WASHINGTON - Hunter Biden’s lawyers, in a newly aggressive strategy, sent a series of blistering letters Wednesday to state and federal prosecutors urging criminal investigations into those who accessed and disseminated his personal data - and sent a separate letter threatening Fox News host Tucker Carlson with a defamation lawsuit.
The string of letters, which included criminal referrals and cease-and-desist missives aimed at critics and detractors, marked the start of a new and far more hard-hitting phase for the president’s son just as House Republicans prepare their own investigations into him.
Abbe Lowell, a recently hired lawyer whom Biden enlisted about a month ago, sent lengthy letters to the Justice Department and Delaware’s attorney general requesting investigations into several key players who were involved in disseminating data from a laptop that Biden is said to have dropped off at a repair shop in Wilmington, Del.
Bryan M. Sullivan, another lawyer now representing Biden, sent a separate communication to Carlson and Fox News demanding that they correct falsehoods from his recent show or risk a possible defamation lawsuit.
And in another letter, Lowell wrote to the Internal Revenue Service challenging the nonprofit status of Marco Polo, a group that is run by conservative activist Garrett M. Ziegler. Lowell provided 36 pages as evidence that the group is engaging in political activity in violation of its nonprofit status.
Taken together, the actions represent the boldest and most aggressive moves to date from Biden, who has often heeded the advice of those who urged him not to make public waves. Those close to President Biden and the White House have preferred a more conservative approach, but some individuals around Hunter Biden have wanted to be more assertive in telling his side of the story and going more directly after his opponents.
“This marks a new approach by Hunter Biden and his team,” said one person familiar with his strategy, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private plans. “He is not going to sit quietly by as questionable characters continue to violate his rights and media organizations peddling in lies try to defame him.”
The new strategy marks a calculated risk that it is better to forge a combative path and take on Biden’s longtime critics, even if it means inviting more news coverage of a dark chapter in his life and draws additional attention to the trove of personal and embarrassing material included on a laptop that has been disseminated by his detractors.
In the letters related to his personal data, Biden’s lawyers are asking state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate individuals who came into possession of the data, some of which could have come from a laptop he purportedly dropped off in Delaware in April 2019. They claim that about a half-dozen people have violated various statutes, including by making public restricted private information; accessing and disseminating stolen property; and making false statements to Congress.
“The actions described above more than merit a full investigation and, depending on the resulting facts, may merit prosecution under various statutes,” the letters read. “It is not a common thing for a private person and his counsel to seek someone else being investigated, but the actions and motives here require it.”
The letters are particularly focused on John Paul Mac Isaac, the computer repair shop owner who has claimed he first received the material from Biden in April 2019. Mac Isaac has written a book and spoken at political events, and Biden’s lawyers point to inconsistencies in his account.
The letters also request investigations into former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was given the material from Mac Isaac and later distributed it; Robert Costello, who is Giuliani’s lawyer and also received the material; and Stephen K. Bannon, who has also had the material and helped facilitate initial news stories about it.
Hunter Biden’s attorneys also name Jack Maxey, who provided the material to several news outlets, including The Washington Post, as well as Ziegler, who has uploaded data onto his website, and Yaacov Apelbaum, a former aide to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) who Mac Isaac has said helped create a “forensic image” of the hard drive.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. A message left with the Delaware attorney general’s office - the office that Hunter’s brother, Beau, used to hold - was not immediately returned.
Mac Isaac’s attorney, Brian Della Rocca, on Wednesday evening said he had just received a copy of the materials.
“After skimming the letters, the only thing I see is a privileged person hiring yet another high-priced attorney to redirect attention away from his own unlawful actions,” he said. “No other comments at this time.”
Several others mentioned in the letters sent by Biden’s attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
As the material purportedly from Biden’s laptop has circulated among conservative activists and media organizations, it has fostered a debate about its authenticity. In filing the complaint, however, Biden’s lawyers seem to be conceding that some of the data that has been made public is his private information, even as they say that other materials could have been later altered. They don’t state whether he did, in fact, drop off a laptop for repairs.
“These unlawful actions caused the widespread publication, manipulation, and exploitation of Mr. Biden’s most personal information,” Lowell writes in some of the letters.
Citing Mac Isaac’s admissions that he reviewed some of Hunter Biden’s financial information on the laptop, the lawyers say he had no authority or permission to do so.
“Backing up Mr. Biden’s files for any repair did not require Mr. Mac Isaac to review the contents of any such files,” Lowell writes. “Mr. Biden did not consent to Mr. Mac Isaac gaining access to the content of those files in April 2019 or at any other time.”
The letters also reveal that in December, another one of Hunter Biden’s attorneys - Chris Clark, a former federal prosecutor and New York-based partner at Latham & Watkins - sent a similar criminal referral focused solely on Mac Isaac to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The laptop has been the subject of intense scrutiny dating from stories that the New York Post published just before the 2020 election. At the time, The Washington Post repeatedly asked Giuliani and Bannon for a copy of the data to review, but the requests were rebuffed or ignored.
In June 2021, Maxey, who previously worked as a researcher for Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, delivered to The Washington Post a portable hard drive that he said contained the data. He said he had obtained it from Giuliani.
The Post asked two security experts to examine 217 gigabytes of data on the drive, and they found nearly 22,000 emails carrying cryptographic signatures that could be verified using technology that would be difficult for even the most sophisticated hackers to fake. The vast majority of the data - and most of the nearly 129,000 emails it contained - could not be verified, the security experts said.
Biden has said he is unsure if the laptop is his and he does not remember dropping it off, but he has conceded that his memory at the height of his drug addiction was not reliable. His allies also suggest that materials later made public may be a mix of materials obtained in various ways.
During the same period, Biden also left a laptop with Keith Ablow, a Massachusetts-based psychiatrist who has been close to Republican activist Roger Stone. That laptop was seized by agents who raided Ablow’s office in February 2020, and it was eventually returned to Biden.
Kevin Morris, one of Biden’s friends and associates, has been overseeing a forensic analysis of that laptop to determine if it was the basis of the hard drives that were later distributed by Trump allies.
Biden’s lawyers also claim that he has been defamed by Fox News, in a story that Carlson aired in which he falsely said that Biden had paid $50,000 in “rent” to his father, a scheme that he suggested was being used to funnel money from father to son.
But the reality, as deconstructed by The Washington Post Fact Checker, showed that Hunter Biden was actually paying $49,910 every three months for office space in Washington.
Some other outlets, including the Daily Caller, later updated and retracted their stories.
“We demand that you immediately retract these statements by spending a significant of amount of air-time on such retraction,” Sullivan wrote in the letter to Carlson and a Fox News attorney.
He demanded apologies from Carlson and other commentators - including Fox’s Sean Hannity - who have made similar claims, and requested that Fox News respond in writing by Thursday.
“If we do not receive this written confirmation, we will assume that you both are not interested in acting responsibly and professionally and willing to reverse its actual malice reporting,” Sullivan wrote.
Citing the potential for litigation, Sullivan also demanded that Fox News preserve all communications and documents related to the story.