By Jim Geraghty. Media: National Review.
On the menu today: Hunter Biden’s decision to write letters to the Department of Justice, the Delaware attorney general, and the Internal Revenue Service demanding investigations and prosecutions of his critics — such as Tucker Carlson, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon and others — is being touted as “aggressive.” To me, it looks stupid. Probably the easiest way to ensure that a criminal investigation is perceived as a partisan vendetta is for it to begin after the president’s son publicly demands it. Almost everyone Hunter Biden’s lawyers wrote to either has close ties to the Biden family or owe their jobs to Joe Biden’s nominating them to the position, and they ultimately answer to the president. By publicly demanding that federal and state prosecutors unleash the hounds, Hunter Biden has ensured that anyone who does prosecute his foes looks like they’re obeying the commands of the president’s spoiled, screw-up son.
What Is This, On-Demand Investigations and Prosecutions?
I don’t think Hunter Biden has thought this latest move through.
Matt Viser of the Washington Post reports:
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.
As the New York Post gleefully points out, in these letters to prosecutors about his own “personal data,” Biden is confirming that the laptop is his. This isn’t really in dispute anymore, as several news organizations, independently of the Post but considerably later, had forensics experts study the available data from the laptop and they concluded that it was genuine. The Washington Post and New York Times did so in March of 2022, and CBS News did so in November of 2022.
But for several years now, Hunter Biden has tried to sow doubts about whether the laptop was his. Back in April 2021, while promoting his memoir, the younger Biden insisted to CBS News’ Tracy Smith that he simply didn’t know if the laptop was his, and that it could be Russian disinformation:
Tracy Smith: [A declassified intelligence report] does not specifically talk about your laptop. Was that your laptop?
Hunter Biden: For real, I don’t know. But my point is-
Smith: I know, but you know this is-
Biden: I really don’t know what the answer is. That’s the truthful answer.
Smith: Okay. You don’t know yes or no if the laptop was yours?
Biden: I don’t have any idea. I’ve no idea whether or not.
Smith: So it could have been yours?
Biden: Of course, certainly. There could be a laptop out there that was stolen from me. There could be that I was hacked. It could be that it was Russian intelligence. It could be that it was stolen from me.
Smith: And you didn’t drop off a laptop to be repaired in Delaware?
Biden: No. No.
Biden: Not that I remember at all, at all. So, we’ll see.
These new letters confirm that Hunter Biden lied — or, at minimum, was evasive and misleading — about whether the laptop and its contents were his.
The missives from Biden’s lawyers further affirms that the October 2020 letter from 50 former national-intelligence officials, declaring that the discovery of the laptop “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation” was deceptive nonsense from the start, and Hunter Biden knew it. What’s more, Joe Biden went out on a presidential-debate stage and insisted the Russian spies had planted the laptop as part of a disinformation effort. During the second 2020 presidential debate, Biden barked, “There are folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plant. Five former heads of the CIA, both parties, say what he’s saying is a bunch of garbage. Nobody believes it, except his good friend Rudy Giuliani!”
At minimum, Hunter Biden misled his father and let him go out and lie on his behalf and allowed 50 former national-security officials to mislead the rest of the country.
Second, how does Hunter Biden think it is going to look if the son of the sitting president demands that federal prosecutors bring criminal charges against a bunch of Republicans and conservatives, and then those prosecutors comply? He might as well write, “Dear Deep State, please save me from the consequences of my own actions.”
One of the Hunter Biden letters went to Delaware attorney general Kathy Jennings, “requesting an investigation” into Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, and others. It will probably not surprise you to learn that Jennings has long-standing personal ties to the Biden family; in 2019, while endorsing Joe Biden, she wrote, “I’ve known Joe, Jill, and the Biden family for most of my life.” Starting in 2011, she worked as a state prosecutor under then-attorney general Beau Biden, Hunter’s brother. As state attorney general, Jennings hired as her chief deputy Alexander Mackler, who had previously worked as Joe Biden’s deputy legal counsel when he was vice president, and as his press secretary when he was in the U.S. Senate. Also, at the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware, one of the places that summer interns work is “the office of Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings.”
Jennings would have to recuse herself from any prosecutorial decisions involving Hunter Biden; she’s simply too personally and professionally intertwined with the Biden family to meet the American Bar Association’s requirement that prosecutors must not consider “partisan or other improper political or personal considerations or hostility or personal animus towards a potential subject.”
Biden’s lawyer sent another one of the please-prosecute-my-critics letters to the Justice Department’s National Security Division. That division is run by Matthew G. Olsen. Olsen is, or at least was, a respected career prosecutor who had been picked for tough jobs in both Republican and Democratic administrations. President George W. Bush made Olsen the deputy assistant attorney general for the National Security Division in 2006. Then-attorney general Eric Holder appointed Olsen to head the Guantanamo Review Task Force, and from there, Olsen became general counsel for the National Security Agency in 2010, and then the director of the National Counterterrorism Center from 2011 to 2014.
But when Olsen left government work to become the chief security officer for Uber, he also became a fellow at the left-wing Center for American Progress and wrote and co-wrote some op-eds criticizing the Trump administration’s policies in scathing terms.
In a Time magazine column entitled “Why ISIS Supports Donald Trump,” Olsen contended that:
Trump’s anti-Muslim proposals are likely to inspire and radicalize more violent jihadists in the U.S. and Europe. . . .
Trump’s statements also serve to isolate and alienate the same Muslim Americans who must be our partners in this fight. . . .
Trump’s comments undermine our counterterrorism efforts around the world. By demonizing Muslims, he feeds ISIS’s narrative that the U.S. is at war with Islam. . . .
That’s why, in my view, Hillary Clinton is the clear choice for national security.
President Biden nominated Olsen to run the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and a lot of Republican senators concluded that Olsen had proven too partisan in private life to step back into a trusted nonpartisan prosecutorial role.
“Although I appreciate Mr. Olsen’s prior public service, he no longer has the credibility necessary to fill this important role given the partisan nature of his post-government writings,” Senator Marco Rubio said in a released statement in August 2021. “Institutions are only as good as the American public’s confidence in them, and Mr. Olsen would further undermine public confidence in America’s national security institutions.” The Senate confirmed Olsen on a nearly party-line vote.
In the end, Olsen answers to Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Garland answers to President Biden.
If, as Hunter Biden and his lawyers wish, a career prosecutor who became an outspoken critic of the most recent Republican president chooses to prosecute key allies of that Republican president after the president’ son requests those prosecutions . . . it would affirm all the wildest and most cynical accusations made against Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, Attorney General Garland, and the Department of Justice.
ADDENDUM: I suspect I’m going to spend the 2024 Republican presidential primary telling a lot of GOP figures that I think they are likely going to do more harm than good by jumping into the race, particularly if they don’t leave promptly when it’s clear they’re not going to win the nomination. Yesterday in the Washington Post, I laid out that New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu has the kind of record that, in ordinary circumstances, would merit consideration for the Republican presidential nomination. But these are not ordinary circumstances, and if enough not-Trump options jump in and stay in, it increases the odds of a rerun of 2016, where Trump cruises to victory while the non-Trump options fight amongst themselves for the right to be Trump’s rival.