Perfect Phone Calls: Redefining Vindictive Prosecution in the Trump Era

On July 26, AUSA Leo Wise had this exchange with Maryellen Noreika, the judge presiding over the Hunter Biden case.

THE COURT: I have had one or two cases involving a person struggling with addiction who bought a gun, we usually see a felony charge for false statement.

The Defendant has admitted that his statement was false, but he wasn’t charged. Again, I’m not trying to get into the purview of the prosecutor, and I understand the separation of powers, it’s in your discretion, but I just want to ask, does the government have any concern about not bringing the false statement charge in light of our discussion of 922(g)(3) and the constitutionality of that charge.

MR. WISE: No, Your Honor.

Less than three hours later, after Wise revealed that prosecutors had a different understanding of the immunity provision in the plea deal than Hunter’s lawyers did, Hunter Biden pled not guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges.

Hunter Biden faces stiffer penalties after exercizing a constitutional right

Hunter Biden exercised his constitutional right to plead not guilty to a plea deal that wasn’t what he had understood it to be.

Exactly 50 days later, Leo Wise and Derek Hines obtained an indictment charging Hunter Biden with three crimes under 18 USC 922: the original charge for possessing a gun as an addict — 922(g)(3) — along with two false statement charges 922(a)(6) and 924(a)(1)(A) that Wise had said less than two months earlier prosecutors didn’t intend to charge. Then, the government dismissed the previous diversion agreement that charged Hunter solely with 922(g)(3).

Whereas on July 26, Hunter faced the possibility of avoiding any jail time for the gun crime and, even if he failed to fulfill the terms of his diversion, he faced a maximum of 10 years, as of September 14, on paper he faces 25 years. (In reality he would face a fraction of this and the total exposure is similar.) Hunter Biden faces those formally stiffer penalties even though AUSA Wise told Judge Noreika that the gun diversion was, “a contract between the parties so it’s in effect until it’s either breached or a determination, period.”

The sharply increased penalty that Hunter Biden faces after agreeing to a diversion agreement but then pleading not guilty to tax charges may be a key dynamic in motions we’ll see in weeks ahead.

What Abbe Lowell said we could expect

Between the arraignment and his bid for a Trump subpoena, Hunter Biden’s lawyer Abbe Lowell has set expectations about what will occur between now and submission of pretrial motions on December 11.

He has asked for “Brady and other discovery,” but as of last week, “the defense has not received such material [about the targets of his subpoena request] in discovery from the prosecution or elsewhere, notwithstanding specific discovery requests and that some of this information likely resides with the DOJ.”

He said he expected to request an evidentiary hearing, which will presumably be tied to one or more motions to dismiss the indictment.

He described that those motions to dismiss would argue:

  • The gun charges are unconstitutional
  • The diversion agreement prohibits these charges
  • A selective and/or
  • Vindictive prosecution claim

The motion to dismiss the gun charges on constitutional grounds will associate this case with other similar challenges already wending their way towards SCOTUS. Whatever Noreika decides to do about it, it will mostly delay resolution of this case as those appeals proceed.

Lowell, and before him Chris Clark, have repeatedly said that Weiss could not indict Hunter on the gun charges because the diversion agreement remains in effect. I’m not sure how Lowell will make the argument that DOJ has effectively breached a “bilateral contract,” though it may also play a part in a vindictive prosecution claim, as I describe below.

Selective prosecution arguments almost never work. It would have to lay out evidence that there were similarly situated people — who purchased a gun without disclosing their addiction but, absent some other crime tied to the gun, were not charged. It is not enough to point to abundant data showing that this charge is rarely charged (as a number of journalists have laid out), which, if he files such a motion, Lowell would surely have. You also have to argue that you were charged only because you’re a protected class, which historically has meant racial discrimination. While (as Carissa Byrne Hessick recently laid out when Trump tried a selective prosecution claim) people have tried to say they were selectively prosecuted because of their political views, that hasn’t worked yet. And you could as easily argue that Hunter was being charged because he is the son of the guy who championed these drug and gun laws in the first place as you could that he was being charged because he is the President’s son — goodness knows the 2A crowd would make that argument.

One of the only reasons such a motion might work here where it would otherwise not is because there are people — thus far speaking anonymously to the press — who have stated that Hunter was charged only because he is who he is. For example, Glenn Thrush described that,

When officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reviewed Hunter Biden’s gun application several years ago, they believed the case most likely would have been dropped if the target were a lesser-known person.

And NYT described, in a story including Thrush, that,

Mr. Weiss told an associate that he preferred not to bring any charges, even misdemeanors, against Mr. Biden because the average American would not be prosecuted for similar offenses.

If Lowell can find these witnesses — experts on gun crimes who said Hunter was charged only because he was prominent and a Weiss associate whom Weiss purportedly told he knew that average Americans would not be prosecuted for such crimes –and get them to testify, then he would have what virtually no other defendant would: Proof that the prosecutor who brought the charge knew that similarly situated defendants would not be charged, but charged the defendant anyway.

Vindictive prosecution bids almost never work pre-trial

It’s Lowell’s mention of a possible vindictive prosecution claim that I revisited after reading his subpoena request and writing this post.

Normally, vindictive prosecution claims argue that a prosecutor retaliated against a defendant because they exercised a constitutional or statutory right. As mapped out above, Lowell might argue that David Weiss ratcheted up the gun charges against Hunter — 25 years of exposure instead of a diversion agreement — because he exercised his right to plead not guilty on the tax charges.

But that argument would be thwarted by several precedents that limit the ability of a defendant to plead vindictive prosecution, especially pre-trial. Bordenkirscher basically held that making dickish threats as part of plea negotiations is not vindictive prosecution. Goodwin made it much harder to argue that a prosecutor’s decision to ratchet up charges in response to a defendant’s decision to go to trial was presumptively vindictive, basically holding that the prosecutor may have, instead, added charges out of some societal interest in the prosecution.

You can see how this works in the case of Hatchet Speed, based on facts — involving felony gun charges in one district and the addition of a felony charge to a misdemeanor in another — not dissimilar from Hunter’s case. On January 6, Speed was an NRO contractor with TS/SCI clearance and a Naval reservist still training at Andrews Air Force Base. He had ties to the Proud Boys and expressed a fondness for Hitler. He went on a $50,000 weapon buying spree after January 6, including devices that — prosecutors successfully argued in a second trial — qualified as silencers under federal law. He was charged for unregistered silencers in EDVA and, at first, misdemeanor trespassing charges for his actions on January 6. Between the time his first EDVA trial ended in mistrial and a guilty verdict in his retrial, DOJ added a felony obstruction charge in DC, which his excellent FPD attorneys argued was retaliation for the mistrial. But DOJ responded with an explanation of the process leading to the addition of the felony obstruction charge: they added a second prosecutor, got better at prosecuting obstruction for January 6, found some more damning video of Speed at the Capitol, and came to recognize how Speed’s comments about the attack would prove the corrupt intent required for obstruction charges. They were pretty honest that they regarded Speed as a dangerous dude that they wanted to put away, too.

