Biden classified documents special counsel report: six key takeaways

The US Department of Justice special counsel investigating Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents after his vice-presidency released a report on Thursday concluding that he “willfully” kept and shared classified information – but that the now US president will not face criminal charges. Biden was declared “pleased” but his team criticized “inappropriate” comments in the report and “investigative excess”.

Here are the key points:

Biden ‘willfully’ kept and shared material

Special counsel Robert Hur’s report says: “Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen”, including “classified documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan” and handwritten notes about national security and foreign policy “implicating sensitive intelligence sources and methods”. FBI agents recovered the material from Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home. His disclosures included sharing classified national defense information with ghostwriter Mark Zwonitzer for a memoir about his (pre-presidential) time in office.

No criminal charges warranted, now or later

Justice department policy prohibits bringing charges against a sitting president. But Hur says even if Biden were not president, he would not recommend criminal charges. Hur opines that jurors at any trial would not convict Biden because evidence suggests he simply forgot he had classified material, or that they would believe he wouldn’t realize he was breaking the law because he was so used to seeing such documents.

Biden defends record as special counsel files no charges in handling of classified material – video

Report damning about Biden’s memory

Hur acidly describes Biden, in an interview the president sat for with him, as presenting himself as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” who would probably behave the same with a jury, thereby sowing “reasonable doubt” and a sense that Biden made “an innocent mistake” in keeping the documents. Hur said Biden couldn’t remember exactly when he was vice-president and asked Hur, and couldn’t recall “even within a few years” when his older son, Beau, died (2015).

A dog bed, a broken lamp …

Classified documents about the US war in Afghanistan were found “in a badly damaged box in the garage, near a collapsed dog crate, a dog bed, a Zappos [an online retailer] box, an empty bucket, a broken lamp wrapped with duct tape, potting soil, and synthetic firewood”.

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The special counsel says a juror in any criminal case would conclude that Biden had forgotten about or was unaware of the documents.

‘This matter is now closed

Biden spoke at an event in Virginia on Thursday afternoon and said he was “especially pleased to see the special counsel make clear the stark differences between this case and Trump’s”. The president contrasted his cooperation, and Hur’s conclusions, with the criminal case accusing Donald Trump of hiding classified material, including top secret papers and nuclear weapons information after he left the White House in 2021, refusing to return everything when officially asked and even sharing sensitive military plans. “That’s the distinction … this matter is now closed,” Biden said.

Trump attacks US justice system

Trump posted a social media response, slamming a “TWO-TIERED SYSTEM OF JUSTICE AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL SELECTIVE PROSECUTION” and declaring Biden’s case to be “100 times different and more severe than mine”, adding: “I did nothing wrong, and I cooperated far more.”

The Guardian