The scorched-earth activist trying to take down Hunter Biden
Category: Op/EdVia: hallux • 2 months ago • 33 comments
By: Meryl Kornfield - WaPo
When Lunden Roberts needed an expert to help prove that Hunter Biden had the money to keep making substantial child support payments for their 4-year-old daughter, her legal team turned to Garrett Ziegler.
Ziegler doesn’t have a degree in personal finance. He doesn’t personally know the president’s son. But Ziegler, whose first job out of college was working as a low-level aide in the Trump White House, has fashioned himself into a Hunter Biden specialist, compiling personal and financial records from anywhere he can get them. Then, his nonprofit posts them online.
Ziegler, 27, enjoys a following of tens of thousands on social media and the attention of conservative media. He has made himself a chief antagonist of the younger Biden, prompting lawsuits, an Internal Revenue Service complaint and other legal pushback from Hunter Biden’s circle.
Ziegler is at the vanguard of a sprawling network of Biden antagonists, from right-wing media organizations to congressional leaders to MAGA activists, that is focused intensely on the president’s son. They see Hunter Biden’s activities as his father’s biggest political vulnerability, a conclusion reflected in the House GOP’s recent decision to launch an impeachment inquiry .
On Wednesday, Hunter Biden sued Ziegler in federal court in California, alleging that the activist had violated privacy laws and calling him “a zealot who has waged a sustained, unhinged and obsessed campaign against [Hunter Biden] and the entire Biden family for more than two years.”
After Ziegler, who served as a staffer for Trump aide Peter Navarro, a MAGA hard-liner and election denier, left the White House in early 2021, he began focusing his attention on President Biden ’s son, turning his formidable energy to unearthing every detail he could. Ziegler received some of Hunter Biden’s financial records, saying he got them from someone who worked at Biden’s bank. He has delved into Hunter Biden’s business dealings. He even acquired a copy of the diary of Ashley Biden, Hunter’s sister.
But his biggest project has been mining embarrassing information, including nude photos and videos, from what appears to be a personal laptop that Hunter Biden left at a repair shop in April 2019. Ziegler said in an interview that he got a hard drive with the purported contents of the laptop from Rudy Giuliani before the Jan. 6 , 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In October 2022, Ziegler announced that the nonprofit he founded, Marco Polo, had published a voluminous report on the laptop, claiming to have unearthed at least 459 criminal or regulatory violations. This claim has not been verified, and Hunter Biden’s team dismisses it as absurd. (The Washington Post has also obtained a hard drive purportedly from the laptop and authenticated some of its contents.)
“We want (our report) to be on coffee tables and bookshelves and be brought out whenever you hear something in the news,” Ziegler said in the interview. On his Telegram page, where he has a following of about 100,000, he added, “We believe that it is the deepest digital colonoscopy ever performed on a sitting U.S. first family.”
Ziegler has a smaller following than some better-known conservative firebrands. But that relatively low profile allows him to unleash inflammatory attacks with less scrutiny, said Jared Holt, who researches extremists for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think tank.
“There’s an incentive for him to take the extra step and to be just a little more outrageous, because it’s the sort of audience he’s cultivated and the part of the ecosystem he fits into,” Holt said.
Some of Hunter Biden’s associates worry that Ziegler, with his sometimes-wild theorizing combined with an encyclopedic knowledge of Hunter Biden’s history, will influence the public discussion as well as the House probes of the president’s son.
Ziegler argues that he is filling a vital role by scrutinizing the Bidens, particularly because in his view Republicans are not going after Hunter Biden hard enough. “The right wing has totally f---ed up this response,” he said. “It’s been frustrating at the pace. Now we’re seven months in, and I don’t think they’ve subpoenaed Hunter.”
To Democrats, Ziegler and his efforts embody all that is wrong with an era when a single individual can use the internet to humiliate and smear his chosen target. Hunter Biden is a recovering drug addict who has experienced tragedy in his life, they say, and whatever his flaws, they have no bearing on the president’s performance.
Ziegler has “shown himself as a reckless, irresponsible chaos agent,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a House Judiciary Committee member. At a hearing in July, Swalwell raised concerns about Ziegler’s postings attacking federal law enforcement agents.
Ziegler contends that his aggressive actions are justified because his ultimate target is not Hunter Biden, but the president. He asserts that Hunter Biden has been involved for decades in shady business deals with China-based firms and the president has known about it, making the senior Biden beholden to China.
“My focus is never on Hunter Biden — it’s only Hunter’s relationship to Joe,” Ziegler said. “My whole obsession with the Bidens starts and ends with Joe. It doesn’t start and end with Hunter.”
Hunter Biden’s legal team has not taken kindly to Ziegler’s efforts. In his recent lawsuit, Hunter alleges that Ziegler and the other members of his nonprofit illegally hacked into portions of Biden’s laptop that were encrypted, saying they ignored demands to cease and desist, an allegation Ziegler disputes. Ziegler says he would not “honor” cease-and-desist requests in this matter because he believes his actions have been lawful.
Last February, Hunter Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell challenged the tax-exempt status of Marco Polo’s parent company, ICU, writing to the IRS that it “has operated as little more than a thinly disguised political operation to attack the Biden administration and the Biden family.” Ziegler said that his personal criticism of the Bidens does not reflect the official views of his nonprofit.
Hunter Biden’s friend and benefactor Kevin Morris has also sued Ziegler, accusing him of harassment and doxing. After the child support settlement, for example, Ziegler posted the coordinates of Morris’s plane on his public Telegram page and speculated about Morris’s potential travels. Ziegler’s attorneys have argued in court filings that he was exercising his free-speech rights.
In one of his most notable moves, Ziegler joined the contentious child support case between Roberts, an Arkansas resident, and Hunter Biden over their 4-year-old daughter, Navy. Hunter Biden initially contested his paternity of the girl until a DNA test proved the relationship, and he has said he remembers little of his relationship with Roberts because it occurred when he was in a spiral of drug addiction.
Everyone's arse is up for grabs, so have at it.
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