Five Americans detained in Iran are on their way home after the Biden administration brokered a deal for their release in exchange for unfreezing $6b in oil money.
Here’s the latest on the prisoner swap, from the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour:
Five US prisoners detained in Iran, some for nearly a decade, have left the country by plane to Qatar, as part of a controversial prisoner swap involving the unfreezing by the Biden administration of $6bn (£4.8bn) of Iranian oil money.
Tehran and Washington had agreed to swap five prisoners each, including the conservationist Morad Tahbaz, a British-American citizen.
In an elaborate and delicate diplomatic deal, months in the making, the five Americans were taken from hotels in Tehran to a plane bound for Qatar, the first stage in a journey that would take them on flights to Washington.
Qatar has been acting as the mediator for the deal, commencing with the electronic transfer of the Iranian cash to bank accounts in Qatar and Switzerland. The prisoners were allowed to board the plane only after the cash transfer was completed. Apart from Tahbaz, the identity of only two other Americans has been made public.
Republican senators in the US and some former Iranian political detainees have accused Joe Biden of striking a deal that will only encourage Iran to keep hostage-taking as a central part of its diplomatic arsenal. The US state department says the money that is being released is oil money owed to Iran and frozen by the Trump administration in 2018 when the US left the Iran nuclear deal.
Arguing that he’s a “private citizen”, Hunter Biden’s defenders have increasingly turned to lawsuits as a tactic against the ongoing onslaught of Republican allegations against him.
The suit filed today against the IRS comes after two agents went public with allegations that the investigation into the president’s son’s alleged failure to pay income tax was hamstrung by political considerations. Last week, a FBI agent contradicted the testimony of one of the IRS whistleblowers, the New York Times reported.
Earlier last week, Biden’s attorneys sued Garrett Ziegler, a former Donald Trump White House aide, for improperly spreading embarrassing images and emails from the president’s son online. Here’s more on that suit, from Reuters:
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 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.
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.”
Hunter Biden’s legal and political problems are connected to his drug use and his quest for business deals in foreign countries. Now they’re at the center of the impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden, as well as the federal prosecution of Hunter and his counteroffensive of lawsuits against those involved in helping the GOP make their case. Last week, the Guardian’s Mary Yang put together a recap of the complicated saga, including the IRS whistleblower allegations that are at the center of the lawsuit he filed against the tax agency today:
Federal prosecutors indicted Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, over illegally possessing a firearm in Delaware on Thursday. The indictment comes a month after the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, appointed the US attorney David Weiss, a Trump nominee, to oversee the investigation as special counsel.
Hunter Biden has been at the center of a years-long investigation into his tax affairs that was set to close with a guilty plea. But that plea deal fell apart at a Delaware courthouse after the Trump-appointed judge said she could not agree to the agreement, which ensured Biden would avoid jail time in a separate case of illegally possessing a gun while using drugs.
Amid the controversy, the president has repeatedly said he supports his son and Hunter has been seen regularly at family events. Asked if President Biden would pardon his son in the event of any conviction, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters: “No.”
But the younger Biden has been embroiled in a list of unrelated controversies for years, including his overseas dealings and struggles with addiction, which ex-President Trump and his allies have regularly sought to use as fodder for attacks.
Here’s a comprehensive timeline of the moments that have propelled Hunter Biden into the limelight:
Good morning, US politics blog readers. Hunter Biden has filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service, the Associated Press reports, alleging that the tax authority released his information illegally. The suit targets the actions of two agents who claimed to be whistleblowers and gave interviews to Congress and others about the long-running investigation into his business dealings, alleging those actions violated Biden’s right to privacy. Biden is seeking $1,000 in damages per unauthorized disclosure of his personal information, attorneys fees and the release of all documents related to the case. Last week, Hunter Biden was indicted on gun charges related to lying about his drug use while purchasing a firearm, a development that came about after a plea deal intended to resolve the federal investigation into his conduct collapsed. The same week, Republican speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy announced the chamber would begin an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden over the long-running corruption allegations against Hunter, despite Republicans having neither definitive proof, nor necessarily the votes (yet) to successfully impeach the president.
Here’s what else is going on today:
Biden is heading to New York City for fundraisers ahead of an appearance at the United Nations General Assembly and meetings with foreign leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday.
McCarthy and the House Republicans continue to squabble over an agreement to fund the government ahead of an end-of-the-month deadline after which it will shut down.
One conservative House Republican does not think impeaching Biden is a good idea.