The lawyers of U.S. President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against an aide in the White House of former President Donald Trump over the aide's alleged role in the publication of embarrassing emails and images.
The lawsuit accuses Garrett Ziegler, a former aide to Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro, of violating California's computer fraud and data access laws, and demands a jury trial. The 14-page complaint was filed in a California federal court.
"It's not lost on us that Joe’s son filed this SLAPP one day after an impeachment inquiry into his father was announced,"Garrett Ziegler, former White House aide
Ziegler and other unnamed defendants are accused of obtaining "tens of thousands of emails, thousands of photos, and dozens of videos and recordings" belonging to the president's son and spreading them online.
The suit accuses the former Trump aide of "accessing, tampering with, manipulating, altering, copying and damaging computer data that they do not own." A computer fraud sentence can carry prison time or a fine in California.
Data that has been accessed and copied includes Hunter Biden's credit card details, financial and bank records, and "information of the type contained in a file of a consumer reporting agency," the suit says.
At least some of the data "originally was stored on the plaintiff’s iPhone and backed-up to plaintiff’s iCloud storage," and accessed by "circumventing technical or code-based barriers that were specifically designed and intended to prevent such access."
The lawsuit, which was reported first by ABC News, also seeks an injunction preventing Ziegler from continuing to access or tamper with Biden's data.
Zeigler slaps back
In a statement cited by Politico, Ziegler said he had not officially been served with the lawsuit yet but had read about it. "It's not worth the paper it's written on," he told Politico, adding that various state and federal laws and regulations would protect his actions.
"It's not lost on us that Joe’s son filed this SLAPP one day after an impeachment inquiry into his father was announced," Ziegler added. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.
Republican U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday launched an impeachment inquiry into the president related to his son's business dealings.
Republicans have accused the Democratic president of profiting while he served as vice president from 2009 to 2017 from his son's foreign business ventures, an accusation the White House denies.
Separately, U.S. prosecutors said in a court filing earlier this month they will seek an indictment of the president's son by Sept. 29 in a tax and firearms case.