Hunter Biden is the son of the president, an addict, and an alleged criminal with a history of apparent influence peddling. But he still has a right to privacy.
That, and perhaps a wish for revenge, is the basic idea behind the series of lawsuits that Hunter Biden, through his high-powered lawyer Abbe Lowell, is filing against people involved in accessing and disseminating information from his laptop. While House Republicans use Hunter’s actions as a basis for an impeachment inquiry against his father, the litigation Lowell has launched offers a sort of counter-programming, detailing how Hunter has been victimized by Trump supporters’ smear efforts.
On Tuesday, Hunter Biden sued Rudy Giuliani and Giuliani’s former lawyer, Robert Costello, in federal court in California, where Hunter lives, accusing them of “hacking into, tampering with, manipulating, copying, disseminating, and generally obsessing over” material on Hunter’s laptop, resulting in the destruction of his privacy.
The new lawsuit followed a similar recent complaint against Garret Ziegler, a former White House aide making something of a career out of spreading material from the laptop. Hunter Biden’s lawyers also filed a lawsuit against the IRS, taking aim at agents who disclosed information about his taxes and alleged that their efforts to investigate him were thwarted by more senior officials.
The distribution of material from Hunter Biden’s laptop has resulted in legitimate reporting on his efforts to make money based on the idea he can influence his father. But the pro-Trump operatives also pushed out purely salcacious pictures of Hunter—images that had no legitimate news value—in an apparent effort to embarrass him.
As I’ve reported, that included an extensive effort by Steve Bannon and employees on his War Room podcast to use a network of Chinese-language news sites controlled by far-right Chinese exile Guo Wengui to publicize pornographic material from Hunter’s laptop. Working with Bannon, Guo—who is currently jailed while facing fraud charges—oversaw an effort to put embarrassing photos of Hunter Biden online and also to knowingly spread false accusations about him.
Hunter Biden’s suit cites public accounts from Giuliani and Costello about how they claim to have acquired the laptop from a Delaware computer shop owner, John Paul Mac Isaac, and then worked to access and organize material they found for distribution.
The complaint cites an episode of a podcast featuring Giuliani, “Rudy’s Common Sense,” in which the former New York mayor said on-camera that he had loaded “data” from the hard drive onto his own computer and accessed it. In a different podcast, “America’s Mayor Live,” Giuliani held up a laptop and said: “This belongs to Hunter Biden.”
The lawsuit says statements like these—Costello also showed reporters how he accessed material originally from Hunter’s laptop—were criminal admissions. The suit alleges that Giuliani and Costello violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. (Neither Giuliani nor Costello has been criminally charged in this matter.)
In their legal filings, Hunter Biden’s lawyers state that they do not accept the claims by Mac Issac about how he acquired the laptop, noting they acknowledge only “that at some point, Mac Isaac obtained electronically stored data, some of which belonged to Plaintiff.”
In a separate legal filing, a countersuit filed last week against Mac Isaac, Hunter’s lawyers say they believe Mac Isaac acquired the data through some “potentially nefarious method” that differs from his public statement that Hunter dropped off the laptop in his shop and never picked it up.
In a statement Tuesday, a Giuliani spokesperson referenced Biden’s past efforts to question claims by the former mayor and others about how they acquired laptop data.
“Hunter Biden has previously refused to admit ownership of the laptop,” the spokesperson said. “I’m not surprised he’s now falsely claiming his laptop hard drive was manipulated by Mayor Giuliani, considering the sordid material and potential evidence of crimes on that thing.”
Costello, who recently sued Giuliani for unpaid legal fees, did not respond to requests for comment. But he previously said he was not worried about Lowell’s legal threats. “If they thought they could intimidate this group of people, boy were they wrong,” Costello said in February. “We know how to play hardball.”