the Report to in his “carpet-bombing” campaign, discussed infra.

[snip]

4 It is unclear whether the “team” of individuals who assisted Defendants with their data-related activities includes any California residents. In his declaration, Ziegler attests he has “hired no employees or independent contracts [sic] to conduct business in California, nor do any of Marco Polo’s board members reside in California.” (Ziegler Decl. ¶ 13.) But this careful wording leaves open many potential California connections, including the possibility that some aspects of Defendants’ unlawful data-related activities occurred in California and/or were perpetrated by California residents who were assisting Defendants in a capacity other than as “employees or independent contractors.” The location of Defendants’ “team” members is another appropriate topic for jurisdictional discovery.

The frothy right made a big deal about the fact that Hunter and Robert Costello put the lawsuit against Costello and Rudy Giuliani on hold pending Rudy’s bankruptcy. But discovery on this lawsuit will get to some of the very same issues.

Hunter Biden’s Prosecutors Complained about the Laptop, Once, Too

Just over a month ago, Judge Maryellen Noreika denied Hunter Biden’s request to compel prosecutors to provide better guidelines about where it had obtained evidence they would use against him. Because Derek Hines had identified the individual messages he used in a filing — including the Keith Ablow picture of sawdust Hines claimed was cocaine — she deemed the request moot.

Defendant closes his motion with a request that the government be ordered to “generally point defense counsel” to where, on a forensic image of Defendant’s “Apple MacBook Pro,” certain text and photographs can be located. (D.I. 83 at 18). That forensic image was produced to Defendant in October 2023 without an index, without any Bates stamps and without any indication of what will be used at trial. (Id. at 17). Although the government produced the laptop in the specific format requested by Defendant (D.I. 86 at 19), he complains that he has been unable to locate on the image certain text and photographs relied upon by the government (D.I. 83 at 17-18). In its opposition, the government provides an exhibit with images and annotations that appears to identify where the information resides on the laptop. (See D.I. 86 at Ex. 1). As best the Court can tell, this response satisfied Defendant, and there are no further outstanding requests with respect to the laptop. (See D.I. 89 at 19-20 (recognizing that the government has no index and expressing appreciation for the government’s disclosure of location of information)). Therefore, Defendant’s request as applied to the Apple MacBook Pro appears moot.

Noreika’s refusal to require a searchable format came up at least twice at trial (probably three times). I’ve already described how prosecutors sprung the 7-Eleven texts on Hunter the morning of closing arguments. Hunter’s team surely looked for communications between Hunter and Naomi Biden before they put the daughter on the stand, but they seem to have been surprised by some texts changed that week (note, those texts were only used to refresh her memory, so did not come in as exhibits).

But even prosecutors complained that they couldn’t find things that had been on the laptop.

Before dropping four pages of new texts on Hunter Biden the last morning of trial, days earlier, Leo Wise complained that Hunter’s team had only identified the location of eight pages of texts they wanted to use to cross-examine Hallie the night before Hallie testified.

MR. WISE: The first issue is globally, we got this at 11:07 last night that actually provided the sources for these messages. We have been asking for it since Monday when they sent it to us. We of course provided our summary chart months ago. The whole point of the rule, 1006 to allow each side to check the accuracy of the statements that are in the summary chart. So we think the whole thing should be kept out because we haven’t had the time and they haven’t followed the rules to give us the time. And it’s eight-pages long.

Lowell responded that they had given the texts earlier; they had just provided the location the night before.

MR. LOWELL: Yes, of course. So as to the first one, Mr. Wise would indicate that the first time he saw these texts was whenever he just said. Actually, over the last few days we have back and forth, they keep asking us for source material and we keep trying to provide it.

THE COURT: What are these sources that they all have exactly the same number?

MR. LOWELL: I would like my colleague to address the source if I could have that happen.

MR. WISE: I didn’t say we saw the text for the first time last night, I said we saw the source.

Judge Noreika suggested that one thing prosecutors were trying to do was challenge the authenticity of the texts. Lowell reminded that he got Agent Jensen to vouch for authenticity on the stand.

THE COURT: I understand, you were trying to check the accuracy and authenticity.

MR. LOWELL: Again, one of the things I asked Agent Jensen was whether or not that material, the Cloud material, and the laptop was in the condition that they got it and whether they provided it to us in discovery and whether it was the same material and she said it was. That is the source, they have it and they sent it to us, we sent it back to them, but I’ll have Mr. Kolansky address the source for it.