The same process might well happen if Lowell files a vindictive prosecution claim. Under Goodwin, Weiss might have to do little more than say there was a societal interest in jailing Hunter Biden to affirm the import of the gun laws his father continues to champion.

As with the selective prosecution claim, some facts exist with the Hunter Biden prosecution that might distinguish this from all the other impossible claims of vindictive prosecution. Most important is the contested status of that diversion agreement, about which both sides made conflicting claims during the failed plea hearing. If Noreika credits it as a bilateral contract between the two sides, as both Wise and Clark claimed it was at points during the hearing, then she might treat a vindictive prosecution claim as an abrogation of a contract followed by the ratcheting up of charges. If Noreika links it to the tax plea, as both sides described it as at different points in that hearing, then the question of whether Weiss reneged on the larger plea becomes an issue, but which might make this just a case of dickish threats covered by Bordenkirscher.

There’s also the fact that Weiss will have to come up with an explanation of why he and Leo Wise thought pretrial diversion was in the societal interest on June 20, why Leo Wise thought false statement charges were unnecessary on July 26, but then decided felony prosecution, including on two false statements charges, was in the societal interest on September 14. This is why Abbe Lowell keeps repeating,

no new evidence related to these charges emerged between June 20 (when the plea deal was first presented to the Court) and July 26 (when the prosecution reneged on its deal), and in fact only more favorable case law on this issue has developed since then.

While there was more evidence in Speed’s case (newly discovered video from the Capitol), mostly prosecutors just argued the evidence looked different as other obstruction cases unfolded.

Lowell is arguing that the only thing that explains why the five year old evidence against Hunter Biden might look different in September than it did in June is because of the political pressure brought to bear on Weiss, and maybe the threats that both Weiss and Thomas Sobocinski have described to the House Judiciary Committee that was significantly responsible for the threats.

That would make this a political influence and violent threats case, not a vindictive prosecution case — possibly a different kind of motion to dismiss on Due Process grounds, but not a vindictive prosecution case. Normally, though, prosecutors have lots of tools to exclude that kind of thing.

Vindictiveness on a much grander scale

Which brings me to Lowell’s request to serve subpoenas on Donald Trump, Bill Barr, Jeffrey Rosen, and Richard Donoghue, which first sent me down this rabbit hole.

Consider the timing. The November 15 filing makes an impossible request; it asks for subpoena returns by December 1.

Defendant Robert Hunter Biden, through his counsel, respectfully moves this Court to enter an order directing that subpoenas duces tecum be issued to the following individuals—Donald John Trump (“Mr. Trump”); William P. Barr (“Mr. Barr”); Richard Donoghue (“Mr. Donoghue”); and Jeffrey A. Rosen (“Mr. Rosen”)—pursuant to Rule 17(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and that each subpoena recipient be required to provide any responsive documents and materials by December 1, 2023, to allow Mr. Biden sufficient time to review the material in advance of any necessary pre-trial motion, evidentiary hearing, and/or trial.

Thus far, Judge Noreika has not ordered Weiss to respond, but if they do in normal order and Lowell replies, this thing wouldn’t be fully briefed until December 6. Lowell couldn’t possibly expect subpoena returns, even assuming any of those served would respond without legal challenge, until after the new year.

The motion reviews the standard for subpoenas and admissibility at length, but as Popehat noted in a piece that otherwise got many of the facts of this case (such as the role of Biden officials in it) wrong, it doesn’t brief how Lowell would be able to use these records. Lowell mentions vindictive or selective prosecution but doesn’t, yet, make a case for it. Lowell cites just one precedent for obtaining subpoenas for use in pretrial filings, as opposed to at trial.

Lowell doesn’t mention Armstrong, the precedent that usually makes it impossible for defendants to get discovery in selective prosecution challenges. But that may be instructive. Before Lowell is making a request for discovery based on a selective and/or vindictive prosecution claim, he is first asking for subpoenas, without fully laying out whether this would be a selective or vindictive or political influence prosecution claim.

Instead of arguing Armstrong, Lowell instead notes that he knows these records actually exist. “Before the government intones its stock phrase, this is no fishing expedition.”

On that point, he’s right. There are records responsive to these subpoenas. But it’s worth looking at what they are, what else would be included if he got full response to these subpoenas.

The subpoenas ask for any communications provided to the January 6 Committee mentioning Hunter Biden (request 4). The request cites Richard Donoghue’s notes of Trump referencing the Hunter Biden prosecution. I’m fairly certain those notes came from the Archives; they were the subject of a special waiver of Executive Privilege back in July 2021. For a variety of reasons, finding similar such notes at the Archives would be virtually impossible without another Executive Privilege waiver, a waiver that because of the conflict, would have to come from Trump, not Biden.

The subpoenas ask for any personal records, such as diaries, that, “reference to any formal or informal decision, discussion, or request to investigate or prosecute Hunter Biden” (request 3). If Donoghue’s notes were not treated as official documents, those would be included. Any drafts of Bill Barr’s book or notes that formed the basis for it, also cited in this motion, would also be included. In the subpoena request, Lowell cites to this WaPo story for Barr’s quote about Trump’s harassment, in which DOJ beat journalist Matt Zapotosky attributes Trump’s comments to Barr based on the fact that Hunter’s, “name was in the news because of the discovery of a laptop belonging to him.”

The full reference in the book describes Will Levi witnessing the call, which raises questions about whether he was on the call taking notes (as Richard Donoghue was during the December 27, 2020 call) rather than standing by, listening to just one side of the conversation as described in the book.

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 conversation. 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.

A month after the election, the Washington Post reported that there was already an investigation of Hunter Biden under way when I started as Attorney General and that this fact was never leaked. The President never confronted me about that report directly, but I had heard he was angry that I didn’t say anything after the presidential debate in which Biden falsely suggested the relevant e-mails on his son Hunter’s laptop may have been placed there by the Russians. Biden’s bogus statement relied on a letter published a few days before by a coterie of retired intelligence officials who had lost their professional bearings and lent their names to partisan hackery. Their claim was exposed a few days later when the FBI, together with John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, made clear there were no grounds to think the laptop’s damning content reflected foreign disinformation. But, of course, the media, having heralded the letter’s fictitious claims, stayed mostly quiet about its debunking. The damage was done. Biden got away with deception. And Trump thought I was to blame.

