A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit seeking records from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives related to its 2018 investigation into how President Joe Biden's son Hunter may have committed gun felonies.
In a ruling last Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, found that while the public interest in whether the ATF failed to enforce the law against Hunter Biden is "significant," it did not outweigh Biden's "substantial" privacy interest in the matter.
"Hunter Biden has a substantial privacy interest, and the public interest is also significant," Contreras wrote in a 24-page opinion shared by AmmoLand. "But the balance is not deadlocked."
The records request was filed by David Codrea, a gun rights activist and blogger for AmmoLand. It concerned ATF's handling of a 2018 case first reported by TheBlaze, in which a gun belonging to Hunter Biden was allegedly thrown in a trash can.
Politico corroborated TheBlaze's report in a March 2021 article detailing how in 2018, Biden's late brother's wife, Hallie Biden, allegedly found his .38-caliber handgun in his truck, disposed of the gun in a trash bin outside of Janssen's Market, and later went to retrieve the weapon only to find it was missing, according to a Deleware State Police report. Hallie Biden was dating her brother-in-law Hunter at the time.
The gun was found by a man who regularly rummaged through the grocery store's trash and returned to authorities days later, Politico reported. The outlet added that Secret Service agents had allegedly visited the store where Hunter Biden purchased the weapon and requested the purchase records, but the owner refused to provide them, saying the matter was under the ATF's jurisdiction. ATF agents later visited the store to inspect the records, according to Politico.
ATF has denied both involvement and even awareness of the incident.
A copy of the purchase records reviewed by Politico and referenced in the court records showed that Hunter Biden checked a box saying he was not at the time a user of, or addicted to, narcotics. His disclosure on the form contradicted statements he and his family members have made openly acknowledging how he struggled with drug addiction for years.
Lying about the illegal use of narcotics and other controlled substances on a federal firearms transaction record is a felony offense. But no charges were ever brought against Biden.
Codrea sued for ATF records that would provide insight into why the agency did not charge Biden, despite his public statements regarding his drug use.
However, Contreras said Biden's public statements did not diminish his privacy interest in the matter.
“Disclosure would reveal whether Hunter Biden was criminally investigated by ATF,” the judge wrote. “An individual’s public disclosure of information that could be potentially incriminating in a general sense does not reduce his privacy interest in whether he was the subject of a particular federal criminal investigation by a particular agency.”
The judge added that text messages obtained from an FBI-seized laptop purportedly belonging to Biden, in which he reportedly discussed the handgun incident and a police investigation, did not diminish his privacy interests either.
"The Court is skeptical that one’s private texts can so easily be repurposed into public acknowledgment of a criminal investigation,” the judge wrote.
The court also rejected arguments that Biden's relationship to his father, the president, weighed negatively when balancing his privacy interests against the public interest.
“The Court is not aware of any case law holding that a private citizen like Hunter Biden loses a sense of personal privacy for purposes of [a Freedom of Information Act exemption] merely by being related to a prominent public official,” Contreras ruled.
Codrea said he would not appeal the decision, writing in a blog post that his lawyer advised they were unlikely to succeed.
"Seriously, what did we expect? We were never under any illusion that we had a magic bullet. But we had to try for no reason other than to once more expose how the most in-your-face outrages get a pass when people have the right connections," Codrea wrote.