MR. WISE: I don’t think they sent it back to us. But again, if you look at our chart, we literally have page 1001, I’m looking at a message 86, page 1412, so that they could go back exactly to where this message comes from and it was provided months ago.

That’s when Hunter attorney David Kolonsky revealed he was working from the hard drive of the laptop prosecutors provided and Hunter’s team used a different extraction tool to work from there.

MR. KOLANSKY: Your Honor, these messages that start on October the 11th, they’re extracted from the hard drive that we received in discovery from the government. It was a single hard drive with essentially, if you think about it —

THE COURT: So was there a way for you to say it’s on page whatever of the hard drive?

MR. KOLANSKY: There is not, Your Honor.

THE COURT: How did they do it?

MR. KOLANSKY: I don’t know how they do it, I don’t know what software they used.

THE COURT: How did you give them a specific place to go and he’s saying you can’t.

MR. WISE: We gave it to them both ways, they asked for the raw data and then we also gave them these extraction reports that reflect all of the messages that we are using with page numbers and all of the messages they’re using, they’re just somewhere in these 18,000 pages and they won’t tell us where.

THE COURT: You’re assuming they’re somewhere in these 18,000 pages, you don’t know?

MR. HINES: They keep saying they’re from the same data, so that means they should be on the extraction reports and the extraction reports are pages that are–

THE COURT: Can you get them that information?

MR. KOLANSKY: We can get them the information based on an extraction report that we created using an extraction software we have. It’s not going to match —

THE COURT: Did they give you an extraction —

MR. WISE: We gave them an extraction report, they did not give us whatever he’s referring to that has page numbers that we can look at.

THE COURT: So you gave them an extraction report, the same extraction report you used to come up with page numbers?

MR. WISE: Exactly.

THE COURT: Can you use that extraction report and give them page numbers?

When Judge Noreika asked why Kolansky didn’t just use the extraction report prosecutors provided, he said he couldn’t find all of them.

MR. KOLANSKY: When I searched these messages last night, Your Honor, for each of the 42 rows, I did not find these messages in the extraction report that they’re referring to.

MR. WISE: So they have discovery, an extraction report that they’re relying on that they haven’t give us which is the underlying material that supports under 1006 the summary report and they should have given it to us.

MR. KOLANSKY: Your Honor, we’re happy to provide the extraction report that we generated.

THE COURT: Why are you doing that today when you expect to use the exhibit today?

MR. KOLANSKY: It’s an extraction report that we used in order to thread the messages so that they’re readable.

THE COURT: Yes, but — what I’m confused about is you’re not giving them the information in the same way that they gave it to you. You’re saying — he’s saying look, tell us where it is, we gave you an extraction report and you’re telling me but it’s not in, it’s something new that wasn’t in the government’s extraction report and you can’t tell us where it is?

MR. KOLANSKY: Let me try to rephrase it, maybe I’m mischaracterizing it. When we —

THE COURT: Was it in the — so the government gave you an extraction report, you’re telling me these messages you want to use were not in there.

MR. KOLANSKY: Correct. They were in something else.

MR. LOWELL: They were in a separate sub-data, the extraction reports were from the iCloud, these messages were derived not from the source file, but from Macintosh HD, Macintosh hard drive, so there is two worlds of discovery, iCloud, and those were the extraction reports, and then material from the hard drive, which we extracted ourselves based on the forensic images they provided.

THE COURT: Did you give them an extraction from the hard drive?

MR. WISE: Yes, from the laptop. There is an extraction– that’s why if you remember when Agent Jensen was testifying, the format changed —

THE COURT: So these are messages that you’re using from the laptop, not from the — not from the iCloud.

MR. KOLANSKY: They’re from the hard drive that we received from the government.

THE COURT: The hard drive image is from the laptop. You guys are talking, I got laptops and hard drives, and I don’t even know what else I got, iClouds, oh my.

MR. KOLANSKY: Yes, that’s right.

THE COURT: So the hard drive, though, is the hard drive that correlates with the laptop.

MR. KOLANSKY: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: So these are messages you want to rely on from the laptop that are not in the iCloud?

MR. KOLANSKY: That’s correct, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Okay. And you’re saying, Mr. Wise, that you gave them extraction files from the hard drive/laptop.

MR. WISE: Exactly.

THE COURT: And why didn’t you give them from that extraction file, the page numbers?