This, as well as other Hunter Biden references in the book, are fundamentally incompatible with Barr being personally involved in the Scott Brady project, including having personal knowledge of the circumstances by which Donoghue ordered the FD-1023 to be shared with the Hunter Biden team within ten days of this conversation.

But the degree to which Barr conducted Ukraine-related issues — not to mention a reference to sending Barr a laptop the day after FBI received a laptop believed to have been owned by Hunter Biden — on his personal cell phone would suggest he may have far more, and far more forthright, records about his knowledge of the Hunter Biden investigation in his personal possession. Those would be covered by the subpoena request for communications with, “any Executive Branch official, political appointee, Department of Justice official, government agency, government official or staff person, cabinet member” (request 2).

Trump too would have, “communications…discussing any formal or informal investigation or prosecution of Hunter Biden, including, but not limited to, any decision, referral, or request to investigate or not investigate or charge or not charge Hunter Biden” (request 1). Lowell includes eight examples in his motion: social media posts, four from during Trump’s term and four during the period between the posting of the plea and the failed plea deal.

Those are easy. The records exist, including records over which Trump could invoke no conceivable privilege.

Abbe Lowell is not making up his claim that the top officials at DOJ and Donald Trump communicated about this investigation. He’s not even making up the insinuation that some were intimately involved in efforts to filter dirt, potentially including from Russian agents, into the investigation of Hunter Biden. Scott Brady has already confessed to that.

But one detail of the subpoenas hints at where this could go: In addition to requests for communications with government officials about prosecuting Hunter Biden, it also requests for communications with any, “attorney for President Trump (personal or other) discussing or concerning Hunter Biden” (request 2).

These subpoenas ask for communications with Rudy Giuliani about Hunter Biden.

While the DOJ people may have insulated themselves from direct contact with Rudy (for example, Barr spoke with Victoria Toensing about Dmitry Firtash and the Brady project was set up through Robert Costello), Trump would have a gold mine of contacts with Rudy, including about the “Hunter Biden” “laptop.” He might claim privilege over those.

You know what other communication Trump had, “discussing any formal or informal investigation or prosecution of Hunter Biden” (request 1)? The perfect phone call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, including — to the extent it still exists — the version in which Zelenskyy named Burisma explicitly, the version in which Trump referenced recordings of Biden discussing corruption, the kind of thing, Lev Parnas claims, that had already been offered up by Mykola Zlochevsky, the guy who went on to make a new bribery claim about Joe Biden after that call.

What these subpoenas ask for pertains to political influence and threats. But they also ask for evidence of a different kind of vindictive prosecution: Trump’s explicit effort to exact his revenge for the Russian investigation on Democrats, on his Democratic opponent, by investigating Hunter Biden.

That’s a due process violation. But not of the kind covered by all the precedents that make it virtually impossible to prove vindictive prosecution.

Serving notice

These subpoenas seek evidence showing that Trump’s demand for an investigation of Hunter Biden for vindictive reasons reached the team investigating Hunter Biden. These are impossible subpoenas, insofar as they ask for compliance according to an impossible timeline and ask for compliance that may not legally be available (indeed, to the extent Trump has items in his possession, for various reason they may be covered by the Mar-a-Lago protective order). To the extent subpoenas ask for things covered by various privileges, they would pose impossible challenges to overcome. To the extent the subpoenas ask for the perfect phone call in which Trump demanded Zelenskyy’s help with an investigation of Hunter Biden, they are impossible subpoenas because the White House altered that record in real time.

But they are, also, subpoenas for records that undeniably exist, records that incorporate an effort Bill Barr set up to cater to Donald Trump’s personal lawyer that did result in at least one piece of evidence being introduced into the Hunter Biden investigation — Bill Barr’s communications with (!!!) Margot Cleveland would be responsive to his subpoena and would prove that point — records that further show that on at least two occasions, the President of the United States personally berated the Attorney General (or Acting Attorney General) making demands about this investigation.

The subpoena request does one more thing, as well. It notes that under 26 USC 7217, if any of Trump’s demands about this investigation covered a demand for tax prosecution — the kind of tax prosecution still being pursued in California — it would constitute a felony, one that explicitly names the President among those covered by the crime.

For his part, Mr. Trump has made a plethora of concerning public statements calling for an investigation or possible prosecution of Mr. Biden, both while in office and since leaving, that further suggest improper partisan, political demands were at play, either expressly or implicitly. See also 26 U.S.C. § 7217 (making it a felony for the President to request an IRS investigation of an individual).

These may be impossible subpoenas, but they do serve notice.

My guess is that, when and if Weiss responds, he simply says that those big efforts to politicize this investigation are totally separate from this little tiny isolated gun indictment. He may claim he doesn’t follow the Twitter feed of the guy who appointed him anyway — the same excuses Bill Barr made about other demands Trump served on DOJ via Twitter. Weiss may say, with reason, that some of Richard Donoghue’s involvement in this case actually served to ensure the investigation did not influence the 2020 election. But to even broach that subject, he’d have to admit that some of Richard Donoghue’s efforts, such as ordering Weiss’ attorneys to accept a bribery allegation from the head of Burisma made during impeachment, made after Rudy Giuliani solicited dirt from him, possibly in exchange for favors from DOJ that just happened to coincide with the closure of an investigation into him, can in no way be considered such a thing. Weiss may even say that to the extent that he sheep-dipped his prosecution team, swapping Lesley Wolf for Leo Wise, he has further isolated the team from such improper influences, influences that (Joseph Ziegler helpfully revealed) have been documented going back to 2019.

However Weiss responds, that response will precede whatever motions to dismiss — whether it’s selective or vindictive or really vindictive prosecution — that Abbe Lowell ultimately does file.

None of that will change the precedents — Armstrong and Bordenkirscher and Goodwin and others — that make it nearly impossible for defendants to make these arguments.

But there are aspects of this case, both the known evidence (much of it offered up by law enforcement officers whose actions led to threats against the prosecution team) and the legal posture leftover from that failed plea deal, that make the motions to dismiss genuinely different.

This case is, on one hand, a very simple prosecution involving claims Hunter Biden made in his book, the application of a law that his father championed. It is also, however, a test of whether defendants can fight a different kind of vindictive prosecution, the kind Trump demanded and continues to demand.

Thanks to Carissa Byrne Hessick, who generously served as a sounding board for my thoughts leading up to this post. The errors in the post are all mine.

David Weiss’ FBI FARA Headfake to Create a Hunter Biden Tax Mulligan

Last week, CNN reported that the President’s brother, James Biden, is among some number of people who have received a grand jury subpoena for ongoing investigations into Hunter Biden. The investigative steps are unsurprising. As I noted, David Weiss spoke with Los Angeles US Attorney Martin Estrada on September 19 of this year about something that “goes to an ongoing investigation.”

