Hunter Biden‘s lawyers were accused last night of an ethical violation in misrepresenting their representation in the case. Jessica Bengels of Latham & Watkins, the head of the firm’s litigation group, is accused of lying to the court clerk in seeking to remove an amicus (or “friend of the court”) brief from access to the public. The clerk insisted that Bengels stated that she was representing the amicus, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, who filed the details on recent evidence showing a “sweetheart deal” behind the plea bargain.
The court gave Latham a deadline of last night to respond and it is insisting that this was all due to “an unfortunate and unintentional miscommunication.” They attached an affidavit from Bengels who said that it was all a misunderstanding:
“At around 11.54am, another Court employee called my Latham & Watkins phone number (which I believe she knew through caller ID) to let me know she would be removing the material from the docket. She did not ask which law firm I was affiliated with, and at no time during this call did I mention anything about my law firm affiliation… I believe there may have been some confusion when Julia passed the information on to the other Court employee, resulting in a mistaken understanding that I had called from Mr. Kittila’s firm…I am completely confident that I never indicated that I was calling from Mr. Kittila’s firm or that I worked with him in any way.”
The entire matter could be a misunderstanding, but the clerk clearly did not think so. The problem for Hunter could be a delay in accepting the plea bargain. It is not clear what additional evidence the Court could secure on the issue, but it could want interviews on the record.
I still believe that it is unlikely that the court would refuse to sign off on the plea bargain. Most judges are leery of demanding more charges against a defendant. That is a matter usually left to the discretion of the prosecutors. The investigation and implications of this dubious deal will ultimately be left to Congress.