Hunter Biden sues Rudy Giuliani over ‘total annihilation’ of digital privacy

<span>Photograph: Brynn Anderson/AP</span>
Photograph: Brynn Anderson/AP

Hunter Biden has sued Rudy Giuliani and his lawyer, alleging “total annihilation” of his digital privacy through attempts to tie his legal and personal problems to his father, President Joe Biden, through claims about an infamous laptop and hard drive.

Related: Ex-Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson claims Rudy Giuliani groped her on January 6

Filed in US district court in California, where Hunter Biden lives, the suit says the former New York mayor turned Donald Trump attorney and his own lawyer, Robert Costello, “are among those … primarily responsible for what has been described as the ‘total annihilation’ of [Hunter Biden’s] digital privacy.

“They also are among those who have been primarily responsible for the ‘total annihilation’ of plaintiff’s data.”

The defendants are alleged to have “dedicated an extraordinary amount of time and energy toward looking for, hacking into, tampering with, manipulating, copying, disseminating, and generally obsessing over data that they were given that was taken or stolen from [Hunter Biden’s] devices or storage platforms, including what defendants claim to have obtained from [Biden’s] alleged ‘laptop’ computer”.

Hunter Biden is at the centre of Republican moves to impeach his father, based on unsubstantiated allegations of corruption. The president’s son’s own legal problems are extensive, over taxation and firearms charges.

Giuliani is in great legal jeopardy himself – not least from a suit from Costello, his own lawyer, alleging unpaid fees.

Giuliani also faces a $10m suit from a former personal assistant alleging offences including sexual assault and professional disciplinary proceedings. But his work for Trump, particularly in the attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s victory over the former president in the 2020 election, is the wellspring of his problems. In Georgia, he has pleaded not guilty to 13 racketeering and conspiracy charges.

Lawyers for Giuliani have said he is struggling to pay his bills. His apartment in New York has been put up for sale.

Giuliani obtained Hunter Biden’s data and sought to use it during the 2020 election as a way to damage Joe Biden. Hunter Biden has also sued the owner of the Delaware computer repair shop from which his data was accessed.

The new suit alleges that Giuliani, Costello and others acted unlawfully under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and two California laws. It seeks unspecified damages, costs and orders to stop further use or manipulation of data.

Lawyers for Biden say his data was “manipulated, altered and damaged before it was copied and sent” to defendants whose “illegal hacking and tampering has involved further alterations and damage to a degree that is presently unknown”.

The suit names the former Trump White House strategist and far-right figurehead Steve Bannon, saying Giuliani “apparently worked directly with … Bannon and [Republican operative] Vish Burra to access, manipulate, and copy [Hunter Biden’s] ‘laptop’, which Burra has dubbed the ‘Manhattan Project’ because he and others ‘were essentially creating a nuclear political weapon’”.

Giuliani and Costello have often acknowledged accessing data from an external hard drive associated with Biden’s laptop.

The new lawsuit quotes such admissions, including when, “in an episode of his podcast America’s Mayor Live” on or about 2 February of this year, Giuliani “held up a laptop computer on camera and announced: ‘This belongs to Hunter Biden.’

“He proceeded to brag about having copied [Biden’s] data on to his own computer and about having accessed, analysed and manipulated the transferred data.”

Earlier this year, lawyers for Hunter Biden wrote to prominent Republicans and rightwing media figures, warning them to preserve records related to accusations of corruption involving Biden or the dissemination of his data.

Ted Goodman, an adviser to Giuliani, said: “Hunter Biden has previously refused to admit ownership of the laptop. I’m not surprised he’s now falsely claiming his laptop hard drive was manipulated by Mayor Giuliani, considering the sordid material and potential evidence of crimes on that thing.”