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Hunter Biden calls for criminal probe in aggressive new legal strategy

<i>BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>
AFP via Getty Images

By Evan Perez, Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN

Attorneys for Hunter Biden on Wednesday asked state and federal agencies to investigate a computer repair shop owner, Rudy Giuliani and number of right-wing political figures involved in disseminating contents of his laptop, alleging that they committed computer and other criminal violations in their effort to “weaponize” the laptop contents against his father.

The allegations — made in letters to the Delaware attorney general, the Justice Department’s National Security Division and the IRS — mark the first time President Joe Biden‘s son and his legal team have publicly acknowledged that it was his personal data purported to be found on a laptop left at the Delaware repair shop. However, his legal team said their new outreach does not amount to confirmation of the laptop narrative that has been circulated on the right.

The letters signal a distinct change in strategy by Hunter Biden after bringing on new lawyers to help defend him against an onslaught of attacks from Republicans, who have sought to use his personal struggles with drugs and congressional probes of his business dealings to attack the president. Hunter Biden also faces an ongoing federal criminal investigation that is focused on tax and other issues.

In addition to the letters to the government agencies, Biden’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to Fox News and the network’s host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, calling for the retraction of a story broadcast on Carlson’s show that Biden’s team says is false. CNN has reached out to Fox News for comment.

In the letter to Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, Hunter Biden’s attorneys accuse computer repair shop owner John Paul Mac Isaac of unauthorized access of the laptop and distributing its contents to the New York Post for a story published in the weeks before the 2020 election. Mac Isaac has said in a memoir and media interviews that he received the laptop at his store from Hunter Biden in 2019.

“This failed dirty political trick directly resulted in the exposure, exploitation, and manipulation of Mr. Biden’s private and personal information. Mr. Mac Isaac’s intentional, reckless, and unlawful conduct allowed for hundreds of gigabytes of Mr. Biden’s personal data, without any discretion, to be circulated around the Internet,” Hunter Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell wrote in the letter.

The letter asks for investigations into Garrett Ziegler, John Paul Mac Isaac, Robert Costello, Rudy Giuliani and Stephen Bannon.

Mac Isaac’s attorney Brian R. Della Rocca confirmed receipt of the letter and said, after skimming it, all he saw was “a privileged person hiring yet another high-priced attorney to redirect attention away from his own unlawful actions.” Costello called it a “legally frivolous document” and accused Biden’s new legal team of trying to intimidate people. A Giuliani communications adviser, Ted Goodman, called the letters an “obvious attempt to silence.” CNN has reached out to each of the other individuals or their lawyers for comment.

The Justice Department declined to comment and CNN has also reached out to the IRS and the Delaware attorney general’s office.

In the years since the laptop’s existence first became public, Hunter Biden has sought to cast doubt about provenance of his personal information purported to come from the laptop. It appears to contain a massive trove of information detailing, among other things, business documents, emails and photos, including some potentially salacious materials.

“There could be a laptop out there that was stolen from me,” Hunter Biden said in a 2021 CBS interview while promoting his memoir. “It could be that I was hacked. It could be that it was the — that it was Russian intelligence. It could be that it was stolen from me.”

On Wednesday, Lowell, the Biden attorney, said that the new letters from Biden’s team “do not confirm Mac Isaac’s or others’ versions of a so-called laptop.”

“They address their conduct of seeking, manipulating and disseminating what they allege to be Mr. Biden’s personal data, wherever they claim to have gotten it,” Lowell said in a statement to CNN.

Mac Isaac has said he acquired the laptop in April 2019 when Hunter Biden dropped the laptop off in his shop for repairs.

Biden signed a contract with Mac Isaac, which included a policy stating that if the laptop was not picked up within 90 days, it would become Mac Isaac’s property, according to the repair shop owner’s book. Mac Isaac writes that Biden never came back for the laptop.

But by his own account, Mac Isaac said he went through files on Hunter Biden’s laptop the day after it was dropped off. In his book, Mac Isaac said the day after Hunter Biden dropped off the laptop, he noticed a file titled “income.pdf” in the hard drive, which apparently tracked Biden’s finances.

FBI agents served a subpoena and seized the laptop on December 9, 2019, according to Mac Isaac.

According to Robert Costello, Giuliani’s attorney, a copy of the hard drive was sent to one of Giuliani’s company addresses in late August or early September 2020. Giuliani eventually sent a copy of the hard drive to the New York Post.

Giuliani told The Wall Street Journal in October 2020 that he had “every right to use” the hard drive.

A research group run by Garrett Ziegler, a former aide to Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro, posted emails and documents allegedly from Hunter’s laptop on a publicly accessible website. According to Politico, Ziegler said he received the copy of the laptop through Giuliani and Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner and associate of Giuliani.

On the website where Ziegler’s group, Marco Polo, posted the alleged contents of the laptop, a disclaimer reads: “Marco Polo testifies that the contents of the Biden Laptop were abandoned property.”

In the CBS interview in April 2021, Hunter Biden said he had “no idea whether or not” the laptop belonged to him but said it was possible. When asked if he ever dropped his laptop to be repaired in Delaware, Hunter Biden said he had not.

“Not that I remember at all,” he added.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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CNN’s Tierney Sneed contributed to this story.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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