Special Counsel Doesn’t Charge Biden in Classified Docs Probe, Finds He ‘Willfully Retained’ Materials

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Special Counsel Doesn’t Charge Biden in Classified Docs Probe, Finds He ‘Willfully Retained’ Materials

President Joe Biden waits to speak at the Biden campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Del., on Feb. 3, 2024. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

Jackson Richman

Jackson Richman

2/8/2024

Updated: 2/9/2024

President Joe Biden will not be criminally charged for allegedly mishandling documents, special counsel Robert Hur announced on Feb. 8.
“Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen,” Mr. Hur wrote in a 388-page report to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The materials, the report stated, included “marked classified documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan, and notebooks containing Mr. Biden’s handwritten entries about issues of national security and foreign policy implicating sensitive intelligence sources and methods.” The FBI collected these items during a search of President Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, residence last year.
The FBI last year also searched the president’s Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, home, where they also found classified materials.
Nonetheless, Mr. Hur said that “the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” and that “prosecution of Mr. Biden is also unwarranted based on our consideration of the aggravating and mitigating factors set forth in the Department of Justice’s Principles of Federal Prosecution.”
The decision not to charge President Biden for allegedly mishandling classified materials contrasts with the treatment of former President Donald Trump for allegedly doing so after leaving the White House in January 2021; the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate was raided in 2022 and he was charged by special counsel Jack Smith in 2023. President Trump has pleaded not guilty; the trial will begin on May 20.
The classified documents are from President Biden’s more than four-decade career in politics, which has included the Senate, the vice presidency, and now the presidency.
Mr. Hur interviewed President Biden over the span of two days last year.

Findings

In deciding not to charge the president, Mr. Hur said that a jury likely wouldn’t convict the president in part due to his cognitive issues.
“We have also considered that, at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” Mr. Hur wrote.
“Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt. It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him—by then a former president well into his eighties—of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”
The Afghanistan documents, which had the highest level of classification in the United States, were from 2009. These papers were in a Virginia home that he rented in 2019 and where he met with his ghostwriter for his two books before they were sent to Delaware.
“Nevertheless, we do not believe this evidence is sufficient, as jurors would likely find reasonable doubt for one or more of several reasons,” Mr. Hur wrote.
“Both when he served as vice president and when the Afghanistan documents were found in Mr. Biden’s Delaware garage in 2022, his possession of them in his Delaware home was not a basis for prosecution because as vice president and president, he had authority to keep classified documents in his home.
“The best case for charges would rely on Mr. Biden’s possession of the Afghanistan documents in his Virginia home in February 2017, when he was a private citizen and when he told his ghostwriter he had just found classified material.”
President Biden’s forgetfulness could be a rationale for unintentionally keeping the classified information, according to Mr. Hur.
Additionally, the FBI found notebooks from President Biden’s time as vice president that he knew “contained classified information,” Mr. Hur said.
Nonetheless, the evidence wouldn’t “meet the government’s burden at trial—particularly the requirement to prove that Mr. Biden intended to do something the law forbids,” Mr. Hur said.
“We expect Mr. Biden’s defense at trial would be that he thought his notebooks were his personal property and he was allowed to take them home, even if they contained classified information.”
In addition to the president’s Delaware homes and the rented Virginia home, classified documents were also found at the Penn Biden Center and the University of Delaware.

Biden’s Actions Contrast With Trump’s: Hur

Mr. Hur stated that there was a difference between President Biden and President Trump in allegedly mishandling classified information. Whereas President Biden didn’t willfully take classified documents, Mr. Hur said, President Trump allegedly did.
“Most notably, after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite,” Mr. Hur wrote.
The special counsel went on to say that, per the indictment against President Trump, the former president allegedly declined to return the classified materials and even had some destroyed.
“In contrast, Mr. Biden alerted authorities, turned in classified documents to the National Archives and the Department of Justice in 2022 and 2023, consented to the search of multiple locations including his homes, permitted the seizure and review of handwritten notebooks he believed to be his personal property, and in numerous other ways cooperated with the investigation,” Mr. Hur said.

Reactions

In response to the report, President Biden claimed vindication.
“I was pleased to see they reached the conclusion I believed all along they would reach—that there would be no charges brought in this case and the matter is now closed,” he said in a statement.
“I just believed that’s what I owed the American people so they could know no charges would be brought and the matter closed.”
Meanwhile, President Trump denounced the decision by Mr. Hur to not charge President Biden and lamented what he viewed as a double standard.
“THIS HAS NOW PROVEN TO BE A TWO-TIERED SYSTEM OF JUSTICE AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL SELECTIVE PROSECUTION! The Biden Documents Case is 100 times different and more severe than mine. I did nothing wrong, and I cooperated far more. What Biden did is outrageously criminal,” President Trump said in a statement.
Members of Congress expressed mixed reactions as Republicans denounced the decision not to charge the president, while Democrats came to his defense.
“Americans expect equal justice under the law and are dismayed the Justice Department continues to allow Joe Biden to live above it,” House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
“Joe Biden willfully retained classified documents for years in unsecure locations and intentionally disclosed them yet faces no consequences for his actions.”
“No charges for the Big Guy. The two-tiered justice system hard at work,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), wrote on X: “Biden’s Department of Justice won’t prosecute you if they think you’re too senile. This is flat out embarrassing.”
“Democrats want there to be two tiers of justice: one if your last name is Trump and another if it’s Biden. Republicans are united in opposing weaponized justice and partisan lawfare,” Rep. Rudy Yakym (R-Ind.) wrote on X.
However, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) cited Mr. Hur’s differentiation between President Biden and President Trump allegedly mishandling classified information, saying that the former returned classified documents immediately upon discovery whereas the latter didn’t.
President Biden’s lawyers denounced the report.
Ahead of the report’s release, in a letter to Mr. Hur and deputy special counsel Marc Krickbaum, President Biden’s personal lawyer, Bob Bauer, and the president’s special counsel, Richard Sauber, stated that while they are pleased their client didn’t get charged, they took issue with some of the main points in the report.
Mr. Bauer and Mr. Sauber objected to the findings about President Biden’s memory being poor. They contended the president “did well“ in answering ”questions about years-old events over the course of five hours.”
President Biden’s lawyers also said that their client’s “inability to recall dates or details of events that happened years ago is neither surprising nor unusual, especially given that many questions asked him to recall the particulars of staff work to pack, ship, and store materials and furniture in the course of moves between residences.”
Additionally, the lawyers took issue with Mr. Hur for using President Biden’s comments against him about President Trump being “totally irresponsible” in allegedly mishandling classified information.
Jackson Richman

Jackson Richman

Author

Jackson Richman is a Washington correspondent for The Epoch Times. In addition to Washington politics, he covers the intersection of politics and sports/sports and culture. He previously was a writer at Mediaite and Washington correspondent at Jewish News Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Examiner. He is an alum of George Washington University.

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