According to materials released by Joseph Ziegler, the IRS interviewed James Biden on September 29, 2022, the last interview in the investigation before the failed plea deal. He was asked about a range of topics: a payment he received from Owasco before he was working with them, his and Hunter’s interactions with CEFC, Hunter’s relationship with Kevin Morris, and about several dodgy people whom Hunter paid in 2018 — payments he wrote off on his taxes. Prosecutors had discussed at least two of those people with Hunter’s legal team during the summer in 2022.

James Biden’s September 2022 interview was voluntary, suggesting investigators obtained any documents discussed in the interview — all but two of which appear to predate April 2019, and so might be among the non-Google materials that investigators first obtained from the laptop provided by John Paul Mac Isaac — via other means, including the laptop and warrants obtained downstream of the laptop. Again, any Google content is an exception to this; it appears the IRS obtained the first Google warrant for Hunter’s Rosemont Seneca account before getting the laptop, but it also appears that the government did not obtain things normally available in a Google warrant–such as attachments and calendar notices–with that warrant and so instead relied on the laptop.

As CNN describes, thus far the subpoenas seek documents; it’s unclear whether anyone (besides someone from the new IRS team put on the case after Weiss removed Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler) has or will testify in person. There are certainly documents that the IRS didn’t seem to have in last year’s interview with James Biden, such as details of his trips to California in 2018 to try to save his nephew from the throes of addiction.

But it’s also possible Weiss is using subpoenas to obtain records that otherwise would be tainted by the laptop.

When Estrada testified to the House Judiciary Committee about the recommendations about this case his senior prosecutors made in three different reports, recommendations he adopted and conveyed to Weiss in a call on October 19, 2022, he referenced Justice Manual rules. “We look at whether a Federal offense has been committed and whether we believe that there is admissible evidence sufficient to prove to an unbiased trier of fact that an individual has committed an offense beyond a reasonable doubt.” So the quality of evidence obtained in this investigation could be one reason Estrada’s career prosecutors advised him not to partner on this case.

The details about a renewed investigation into Hunter Biden are not surprising — Estrada’s testimony already suggested as much.

More interesting, however, is CNN’s report that the FBI has completed its part of the investigation, pertaining to FARA and money laundering, and expects no charges.

The FBI, which oversaw the money laundering and FARA portions of the investigation, concluded its findings and didn’t anticipate charges to emerge from those allegations, people briefed on the matter told CNN.

That’s important because potential FARA charges are the reason why this case didn’t end in a plea in July — or at least, the excuse David Weiss and his sheep-dipped prosecutor, Leo Wise, referenced to sustain a claim that the investigation was ongoing.

On July 10, in the wake of a Republican uproar about the Hunter Biden plea deal and public comments from Bill Barr about the FD-1023, Weiss told Lindsey Graham that the allegations of bribery Mykola Zlochevsky made, after outreach from Rudy Giuliani and sometime around when Bill Barr’s DOJ dropped their investigation of him, “relate to an ongoing investigation.” That was probably the second clue that Hunter’s legal team got that the investigation they believed had concluded remained (re)open — the first being Weiss’ press release on the charges on June 20. And in the failed July 26 plea hearing, a potential FARA charge is the specific criminal exposure Leo Wise raised which led Hunter to plead not guilty to a deal significantly negotiated by Delaware AUSA Lesley Wolf.

THE COURT: All right. So there are references to foreign companies, for example, in the facts section.

Could the government bring a charge under the Foreign Agents Registration Act?

MR. WISE: Yes.

THE COURT: I’m trying to figure out if there is a meeting of the minds here and I’m not sure that this provision isn’t part of the Plea Agreement and so that’s why I’m asking.

MR. CLARK: Your Honor, the Plea Agreement —

THE COURT: I need you to answer my question if you can. Is there a meeting of the minds on that one?

MR. CLARK: As stated by the government just now, I don’t agree with what the government said.

THE COURT: So I mean, these are contracts. To be enforceable, there has to be a meeting of the minds. So what do we do now?

MR. WISE: Then there is no deal.

Leo Wise refused to agree that FARA charges were off the table, even though — if you believe Abbe Lowell’s version of events — Lesley Wolf led Hunter’s team to understand, weeks earlier, that FARA charges were off the table. And based on that, Hunter refused to plead guilty.

That’s what gave David Weiss the opportunity to ask to be made Special Counsel: a claim, made after he had already filed tax and a gun charge on June 20, that he was still pursuing an investigation tied to the FD-1023, which would be bribery and money laundering. That’s what led to the three felony gun charges for owning a gun for 11 days in 2018. And that’s what led to a renewed investigation in Los Angeles. And now, David Weiss is using a Los Angeles grand jury to obtain evidence from James Biden that he didn’t think he needed a year ago.

That potential FARA charge is the excuse Weiss used to limit a deal his office had entered into a month earlier. And now, less than two months into any new investigative focus in Los Angeles, CNN says the evidence doesn’t support FARA charges. That’s not surprising. Joseph Ziegler and Gary Shapley released numerous documents showing Weiss’ team discarded various FARA theories months and years ago (though a CEFC theory was still active as of July 2022).

But it means, at least per CNN, the rationale Weiss and Wise used to sustain the investigation proved short-lived.

That’s important background to Hunter Biden’s request for subpoenas for Trump and others in advance of pretrial motions that Hunter Biden will likely file next month, which I will discuss in more length in a follow-up. Contrary to what some smart commentators, like Popehat, have repeatedly argued, there’s no reason to believe Biden is pursuing this “to develop more evidence that Trump people have it in for him that he can use in future prosecutions,” if Trump returns to the presidency.

Indeed, Abbe Lowell said these subpoenas are, “relevant and material to a fundamental aspect of issues in his defense that will be addressed in pre-trial motions.”

Lowell further explained he needs the subpoenas to figure out whether Weiss’ “change of heart” regarding charges was a “response to political pressure.”

From a Fifth Amendment perspective, it is essential for Mr. Biden to know whether anyone improperly discussed, encouraged, endorsed, or requested an investigation or prosecution of him, and to whom and under what circumstances. The information sought would demonstrate that fact. This is especially true in light of the fact that no new evidence related to these charges emerged between June 20 (when the plea deal was first presented to the Court) and July 26 (when the prosecution reneged on its deal), and in fact only more favorable case law on this issue has developed since then.18 Thus, the prosecution’s change of heart appears to be in response to political pressure, rather than anything newly discovered in the investigation of Mr. Biden. Because such evidence, only some of which has been disclosed already, would tend to undermine the prosecution’s allegation that this case was free from any political inference and was not of a selective or vindictive nature, Mr. Biden’s requests are relevant and material under the requirements of Rule 17(c). [my emphasis]

I imagine that if David Weiss is ever forced to explain what led to the head fake with the plea, he will claim that it had to do with the way he tried to sheep dip the investigation after he decided to charge the case even in spite of Shapley and Ziegler’s efforts to force the issue.

