Biden has ‘intentionally’ disclosed classified material, the special counsel finds, but criminal charges are not warranted

Biden has ‘intentionally’ disclosed classified material, the special counsel finds, but criminal charges are not warranted

Election 2024

February 8, 2024

President Biden will fully preserve and disclose highly classified materials while he was a private citizen, including documents on military and foreign policy in Afghanistan and other sensitive national security matters, according to a Justice Department report that nevertheless says there will be no criminal charges is justified against him. someone else.

Special counsel Robert Hur’s report, released Thursday, represents a harshly critical assessment of Biden’s handling of sensitive government material but also details the reasons why he should not be charged with the crime.

The findings are likely to weaken his ability to strongly convict Donald Trump, Biden’s likely opponent in November’s presidential election, over a criminal complaint accusing the former president of illegally hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida .

Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden deliberately retained and disclosed classified material after his vice presidency, while he was still a private citizen,” Hur wrote.

It came after a year-long investigation into Biden’s improper retention of classified documents, from his time as a senator and as vice president, that were found in his Delaware home as well as in a private office he used.


between his service in the Obama administration and

becoming president, his presidency


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 has accused Trump of illegally keeping top-secret data at the Mar-a-Lago home and then obstructing government efforts to recover it. Trump said he did nothing wrong.

After Biden’s lawyers discovered classified documents in his former office, Biden’s representatives immediately contacted the National Archives to arrange their return to government. The National Archives notified the FBI, which opened an investigation. Biden made his homes available to agents to conduct thorough searches, bringing the most sensitive documents to the attention of the Justice Department.

Biden could not have been prosecuted as a sitting president, but Hurs’ report states that he would not recommend charges against Biden anyway.

We would reach the same conclusion even if Justice Department policy did not preclude criminal charges against a sitting president, the report said.

Part of the report focuses specifically on Biden’s handling of classified documents on Afghanistan, and the Obama administration’s decision to send additional troops there that he retained after leaving office as vice president at his Delaware home. Biden kept materials documenting his opposition to troop increases, including a secret 2009 handwritten memo to then-president



These materials were evidence of the position Biden took in what he considered one of the most important decisions of his vice presidency, the report said.

The documents carry classification marks down to the level of top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information and were found in a box in Biden’s garage in Delaware, which contained other material of great significance to him that he appears to have used personally and to which he has been given access.

The photos in the report showed some of the secret Afghanistan 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.

According to the report, classified documents from the Obama administration were also found in Biden’s basement. Secret documents from his time in the Senate in the 1970s and 1980s were also found in his garage.

Despite signs that Biden knowingly withheld and disclosed classified material, Hurs said criminal charges were not warranted for several reasons. This includes the fact that as vice president, and during his subsequent presidency when the Afghan documents were found, he had the authority to keep classified documents at his home.

As part of the investigation, investigators reviewed a recording of a February 2017 conversation between Biden and his ghostwriter in which Biden, referring to the 2009 memo to Obama, said he had just found all the classified stuff downstairs. Biden was renting a house in Virginia at the time and consolidated his assets in Delaware when he moved in 2019. Prosecutors believe Biden’s comment was a reference to the same classified documents that FBI agents later found in his Delaware home.

While the best charge might involve possessing the Afghan documents as a private citizen, prosecutors said, it was possible Biden could have found those documents in his Virginia home in 2017 and forgotten about them shortly afterward.

This could convince some reasonable jurors that he did not voluntarily retain them, the report said.

The report said there was some evidence to suggest that Biden knew he could not keep classified handwritten notes at home after his term, citing his deep familiarity with the measures taken to protect classified information and the need for those measures to prevent damage to national security. Yet at home he kept notebooks containing classified information in unlocked drawers.

He had strong motivations to do this and to ignore the rules for properly handling the classified information in his notebooks, the report said. He consulted the notebooks liberally during hours of conversations with his ghostwriter and regarded them as deeply personal and valuable possessions that he was unwilling to part with.

While the report removes the president’s legal jeopardy, it is nevertheless an embarrassment for Biden, who put competence and experience at the center of his rationale to voters for sending him to the Oval Office.

Mr. Biden was known to delete classified material from his briefing books and retain it for future use, and his staff struggled and sometimes failed to retrieve that material, the report said. And there was no procedure at all for tracking some of the classified material Mr. Biden received beyond his briefing books

In declining to prosecute Biden, Hur’s office also cited Biden’s limited memory, both during his 2017 recorded conversations with the ghostwriter and in an interview with investigators last year.

Given Mr. Biden’s limited accuracy and recollection during his interviews with his ghostwriter and with our office, jurors may be hesitant to place too much probative weight on a single eight-word statement to his ghostwriter about finding classified documents in Virginia, at lack of others. , more direct evidence.

We also took into account that Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury at trial, as he did during our interview with him, as a likable, well-meaning older man with a poor memory, the researchers wrote.

Recently, the Justice Department has prioritized criminal charges against individuals accused of sharing classified information with biographers or ghostwriters; General David Petraeus admitted to doing just that in 2015 and was sentenced to probation.

But in this case, prosecutors say, Biden could plausibly have believed the notebooks were his personal property and belonged to him, even if they contained classified information. In an interview with prosecutors, the report said, Biden emphasized to investigators that the notebooks were my property and that every president before me has done exactly the same thing. White House lawyers and Biden’s personal attorney were given the opportunity to review and comment on the report. Biden chose not to exercise executive privilege on any part of the report, White House spokesman Ian Sams said. Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland appointed Hur, a former U.S. attorney for Maryland, in January 2023 to handle the Justice Department’s politically sensitive investigation in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest. It is one of three recent investigations by the Ministry of Justice into the handling of classified documents by politically prominent figures.


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