We’ve reported on the effort by Hunter Biden’s attorneys to get more aggressive, appealing to the Justice Department and the Delaware attorney general to go after people for “accessing, copying, manipulating, and/or disseminating” Hunter’s “private” computer data.
They’re also going after the media, with a letter threatening defamation action against Fox’s Tucker Carlson for a report he did on Hunter. The lawyers are appealing to the IRS to look at the non-profit status of Marco Polo, a group with a website that has some of the laptop data on it.
George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley ripped apart the claims, noting first that in the case of Carlson and defamation, the attorneys would face a high bar, given that Hunter is a “public figure.” They’d have to demonstrate “actual malice”-requiring that a false statement be made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”
Then he also noted that the laptop had allegedly been abandoned at the computer repair store. “Under standard terms of the agreement, an item left beyond a certain number of days at a business or rental housing becomes abandoned property. It can generally then be left on the curb, sold, or given away,” Turley claimed.
But on top of that, Hunter hasn’t made this claim in two years, as Turley notes, and said it could be Russian disinformation. As I previously noted, even Hunter’s father, Joe Biden claimed it could be Russian disinformation multiple times. Yet, suddenly, Turley notes, Hunter is now shocked that people would treat his “property” this way. It’s a bit too much to go for, at this point.
I’ve previously said that this raises concerns, with the lawyers asking the federal agencies/Biden administration to get involved in this.
In the effort to target Marco Polo, the Biden team insists it “has operated as little more than a thinly disguised political operation to attack the Biden administration and the Biden family.” That sounds more vindictive than virtuous. Indeed, if the Biden administration started yanking the tax-exempt status of Biden critics, it would trigger an outcry over weaponizing the IRS. (A similar controversy during the Obama-Biden administration involving IRS official Lois Lerner led to a financial settlement with targeted conservative groups.)
It raises questions, especially with a letter copied to the IRS’ criminal investigation unit chief, according to Turley.
But then the lawyers are also raising questions about the information while claiming Hunter’s ownership of them, which is a neat trick. As Turley notes, the lawyers say, “downstream recipients of what has been purported to be Mr. Biden’s hard drive have reported anomalies in the data, suggesting manipulation of it.” So is it Hunter’s data or isn’t it?
Turley continues that Hunter has not brought a civil lawsuit for a privacy tort claim.
The reason is simple: He does not have a privacy case against the media or critics.
Under the tort of “public disclosure of embarrassing private facts,” you can be sued for publishing even true statements that a reasonable person would find offensive. Showing Hunter’s selfie videos allegedly having sex with prostitutes would qualify as embarrassing to most people. But the tort has an exception for “newsworthy” stories or matters of great public interest. Biden may not be the energy or transportation expert his previous positions suggest, but he is most certainly newsworthy.
So, whatever the attorneys think they can get out of this, it seems more of an effort to put the media back on its heels and try to blunt any negative media. But, that isn’t going to change what’s already out there-nor is it going to change the federal investigations or the Congressional investigations that are ongoing.