Last December, according to IRS Director of Field Operations Michael Batdorf’s September 12 testimony, Batdorf and Darrell Waldon made the decision to remove Shapley and Ziegler from the Hunter Biden investigation. They didn’t implement it, though, until May, after and because Weiss decided he would charge the case, at which point the IRS assigned a completely new team.

Having an objective set of eyes — complete objective set of eyes on the case where the new investigative team came in and the case is good, the evidence is good, that was something that we just said, let’s — we removed the cooperating revenue agent that was doing tax calculations. We just got an entire new investigative team in there.


My concern was the opposite, that if they remained on the case, the case would not go forward


It was my interpretation from the phone conversation that we had in December [with Weiss] that there were concerns with the investigation and investigative team, and adding up all those concerns, so having a harder time jumping over that, you know, moving forward with this prosecution.

He never specifically stated that we had to remove the investigative team. He stated that he does not control IRS resources, and he understands that. But part of the concern of moving forward was our investigative team.


There was no more investigative activities to take. We can get this to prosecution with a new investigative team.

Partly, this may have just been an effort to avoid having to provide Jencks material, some of which Ziegler and Shapley have since already provided Congress. Even last year, Weiss recognized that Ziegler couldn’t present the revenue assessments at trial that he has spent months sharing with Congress. With a new IRS team, Weiss has secured witnesses who can take the stand without requiring that Weiss share documentation of an obsession with charging Hunter Biden and, frankly, of including his father in the investigation.

It may also be an attempt to insulate any charges from a claim that a law enforcement official found by his supervisor to be making, “unsubstantiated allegations [about Weiss] of motive, intent, and bias” had forced a prosecutor’s decision. After which Shapley and Ziegler have spent months trying to do just that!

But it may not have been just the IRS team. Batdorf described that there had also been a change in AUSA, which would include Lesley Wolf, around the same time.

A It’s my understanding that there had been a change in the AUSA, the prosecution team.

Q And when was the change made? Do you know?

A I believe that was made in roughly — I think it was May or June of this year when we decided to move forward with the investigation.

When staffers asked FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas Sobocinski in his September 7 interview the same question, he wasn’t sure whether that was true or not. “I don’t know that your statement is factually correct,” Sobocinski responded to an investigator asking why she had been taken off pleadings.

What Sobocinski did know, however, was that Lesley Wolf had received threats. It’s “fair” to say that “she may have concerns for her own safety,” Sobocinski agreed.

Weiss might argue that once Leo Wise took over as AUSA — if that’s what happened — then Weiss left prosecutorial decisions to Wise as a way to insulate charges from claims (made by the IRS agents trying to force more serious charges) that Wolf was biased.

The problem with that is that, on June 7, Lesley Wolf sent out what appears to be the final language on the immunity agreement tied to the plea deal.

Over the course of a few more emails, lawyers on both sides kept line-editing the deal. And on June 7, Wolf sent Clark a version that included the final language shielding Biden from future charges. The language is technical, but it would have immense consequences. Here it is in full:

“The United States agrees not to criminally prosecute Biden, outside of the terms of this Agreement, for any federal crimes encompassed by the attached Statement of Facts (Attachment A) and the Statement of Facts attached as Exhibit 1 to the Memorandum of Plea Agreement filed this same day. This Agreement does not provide any protection against prosecution for any future conduct by Biden or by any of his affiliated businesses.”

The language refers to two different statements of facts; one would accompany the guilty plea and the other would accompany the pretrial diversion agreement. Together, the two statements included substantial detail about the first son’s business dealings and drug use. The statements highlighted his time on the boards of a scandal-dogged Ukrainian energy company and a Chinese private equity fund, as well as his business venture with the head of a Chinese energy conglomerate. Wolf included those statements in her June 7 email.

Wolf was still on the prosecutorial team — and negotiating a plea deal that would have ruled out FARA charges — on June 7.

That’s the same day Weiss sent the first response, to a May 25 letter Jim Jordan sent Merrick Garland about the IRS agents’ complaints of being removed from the investigation. In it, he cited Rod Rosenstein’s explanation to Chuck Grassley in 2018 how congressional interference might politicize an investigation (in that case, the Mueller investigation).

The information sought by the Committee concerns an open matter about which the Department is not at liberty to respond. As then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote in 2018 in response to a request for information from the Honorable Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary:

Congressional inquiries during the pendency of a matter pose an inherent threat to the integrity of the Department’s law enforcement and litigation functions. Such inquiries inescapably create the risk that the public and the courts will perceive undue political and Congressional influence over law enforcement and litigation decision.

Less than two months after telling Grassley to butt out, or the public would believe the Mueller investigation faced undue political influence, Rosenstein would grovel to keep his job, assuring President Trump he could “land the plane.” In practice, the reference was not exactly a guarantee of prosecutorial independence, but if Weiss hoped Jordan would understand that, the all-star wrestler didn’t take the hint that corn farmer Grassley took to heart.

Weiss might claim that he replaced Wolf with Wise and in the process had Wise reassess the prior prosecutorial decisions. But, given the date of that letter, there was never a moment he had done so before the political pressure started. David Weiss cannot claim he did so before being pressured by Jim Jordan.

And Jordan’s letter wasn’t the only political pressure. On the same day that Weiss said he couldn’t share information — the likes of which Shapley had already started sharing — because it might politicize an ongoing investigation, Bill Barr (one of the people Lowell wants to subpoena) publicly intervened in the case, insisting the FD-1023 recording Mykola Zlochevsky making a new allegation of bribery had been a live investigative lead when it was shared with Weiss in October 2020, the FD-1023 Weiss specifically said he could not address because it was part of an ongoing investigation.

On a day when Lesley Wolf remained on the case, both Jordan and Barr had already intervened. And because there was never a time that Weiss had replaced Wolf with Wise before the political pressure started, there was little time he had done so before the physical threats followed the political pressure.

In fact, when Congressional staffers asked Sobocinski whether he and David Weiss spoke about Shapley and Ziegler’s testimony after it went public on the day the plea deal was announced, Sobocinski described that both agreed that Shapley’s testimony would have an effect on the case. “We both acknowledged that it was there and that it would have had it had an impact on our case.” But that effect was, to a significant extent for Sobocinski, about the threats that not just investigators, but also their family members, were getting.