MR. KOLANSKY: I have not seen that extraction report, Your Honor.

MR. WISE: We provided it in discovery. It was — that’s how we made the chart, I mean, which they’ve had for months. So if they looked at that chart and said wait a minute this says laptop, we don’t have an extraction report from the laptop, where are you getting this from, we would have expected to hear that months ago. There is clearly an extraction report, that’s what the 1006 reflects and we reattached it when we provided our expert discovery.

MR. LOWELL: One point on that, by the way, if we’re talking about authenticity, which I think is half the issue, we talked to the government and have the stipulation about it being authentic.

Finally, Wise and Hines started claiming that the reason they can’t find these texts are because maybe they were filtered as privileged.

MR. WISE: There is sort of two things with that. We didn’t get everything that’s on that laptop. It went through a filter review. So we may or may not have. They have the whole set. So first thing —

THE COURT: Filter review from whom?

MR. WISE: A separate team that we have no access, we’re walled off for, it’s in the search warrant, that is the protocol that would be followed. The first thing is whatever they would want to show her, they should give us, we should see it so we know, and we’re not going to be able to sitting here sort of find it on the fly. If the question is authenticity, sure a witness can testify that, you know, this is a text I sent or an e-mail I sent and that gets them through the authenticity gate, but it doesn’t necessarily get them through the admissibility gate and the admissibility gate is often things like is it a business record, that’s how it comes in, is it some other exception —

[snip]

MR. LOWELL: Yes. So we will try to get that done quickly and figure that out. Again, not that I feel like I need to apologize, but we have been going back and forth. The data is incredibly dense and we have gotten it from the government in various ways. And now I’m hearing that they’re saying in their extraction report or what they did, there may be things missing, well we have them from them, so I don’t know how things we put here could be missing because we didn’t invent this, we got it from them.

THE COURT: So anything — maybe I should address this to your colleague. So anything that you have gotten or put on this chart is something you got from the government, not from any other source?

MR. KOLANSKY: That’s correct, Your Honor, and I proffer that and it comes directly from the government and that is why I endeavored to be as precise as possible to the original source file path they can stick it on the hard drive and get exactly to the folder where that message is derived from on the hard drive we received.

MR. LOWELL: Like last night I think, or yesterday afternoon, whenever we were able to go back, we provided them with the media that they can go and do exactly what Mr. Kolansky just said and check it. Now if they chose not to, I’m sorry but we gave it to them because that’s the best you can do with the data they gave us.

THE COURT: All right.

MR. WISE: No, no, we didn’t get any media, I got, 11:07, I saw something on my phone that has this path name that I don’t know what it is.

MR. LOWELL: I’m sorry, we gave them the file path one by one of something they gave us.

MR. WISE: Yeah.

THE COURT: The file path one by one, but the file path is identical.

MR. HINES: It’s filtered, we can’t see that but we can’t — and they know that from the search warrant, it’s in the search warrant.

THE COURT: So you’re limited in what you can do because you’re trying to protect rights using only the information allowed from the search warrant.

MR. WISE: Exactly.

MR. LOWELL: What I’m learning for the first time, understand this, they have provided us in discovery things that they’re saying that the investigative team does not have. So I didn’t realize that, I thought it was a one to one match, you would have assumed that otherwise I don’t know why they would have sent it to me, it’s not attorney/client materials we’re talking about, it’s conversations between Mr. and Ms. Biden, so I don’t understand that.

MR. WISE: It’s Rule 16, it’s his statement, we have to turn it over, if it’s privileged, we don’t get to see it if it goes through a filter, this is not anything new, the search warrant says it went through a filter.

Even Judge Noreika scoffed that the government would have filtered communications between Hunter and Hallie as privileged, which led Wise to channel Donald Rumsfeld invoking known unknowns.

THE COURT: He’s saying this is conversation between Mr. Biden and Ms. Biden, there is no arguable privilege here.

MR. WISE: Again, we don’t know what we don’t know, when they say we got it, we don’t have it

Again, Hunter’s team blew the deadline for exhibits, so part of this was their fault (though these were exhibits for cross-examination).

But ultimately, Hines and Wise’s silly claims that they couldn’t find individual comms either stems from the failure to do an index of the laptop in the first place.

Even prosecutors had a problem with the complexity of the laptop, and in that moment, tried to claim (in part) that they could exclude material from the laptop they had testified was authentic because they couldn’t find it.

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