Special Counsel Won’t Seek Charges Against Biden for Keeping Classified Docs

February 8, 2024 by Dan McCue
Special Counsel Won’t Seek Charges Against Biden for Keeping Classified Docs
The access road to President Joe Biden's home in Wilmington, Del., is seen from the media van on Jan. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents after his years in the Obama White House, concluded that while Biden “willfully” retained highly sensitive records, no criminal charges are warranted against him.

In a report that was no holds barred and in some cases, highly unflattering to the president, Special Counsel Robert Hur said Thursday that Biden left the White House in 2017 with classified documents about Afghanistan and notebooks filled with handwritten entries “implicating sensitive intelligence sources and methods.”

Hur went on to say that Biden subsequently shared the contents of the notebooks with a ghostwriter who assisted him in the writing of his memoir “Promise Me, Dad,” despite the fact he knew some of the material was classified.

In a statement released by the White House, Biden said he was “pleased to see [the special counsel and his investigators] 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.”

Biden noted that Hur had conducted “an exhaustive investigation” that went back more than 40 years, all the way back to his days as a young U.S. Senator in the 1970s.

“I cooperated completely, threw up no roadblocks, and sought no delays,” the president said.

In fact, Biden said, he was so determined to give the special counsel what he needed that he went forward with five hours of in-person interviews over two days on Oct. 8 and 9 of last year, this despite the fact “Israel had just been attacked … and I was in the middle of handling an international crisis.”

“I just believe that’s what I owed the American people,” he continued, adding, “over my career in public service, I have always worked to protect America’s security. I take these issues seriously.”

Hur’s report concludes a year-long investigation into Biden’s improper retention of classified documents, where several were found at his Delaware home as well as at a private office at the Penn Biden Center that he used between his tenure as vice president and his election as president.

Other sensitive documents were found among Biden’s Senate papers at the University of Delaware. In many cases, Hur concluded, these documents were kept by mistake.

Biden could not have been prosecuted as a sitting president, but Hur explicitly states he would have reached the same conclusion “even if Department of Justice policy did not foreclose criminal charges.”

Hur goes on, however, to include a few wince-worthy passages in the report, namely citing what he described as Biden’s “limited memory” both during his recorded collaboration with his ghostwriter and during interviews with investigators conducted last year.

“Given Mr. Biden’s limited precision and recall during his interviews with his ghostwriter and with our office, jurors may hesitate to place too much evidentiary weight on a single eight-word utterance to his ghostwriter about finding classified documents in Virginia, in the absence of other, more direct evidence,” Hur wrote.

“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,” the report said.

Richard Saber, a special counsel to the president, said in a statement that he was generally pleased by the report, and Hur’s conclusion that no criminal charges would be warranted “even if the president were out of office and a private citizen.

 “As the special counsel report recognizes, the president fully cooperated from day one. His team promptly self-reported the classified documents that were found to ensure that these documents were immediately returned to the government because the president knows that’s where they belong. Not only was there no obstruction, the president’s cooperation throughout this 15-month investigation has been extraordinary,” Sauber said.

“As the special counsel report acknowledges, mistakes when packing documents at the end of an administration or when members of Congress leave office are unfortunately a common occurrence,” he continued. 

“It’s happened with every administration, Republican and Democrat, for the past 50 years. Now that this investigation has concluded, President Biden plans to take new, substantive action to help prevent such mistakes in the future and will announce it soon,” Sauber said.

He then went on to offer a mild rebuke of Hur on the subject of Biden’s memory, saying he and others serving the president in regard to the investigation “disagree with a number of inaccurate and inappropriate comments in the special counsel’s report. 

“Nonetheless, the most important decision the special counsel made — that no charges are warranted — is firmly based on the facts and evidence,” Sauber said.

The investigation into Biden is separate and markedly different in its underlying facts from special counsel Jack Smith’s inquiry into the handling of classified documents by Trump after he left the White House in early 2021. 

Smith’s team has charged Trump with illegally retaining top secret records at his Mar-a-Lago home and then obstructing government efforts to get them back. 

Trump has insisted that he did nothing wrong, and in a statement released Thursday claimed Hur’s report “has now proven” that a two-tiered system of justice exists in the U.S. and that it allows for “unconstitutional selective prosecution.”

“The Biden Documents Case is 100 times different and more severe than mine,” Trump wrote. “I did nothing wrong, and I cooperated far more. What Biden did is outrageously criminal – He had 50 years of documents, 50 times more than I had, and “WILLFULLY RETAINED” them.

“I was covered by the Presidential Records Act, Secret Service was always around, and GSA delivered the documents. Deranged Jack Smith should drop this case immediately,” he said.

Among the distinctions in the cases are the fact that after Biden’s lawyers discovered the classified documents at the president’s former office, they immediately notified the National Archives and arranged for their return to the government.

The National Archives notified the FBI, which opened an investigation. Biden then opened his homes and offices to agents so they could conduct thorough searches.

Among those anticipating Trump’s response to Hur’s findings, was Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

“MAGA Republicans will no doubt now call to investigate the investigators — it’s their favorite move — but the Hur report effectively ends the discussion,” Nadler said. “President Biden cooperated fully with the special counsel and redacted no portion of the special counsel’s report. Unlike Trump, President Biden has nothing to hide.

“And the contrast here is striking. If Trump had cooperated with the Department of Justice — instead of lying to investigators, again and again — he might have avoided at least some of the 91 criminal charges currently pending against him,” the representative said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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