I am solely focused on two things, and they’re not mutually exclusive. The first thing is, like every investigation, I want to get to a resolution in a fair, apolitical way. The second thing, and it’s becoming more important and more relevant, is keeping my folks safe. And the part that I never expected is keeping their families safe. So that, for me, is becoming more and more of a job that I have to do and take away from what I was what I signed up to do, which was investigate and do those things. So when you talk about potential frustrations with communication, I am personally frustrated with anything that places my employees and their families in enhanced danger. Our children, their children didn’t sign up for this.

In Weiss’ testimony to HJC, he described threats too. But unlike Sobocinski, he may not have pointed to the effect Shapley’s now debunked claims had in eliciting them.

Weiss said people working on the case have faced significant threats and harassment, and that family members of people in his office have been doxed.

“I have safety concerns for everybody who has worked on the case,” he said.

He added that he doesn’t know what motivates the people who have threatened his team.

“I’ve certainly received messages, calls, emails from folks who have not been completely enamored of my — with my role in this case,” he added, noting that he is also concerned for his family’s safety.

Weiss’ testimony that he wasn’t sure what motivated the people who threatened his team may not help him insulate his case, because Shapley’s testimony likely wasn’t the only likely source of threats.

Among the things Lowell cited in his request for subpoenas were the four Truth Social posts Trump made between the plea deal first was posted and the day the plea failed, one of which criticized Weiss by name and called for Hunter Biden’s death.

Trump Truth Social posts on June 20, 2023:

  • “Wow! The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.’ Our system is BROKEN!”

Trump Truth Social post on July 11, 2023:

“Weiss is a COWARD, a smaller version of Bill Barr, who never had the courage to do what everyone knows should have been done. He gave out a traffic ticket instead of a death sentence. Because of the two Democrat Senators in Delaware, they got to choose and/or approve him. Maybe the judge presiding will have the courage and intellect to break up this cesspool of crime. The collusion and corruption is beyond description. TWO TIERS OF JUSTICE!”9 [my emphasis]

There is, thanks in significant part to Jim Jordan, abundant documentation that between the time Lesley Wolf first sent out language seemingly promising Hunter Biden he would not be charged with FARA and the time Leo Wise told Judge Maryanne Noreika that he still could be, Republicans started pressuring David Weiss about his decisions. Thanks to Jordan, there are also multiple witnesses who have described that between the time Lesley Wolf shared immunity language and the time when — Abbe Lowell claims — David Weiss reneged on that language, the investigative team started having to fend off credible threats, not just to themselves, but also their family members.

To be sure, between the time Hunter’s lawyers made clear they planned to argue Weiss reneged on a deal and the time Lowell asked for subpoenas, in part, “possibly as impeachment of a trial witness,” Weiss testified that he always planned on continuing the investigation.

At the time, Biden’s lawyers signaled that the deal meant the Justice Department’s probe of the president’s son was over. But, according to Weiss, the investigation hadn’t ended at that point.

“I can say that at no time was it coming to a close,” he said. “I think, as I stated in the one statement I made at the time, the investigation was continuing. So it wasn’t ending there in any event.”

Yet according to CNN, two months after Weiss spoke to Estrada, seemingly to renew investigative activity in Los Angeles, any FARA investigation has ended. Instead, Weiss appears to be conducting new investigative steps in the tax case, investigative steps that started a week after IRS’ head of Field Operations testified that he understood “there was no more investigative activities to take.”

Both David Weiss and Leo Wise have publicly suggested that the ongoing investigation which Weiss insisted to Congress had always been planned was FARA or bribery related. That claim seems to have served no other purpose than to have given themselves a chance to reconsider tax charges both once claimed could be settled with misdemeanor charges.

Update: Batdorf link corrected.

Five Years Ago Today, Hunter Biden Bought a Gun

Yesterday, Judge Maryanne Noreika dismissed the gun-related Information against Hunter Biden, signed by Baltimore AUSA Leo Wise, that was filed on June 20, an Information tied to a diversion agreement that Leo Wise also signed.

At the arraignment on Hunter’s new charges — three charges replaced one — Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke reminded the Special Counsel’s team (Derek Hines had the speaking role at the arraignment, not Leo Wise) about the Information still on the docket.

Mr. Hines, one question on my end. The Indictment now obviously has been filed on the docket and that still has the prior felony information that was filed with regard to the prior gun charge back at the point where it was thought that there might be a plea. Did the Government intend to dismiss that charge?

MR. HINES: Yes, consistent with local practice, we intend to file a written motion within the next day.

THE COURT: Okay. And that will go to Judge Noreika and she will review that.

It took Leo Wise two tries — he forgot to sign the first motion to dismiss — but Weiss’ team did indeed move to dismiss the Information, and the docket identified the motion to dismiss that Noreika granted as the amended one, the one Leo Wise actually signed.

And so it was that on the last day off the fifth year after Hunter Biden purchased a gun, Judge Noreika dismissed one charge against him for doing so. Weiss’ team moved to dismiss the Information without prejudice to refiling it. But as of today, the statutes of limitation begin to expire on both that Information — charged under 18 USC 922(g)(3) and 18 USC 924(a)(2) — and the charges in the Indictment — which added charges under 18 USC 924(a)(1)(A) and 18 USC 922(a)(6) and 18 USC 924(a)(2), something Leo Wise noted at the failed plea hearing in July. Any charge tied to unlawful possession of that gun, as opposed to unlawful statements made during the purchase of the gun, will expire on October 23.

So, 9 days into the 30-day period during which Judge Burke gave Hunter’s team to file motions, things may begin to get interesting,

Since the failed plea, the two sides have been involved in a dance regarding whether the diversion agreement — which, as noted, Leo Wise signed on July 26 — remains binding on the government. Over and over, the government, with its evolving titles, has claimed it does not remain binding. Over and over, Hunter’s team preserves the record, insisting it does.

For example, when the government moved to vacate Judge Noreika’s briefing order with an August 11 filing — a motion signed by Leo Wise — claiming that, “there is no longer a plea agreement or diversion agreement,” Hunter’s lawyers responded two days later countering, “the parties have a valid and binding bilateral Diversion Agreement.” On August 15, DOJ filed a reply — signed by newly promoted Assistant Special Counsel Leo Wise — disputing Hunter’s claims, focusing not on whether Wise signed the diversion, but whether Judge Noreika approved the plea or Probation signed the diversion.

On September 6, in response to an order from Judge Noreika, DOJ filed a status update — once again signed by Leo Wise — stating (among other things) that the diversion had not been executed because, while it had been signed by Leo Wise, it had not been signed by Probation. Lowell responded — again, protecting the record — that the court had been provided an executed copy of the diversion agreement, the one signed by Leo Wise.

