US President Joe Biden “willingly” preserved and disclosed highly classified documents while he was a private citizen, including documents on military and foreign policy in Afghanistan and other sensitive national security issues, report says of the US Department of Justice which nevertheless indicates that no criminal charges have been filed. guaranteed for him or someone else.
Special counsel Robert Hur’s report, released Thursday, represents a sharply critical assessment of the Democratic president’s handling of sensitive government documents, but it also details why he should not be charged with a crime.
The findings will likely weaken his ability to forcefully condemn Donald Trump, Biden’s likely Republican opponent in the November presidential election, following a criminal indictment accusing the former president of illegally accumulate classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
“Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden deliberately retained and disclosed classified documents after his vice presidency while he was a private citizen,” Hur wrote.
Its report says evidence suggests many classified documents recovered by investigators at the Penn Biden Center, in parts of Biden’s Delaware home and in his Senate papers at the University of Delaware were retained by “mistake “.
Biden said in a statement that he was “pleased” that the special prosecutor had “reached the conclusion I had in mind all along – that no charges would be filed in this matter and that the case is now closed.” .
He insisted that he participated in five hours of in-person interviews over two days, October 8 and 9, “even though Israel had just been attacked on October 7 and I was managing a international crisis. “
“I just thought that was what I owed the American people, so that they would know that no charges would be filed and that the case would be closed,” Biden said.
The report came after a one-year investigation on Biden’s improper retention of classified documents, dating from his tenure as senator and vice president, which were found at his Delaware home, as well as in a private office he used between his service in the administration Obama and his appointment as president.
Separated from the Trump investigation
The investigation into Biden is separate from special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents after Trump left the White House. Smith’s team accused Trump of illegally storing top-secret documents at his Mar-a-Lago home and then obstructing government efforts to recover them. Trump said he did nothing wrong.
After Biden’s lawyers discovered classified documents in his former office, Biden’s representatives immediately contacted the U.S. National Archives to arrange for their return to the government. The National Archives notified the FBI, which opened an investigation.
Biden made his homes available to agents carry out in-depth researchand this is how the most sensitive documents were brought to the attention of the Ministry of Justice.
He could not have been prosecuted as a sitting president, but Hur’s report says he would not recommend charges against Biden anyway.
“We would reach the same conclusion even if Justice Department policy did not preclude criminal prosecution of a sitting president,” the report said.
Part of the report focuses on Biden’s handling of classified documents on Afghanistan — particularly the Obama administration’s decision to send additional troops there — that he kept after leaving office as vice president in his home in Delaware.
Biden kept documents documenting his opposition to troop increases, including a classified 2009 handwritten memo to then-President Barack Obama.
“These documents were evidence of the position Mr. Biden took in what he considers one of the most important decisions of his vice presidency,” the report said.
The documents, which bear classification markings up to the Top Secret/Sensitive compartmentalized information level, were found in a box in Biden’s garage in Delaware “that contained other documents of great importance to him and which he seems to have personally used and consulted”.
Photographs included in the report showed some of Afghanistan’s classified documents stored in a worn cardboard box in his garage, apparently in a loose collection with other household items, including a ladder and a wicker basket.
Documents found in the basement and in the garage
Classified documents from the Obama administration were found in Biden’s basement, according to the report, and classified documents from his Senate tenure in the 1970s and 1980s were also found in his garage.
Despite signs that Biden knowingly retained and disclosed classified documents, Hur’s report said criminal charges were not warranted for several reasons. This includes the fact that as vice president and during his subsequent presidency, when the Afghanistan archives were discovered, “he had the authority to keep classified documents at home.”
As part of the investigation, investigators reviewed a recording of a February 2017 conversation between Biden and his ghostwriter in which, referencing the 2009 memo to Obama, Biden said he had just “found all the classified stuff down there.” Biden was renting a house in Virginia at the time and consolidated his belongings to Delaware when he moved in 2019.
Prosecutors believe Biden’s comment was in reference to the same classified documents that FBI agents later found in his Delaware home.
Although the best case for prosecution may involve his possession of Afghan documents as a private citizen, prosecutors said, it is possible that Biden found those documents at his Virginia home in 2017 and then forgot about them shortly. After.
“This could convince some reasonable jurors that he did not intentionally restrain them,” the report said.
Although the report removes any legal risk for the president, it remains embarrassing for Biden, who made competence and experience central to his pitch to voters to send him to the Oval Office.