United States President Joe Biden’s son Hunter has sued Rudy Giuliani and another attorney, saying the pair wrongly accessed and shared his personal data after obtaining it from the owner of a computer repair shop in the US state of Delaware.
The lawsuit on Tuesday is the latest in a new strategy by Hunter to strike back against Republican allies of former President Donald Trump, who have traded and passed around his private data – including purported emails and embarrassing images – in their effort to discredit his father.
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The lawsuit accuses Giuliani and attorney Robert Costello of spending years “hacking into, tampering with, manipulating, copying, disseminating, and generally obsessing over” the data that was “taken or stolen” from Hunter’s devices or storage.
The campaign has led to the “total annihilation” of his digital privacy, the claim alleges.
The lawsuit also claims the younger Biden’s data was “manipulated, altered and damaged” before it was sent to Giuliani and Costello, and has been further altered since then.
They broke laws against computer hacking when they did, according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and a court order to return the data and make no more copies.
Costello used to represent Giuliani, but recently filed a lawsuit against the former New York City mayor saying he did not pay more than $1.3m in legal bills.
A spokesperson for Giuliani did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press (AP) seeking comment on Tuesday morning. Costello declined to comment to the news agency.
In February, he told AP that a letter from Hunter’s lawyers that requested a Justice Department investigation of him and others related to the laptop was a “frivolous legal document” that “reeks of desperation because they know judgment day is coming for the Bidens”.
Tuesday’s lawsuit marks the latest turn in the laptop saga, which began with a New York Post story in October 2020 that detailed some of the emails it says were found on the device related to Hunter’s foreign business dealings.
It was swiftly seized on by Trump as a campaign issue during the US presidential election that year.
Hunter does not explicitly acknowledge that the laptop left at the computer shop was his, but says “at least some” of the data was on his iPhone or backed up to iCloud.
A Justice Department special counsel is also separately pursuing an investigation into Hunter’s taxes, and has filed firearm possession charges against him, and he plans to plead not guilty. He has also been charged with tax crimes.
House Republicans, meanwhile, have continued to investigate every aspect of Hunter’s business dealings and sought to tie them to his father as part of an impeachment inquiry against President Biden. A hearing on Thursday is expected to detail some of their claims again.
Meanwhile, after remaining silent as the images are splayed across the country, Hunter has changed his tactic, and his allies have signalled there is more to come.
Over the past few months, the younger Biden has sued a former aide to Trump over his alleged role in publishing emails and embarrassing images.
Hunter also filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the US tax agency, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), saying his personal data was wrongly shared by two agents who testified as whistleblowers as part of a probe by House Republicans into his business dealings.
The US president’s son has also pushed for an investigation into Giuliani and Costello, along with the Wilmington computer repair shop owner who has said Hunter dropped a laptop off at his store in April 2019 and never returned to pick it up.
Giuliani provided the information to a reporter at the New York Post, which first wrote about the laptop, Hunter’s attorney said in a letter pushing for a federal investigation.