I don’t know who will win this dispute. I know that DOJ — in filings signed by Leo Wise — keeps saying that where the diversion agreement says “approval” in ¶¶ 1 and 2, it means approval by Probation, not the parties mentioned in ¶¶1 and 2. But from the moment DOJ first opened this docket — with a letter signed by Leo Wise — they referred to executed agreements that were signed that day.

I also know that DOJ keeps speaking of a plea agreement as it existed on July 26, not the agreement that DOJ entered into on some unspecified date in June before that, between which time and July 26, Leo Wise took over from Lesley Wolf and the scope of the immunity agreement started shrinking, one of two things that led the plea to fail on July 26.

At the arraignment last week, Lowell warned that several things were going to happen by or before November 3, when motions are due.

MR. LOWELL: Yes, a couple of things, Judge. First, I understand that Judge Noreika did advise the Government of their Brady obligations. I would want to talk to the Government about the overall discovery issues, especially with the thirty-day motions schedule. We would like to get discovery in the case obviously before we file the motions. We will talk to them. I don’t know that we’ll have any problems that we will need to bring for the Court’s attention, but we will see.

And second of all on those motions, I appreciate the date, I think we can conform to that based on the discovery perhaps, but I think there will be a number of motions which won’t be a surprise to Your Honor or to Judge Noreika, including motions to dismiss which we discussed during the last proceeding which would focus on our view that there was an agreement in effect which would prevent this charge from being filed as well as questioning the constitutionality of the statutes that have been cited and others depending on what happens. So that thirty days seems right, but we’ll talk to the Government.


MR. LOWELL: The only other thing that would maybe not change the schedule but would add to the schedule, is that at least one of those motions, I think given what we all know about this case, we will be making a request for an evidentiary hearing. [my emphasis]

Lowell said he:

  1. Wanted Brady and other discovery before he filed motions
  2. Would make a request for an evidentiary hearing
  3. Would file motions (plural) to dismiss, arguing:
    • The diversion agreement prohibits these charges
    • The gun charges are unconstitutional
    • “others depending on what happens”

As a threshold mattter, Lowell seems to believe he had not, by last Tuesday, received all the Brady discovery, even though Chris Clark agreed he had received it back in July. That is, Lowell believes the government has evidence that either exculpates Hunter (which is unlikely) or impeaches the investigation or prosecution that DOJ has not yet turned over.

It’s not a mystery what some of this is. In an August 13 appearance on CBS, Lowell described that if Weiss decided to file charges other than what got filed in June, something must have “infected” the process.

LOWELL: But you asked me whether or not that has been part of the investigation and after five years and what we know happened in the grand jury, of course that had to be part of what the prosecutor has already looked at, as well as every other false allegation made by the right wing media and others, whether it’s corruption or FARA, or money laundering. That was part of what this prosecutor’s office had to have been looking over for five years. I can assure you that five years concluded that the only two charges that made sense were two misdemeanors for failing to file like millions of Americans do, and a diverted gun charge for the 11 days that Hunter possessed a gun. Everything else had been thoroughly looked at. So is that possible that they’re going to revisit it? Let me answer it one way. If the now Special Counsel decides not to go by the deal, then it will mean that he or they decided that something other than the facts and the law are coming into play.


LOWELL: –Because I know we were a little rushed. So to answer your question squarely. People should keep in mind that while Mr. Weiss’ title changed last week, he’s the same person he’s been for the last five years. He’s a Republican U.S. attorney appointed by a Republican president and attorney general, who had career prosecutors working this case for five years, looking at every transaction that Hunter was involved in. So whether it was tax or the gun, or possible any other charge, if anything changes from his conclusion, which was two tax misdemeanors, and a diverted gun charge. The question should be asked: what infected the process that was not the facts and the law?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Or new evidence? I mean, are you confident your client won’t face new criminal charges?

LOWELL: I’m confident that if this prosecutor does what has been done for the last five years, look at the facts, the evidence and the law, then the only conclusion can be what the conclusion was on July 26. It’s new evidence, there’s no new evidence to be found. Some of these transactions are years old. They’ve had people in the Grand Jury, they’ve had data that was provided to them. I don’t know the possibility exists after this kind of painstaking investigation for them to be “oh, my gosh, there’s a new piece of evidence which changes.” The only thing that will change is the scrutiny on some of the charges, for example, the gun charge.

More spectacularly, in a September 14 appearance on CNN, after the gun charges were filed, Lowell casually mentioned that prosecutors, “don’t share their emails with me, at least as of yet.”

LOWELL: And that the only thing that changed, Erin, was not the facts and not the law, which has only gotten worse for law enforcement but the application of politics. If it turns out that they continue to escalate the charges, then that is an issue that should be explored.

BURNETT: Okay. So but you are saying that they would be doing that because they are under political pressure from Republicans, MAGA Republicans as you referred to them, in Congress.

LOWELL: Well, they don’t talk to me about their motives.


LOWELL: They don’t share their emails with me, at least as of yet. All can I do, as you as a good reporter does, is make connections. So, if they thought after five years this was appropriate and then the political pressure came and now they think this is appropriate and if it’s no change in the facts and no change in the law, then let me ask you as a journalist would ask, what changed? And I’m telling you, the only thing that’s changed is the politics.

That is, Lowell insinuated that he would demand emails from the prosecution team to understand what led them to (to use the phrase used in the first Hunter filing signed by Lowell) renege on a plea deal.

I have said repeatedly when covering this case and I’ll repeat again, defense attorneys make the kinds of claims that Lowell is making — raising selective prosecution claims and insisting they haven’t gotten Brady discovery, for example — all the time. Such claims usually don’t work. Mind you, you would always need to take those claims more seriously when dealing with someone like Lowell; he’s a formidable lawyer. But even still, selective prosecution claims almost never reach the bar required to get an evidentiary hearing and DOJ has a great deal of flexibility in how they fulfill their discovery obligations. Lowell is making incredibly aggressive claims here, especially the casual suggestion he might get prosecutors’ emails.

The Hunter Biden case is different though. It’s different because Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler have spent months making easily debunked claims about politicization in favor of Hunter Biden, even while disclosing the existence of evidence showing the opposite, improper political influence to investigate Hunter. And it’s different because James Comer and Jim Jordan and Jason Smith and the chief investigative counsel they all keep swapping between committees like a cheap date, Steve Castor, keep forcing one after another investigative witness to go on the record about this investigation.

