Attorneys for Hunter Biden have filed a lawsuit accusing a former Trump-era White House aide of launching a “sustained, unhinged and obsessed campaign” against President Joe Biden’s son and the Biden family, including hacking the alleged contents of a laptop.
Since leaving Donald Trump’s administration, Garrett Ziegler has “devoted most of his waking time and energy to accessing, tampering with, manipulating, altering, copying and otherwise using” allegedly compromised computer and iPhone data, emails and photos, according to the lawsuit filed in US District Court in California on 13 September.
“While Defendant Ziegler is entitled to his extremist and counterfactual opinions, he has no right to engage in illegal activities to advance his right-wing agenda,” the suit alleges.
Mr Ziegler, a former aide to recently convicted White House aide Peter Navarro, and his nonprofit group were central to the circulation of a compromising hard drive allegedly belonging to the younger Biden, who now alleges that the data appears to have been manipulated before and after Mr Ziegler obtained it.
He is now accusing Mr Ziegler of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and California’s Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, which allows individuals to pursue litigation against others who have purportedly accessed their computers or data without permission.
Mr Biden also alleges that Mr Ziegler and his group illegally accessed his iPhone and connected iCloud account by “circumventing technical or code-based barriers” that were designed to prevent such access.
The lawsuit demands that the defendants “cease their unlawful activities” and return “any data in their possession,” but “they have flatly and publicly refused to do so,” according to the suit.
“Rather than comply, Defendants have doubled down on their illegal actions and have vowed to continue violating the law with impunity, thereby necessitating this action,” the suit states.
The lawsuit also notes recent comments from Mr Ziegler suggesting that any attempts to serve him with a suit would be met with violent: “If the US president’s son sends a proxy ... to illegally trespass on my property I will blow their f****** brains out.”
Allegations surrounding the laptop – which have included the publication of emails and naked photos of the president’s son – have fuelled political campaigns surrounding the 2020 presidential election, federal investigations and Republican-led congressional probes.
In March, Hunted Biden’s attorneys sued the computer repair shop owner who allegedly obtained the data.
Since leaving the Trump administration, Mr Ziegler’s group has published thousands of emails and photos allegedly from the laptop, what Mr Ziegler has called a “modern Rosetta Stone of white and blue collar crime under the patina of ‘the Delaware Way.’”
“Defendants not only admit to accessing, tampering with, manipulating and copying Plaintiff’s data from their claimed Plaintiff’s ‘laptop’ computer without Plaintiff’s authorization or consent, they regularly brag about their illegal activities in interviews with members of the media, on social media, and on right-wing podcasts,” according to the lawsuit.
Mr Ziegler told Politico that the lawsuit is “not worth the paper it’s written on.”
Federal prosecutors investigating the younger Biden had reached a deal this summer to resolve the criminal probe without going to trial on charges stemming from tax and gun crimes, a deal that fell apart under scrutiny from a federal judge. Prosecutors are expected to seek a grand jury indictment by the end of September.
Mr Biden’s lawsuit comes one day after Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy announced an impeachment inquiry into President Biden following GOP allegations that he was involved with and profited from his son’s business dealings. House Republicans have not provided any evidence that the president was influenced by or profited from such dealings while in office.