Robert Hur

Robert Hur—shown here on September 19, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland—was the special counsel who investigated U.S. President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents.

(Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Unlike Trump, No Charges in Biden Classified Documents Case

"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," said Rep. Jerry Nadler.

Special Counsel Robert Hur concluded that "no criminal charges are warranted" after investigating U.S. President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents from before he took office in 2021, according to a report released Thursday.

"We would reach the same conclusion even if Department of Justice policy did not foreclose criminal charges against a sitting president," Hur stressed in the report, made public over a year after U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed him to lead the probe into materials found at Biden's Delaware residence and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, D.C.

Before Biden was elected president, he served as vice president and a U.S. senator from Delaware. The special counsel noted that "materials recovered in this case spanned Mr. Biden's career in national public life... He used these materials to write memoirs published in 2007 and 2017, to document his legacy, and to cite as evidence that he was a man of presidential timber."

Hur explained that although investigators found evidence that the president "willfully retained and disclosed" classified materials—including documents about Afghanistan and notebooks with his handwritten entries about U.S. national security and foreign policy—after his vice presidency, "the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

"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 Republican special counsel wrote of the 81-year-old president.

Politicoreported that "Biden's attorneys also wrote directly to Hur and his team before the report's publication to complain about the focus on the president's memory lapses. As documented in the report, they called the focus 'gratuitous' and urged Hur to revise his summarizations, saying it was beyond his 'expertise and remit.'"

Hur's report comes as the Democratic president seeks reelection in November. The GOP front-runner, former President Donald Trump, is facing 91 charges across four criminal cases. The two federal cases, overseen by Garland-appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith, focus on the Republican's interference in the 2020 election and his handling of classified materials.

Trump quickly seized on Hur's report. In a campaign email with the subject line, "Biden not charged for classified docs in his garage!" the Republican wrote: "He's mishandled classified docs... And now, his crimes are being SWEPT UNDER THE RUG!"

The ex-president declined to acknowledge that he is named in the report, which states:

With one exception, there is no record of the Department of Justice prosecuting a former president or vice president for mishandling classified documents from his own administration. The exception is former President Trump. It is not our role to assess the criminal charges pending against Mr. Trump, but several material distinctions between Mr. Trump's case and Mr. Biden's are clear. Unlike the evidence involving Mr. Biden, the allegations set forth in the indictment of Mr. Trump, if proven, would present serious aggravating facts.

Most notably, after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite. According to the indictment, he not only refused to return the documents for many months, but he also obstructed justice by enlisting others to destroy evidence and then to lie about it. In contrast, Mr. Biden turned in classified documents to the National Archives and the Department of Justice, consented to the search of multiple locations including his homes, sat for a voluntary interview, and in other ways cooperated with the investigation.

Addressing the report in remarks to Democratic lawmakers on Thursday, Biden said that "this was an exhaustive investigation going back literally more than 40 years" and Hur "acknowledged that I cooperated completely, I did not throw up any roadblocks, I sought no delays," even sitting for hours of interviews while handling an international crisis.

"I was especially pleased to see the special counsel make clear the stark differences between this case and Donald Trump," Biden added. "Bottom line is, the special counsel in my case decided against moving forward with any charges and this matter is now closed. I'll continue to do what I've always done: stay focused on my job like you do."

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that "MAGA Republicans will no doubt now call to investigate the investigators—it's their favorite move—but the Hur report effectively ends the discussion. 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," Nadler added. "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."

House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) also emphasized in a lengthy statement that Biden "fully cooperated" with his probe and did not exert privilege over any of the report while "Trump willfully and unlawfully held onto hundreds of presidential and classified records."

In addition to four criminal cases, Trump faces legal efforts to kick him off this year's ballots by voters and experts who argue that he is constitutionally barred from holding office after engaging in insurrection on January 6, 2021. On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court—which includes three Trump appointees—heard arguments for a case focusing on Colorado's primary ballot.

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