Take just one example: the emails that Gary Shapley belatedly claimed he was a whistleblower to try to explain away because David Weiss’ team demanded them in discovery. Michael Batdorf — the Director of IRS-CI Field Operations who described that Shapley uniquely escalated things to him because he has, “a tendency to go to level like grade 7 five-alarm fire on everything,” also described that Shapley wasn’t a mere supervisor on this team, he was playing an investigative role.

He was taking investigative steps with the special agents. I mean, he was one of the team.

So it wasn’t just an agent involvement. It was the supervisor involvement. He was, again, taking those actions as if he was a working case agent. (97)

Batdorf provided this description to explain why it was reasonable to remove the entire IRS investigative team (which Batdorf also repeatedly said was not retaliation, undercutting yet more of Shapley’s claims). But it would also serve to explain why it was totally reasonable for Weiss to demand Shapley’s emails in discovery, first in March 2022 and then, after Shapley refused to turn them over, again in October 2022. Batdorf also revealed that Weiss had to and did go over his head to get Shapley’s emails. If it was reasonable to obtain Shapley’s emails for discovery — and Batdorf has explained why it was — then it would be reasonable for Hunter Biden to expect to get them.

Republicans’ frenzied dick pic sniffing has also provided clear evidence, both in the form of testimony about whether Shapley’s notes accurately reflect what happened on October 7, which multiple witnesses say they do not, and in notes that clearly conflict with what he typed up and sent in emails, to demand Shapley’s hand-written notes, in addition to his more formal memorializations.

Normally, evidence that Shapley has been biased or dishonest would only matter for any tax case Weiss attempts to charge down the road. Weiss has time yet under the statute of limitations for tax charges, allowing him to see how this gun charge will go down, and possibly allowing him to delay responding to precisely this kind of discovery request until after the gun charges are resolved.

Except that thanks to frothy Republicans, there is already evidence showing that Shapley’s media tour “infected” Weiss’ prosecutorial team before they made the decision to “renege” on a plea agreement and add additional felony gun charges against Hunter.

When asked by Steve Castor in an interview on September 7 how Shapley’s media tour was affecting the ongoing investigation (which Thomas Sobocinski continues to oversee), the FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Baltimore office described that the media tour, “is affecting my employees,” so much so that the children of retired FBI agents “are being followed.”

Castor later asked a question I’m sure Abbe Lowell would love to know the answer to: Why Lesley Wolf was taken off court filings. Sobocinski balked at answering, even questioning whether Castor’s premise was “factually correct.” But Democratic staffers followed up to ask whether Wolf has faced threats. Sobocinski responded that “my office and the FBI have done things and initiated things to ensure that she remains safe.”

In other words, Shapley made himself relevant to not just the tax charges but also to all charges from David Weiss’ office by setting off a media frenzy that led to credible threats that — Hunter’s attorneys can and undoubtedly will argue — may have led prosecutors to ratchet up the charges against Hunter.

It turns out, though, that it wasn’t just the threats Shapley elicited that affected Lesley Wolf’s involvement in the case. Just five days after Sobocinski’s interview, Batdorf was willing to answer that question.

Q And looking at the individuals who were working on the case outside of IRS, so looking at the AUSA, for instance, to your knowledge, was there any change in the personnel of the AUSA from when it started in 2018 to now? Has there been a change, or has it been generally the same career people working the case the entire time?

A It’s my understanding that there had been a change in the AUSA, the prosecution team.

Q And when was the change made? Do you know?

A I believe that it was made in roughly — I think it was May or June of this year when we decided to move forward with the investigation. (99)

According to Politico, Wolf remained involved in the plea negotiations at least as late as June 7. According to Batdorf, Weiss did ultimately remove her.

The process by which Weiss removed his own AUSAs from the prosecution team appears to have taken two steps. First, between June 7 and June 20, Leo Wise started signing things, including things that Lesley Wolf negotiated. While Wolf was never on the Hunter Biden docket, Delaware AUSA Benjamin Wallace was on early filings (and has not withdrawn from it). According to reports from the day, a number of Weiss’ prosecutors attended the scotched plea deal as well.

But since Weiss was named Special Counsel, just Wise and Hines have appeared on filings, using their new title, Assistant Special Counsel. In other words, it seems that Weiss may have belatedly — very, very belatedly — tried to create a prosecutorial clean team that might sustain charges against the President’s son.

Along the way, Wise made preposterous claims — such as that he was not aware of any leaked grand jury information — that suggest that on top of removing Wolf from the process, Weiss is serially attempting to sheep-dip the prosecution, to create a team unaffected by the bullshit that has gone on for five years, so as to create the illusion of apolitical, neutral prosecutorial decisions.

On a July 31, 2023, call, Assistant United States Atiomey Wise stated he was “not aware” of any leak of grand jury information by the Government during the courseof the Government’s investigation of our client. Such a statement was surprising given that Mr. Biden’s counsel have discussed such leaks with the Government on multiple occasions over the past two years and addressed these leaks in at least four prior letters and countless telephone calls with your Office.1 We incorporate by reference counsels’ prior correspondence on these issues, enclosed herewith as Exhibits A – D.

Not only does that ignore the press blitz Republicans have created, to which both Wise and jurors would have been exposed.

But at least in June, Leo Wise signed things negotiated by Lesley Wolf. You can’t claim that Wise represents a team isolated from the original investigative team if he was signing documents negotiated by Wolf.

That transition, from Wolf to Wise, is a central factual issue that would determine whether DOJ reneged on the terms of the plea agreement, as Hunter’s team insists DOJ did. That transition, from Wolf to Wise, will significantly determine whether that diversion agreement really does remain binding — meaning the indictment already charged would need to be dismissed, with statutes of limitation expired even for an Information to backstop any diversion agreement that remained in place.

Again, normally defendants would never get access to such details. Normally defendants would never contemplate, as Lowell did publicly, getting prosecutors’ emails.

But Jim Jordan and James Comer and Steve Castor have been jumping through hoops providing Lowell cause to do just that.

And so, on the fifth anniversary of the day when Hunter Biden purchased a gun, things may start to get interesting.

Update: Hunter’s attorneys have filed a consent motion to extend deadlines, with Hunter’s initial motions deadline extended to December 11 (provided Judge Noreika approves).

The parties in the above-captioned case have conferred, and respectfully submit the following proposed modified briefing schedule for all pretrial motions: (a) the defendant’s pretrial motions to be filed by December 11, 2023; (b) the government’s oppositions/responses to be filed by January 16, 2024; and (c) the defendant’s replies to be filed by January 30, 2024. The parties will be prepared to argue the motions, if the Court so directs, following completion of all briefing. This proposed schedule excludes deadlines for motions regarding jury selection, discovery, and motions in limine (which can be scheduled at a later time once a trial date is determined).