“Painfully Slow” Conversations: Report Flags Biden Age Concerns

President Joe Biden knowingly stored and disclosed classified information kept in unsecured locations at his homes in Virginia and Delaware, according to a scathing report released by the Justice Department Thursday.

While federal investigators working for Special Counsel Robert Hur found Biden’s conduct was improper, they stopped short of charging him with any crimes.

“Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen,” according to the nearly 400-page report. However, investigators “conclude that the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Biden, at a hastily arranged White House press conference on Thursday evening, angrily asserted that he had done nothing wrong. “They made a firm conclusion: I did not break the law, period,” he said.

He also drew a contrast with the documents investigation against him, which led to no charges, with the one against Donald Trump, which resulted in an indictment.

“I was especially pleased to see the special counsel make clear the historic distinction between this case and Mr. Trump’s case,” he said. “The special counsel acknowledged I cooperated completely – I did not throw up any roadblocks, I sought no delays.”

The report is likely to fuel political accusations that the Justice Department has a double standard for Biden compared to Trump, his likely opponent in the 2024 presidential race.

Trump condemned the report earlier Thursday, saying it showed a “two-tiered system of justice and selective prosecution,” and alleged that it was “election interference.” He called for the charges against him to be dropped.

But Hur drew distinctions between the two investigations and pointed out that Trump allegedly refused to return the secrets while Biden turned them into authorities himself.

“Unlike the evidence involving Mr. Biden, the allegations set forth in the indictment of Mr. Trump, if proven, would present serious aggravating facts,” the report said. “Most notably, after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite.”

The materials found in Biden’s homes include documents with classification markings about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan and notebooks containing hand-written notes about sensitive intelligence sources and methods.

In particular, Biden retained materials documenting his opposition to a troop surge in Afghanistan in 2009 while he was vice president to President Barack Obama, including a classified handwritten note he sent to Obama on the matter.

Classified Notebooks

“After the vice presidency, Mr. Biden kept these classified notebooks in unsecured and unauthorized spaces at his Virginia and Delaware homes and used some of the notebooks as reference material for his second memoir,” the report said. “Mr. Biden shared information, including some classified information, from those notebooks with his ghostwriter.”

In a statement, Richard Sauber, special counsel to Biden, said the White House was pleased that the investigation concluded and found no criminal charges were warranted.

“We disagree with a number of inaccurate and inappropriate comments in the special counsel’s report,” Sauber said. “Nonetheless, the most important decision the special counsel made  – that no charges are warranted – is firmly based on the facts and evidence.”

Hur and his team identified several reasons for why they weren’t recommending charges against Biden and what his defenses during a potential trial might be, including that he has a frail memory.

‘Poor Memory’

“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,” they wrote.

Biden, on Thursday night, rejected that assertion. “My memory is fine,” he told reporters. “I’m well-meaning, and I’m an elderly man and I know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve been president, and I’ve put this country back on his feet. I don’t need his recommendation.”

Biden was also emphatic during interviews with investigators, declaring the notebooks “my property” and saying “every president before me has done the exact same thing” when it comes to keeping handwritten classified materials after leaving office, according to the report.

The classification markings found on documents in Biden’s possession included top secret and SCI, which stands for sensitive compartmented information and covers some of the most sensitive information kept by the US. They also included noforn, which means not to be shared with foreign nations.

The documents include a paper discussing issues related to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, a report from the Director of National Intelligence addressing topics related to the US war in Afghanistan, an infographic related to Afghanistan and al-Qaeda and CIA intelligence assessments, according to the report.

Investigators also found that Biden’s ghostwriter deleted audio recordings he had created of his discussions with Biden after learning of the appointment of Hur as special counsel. However, the FBI was able to recover most of the deleted files and the writer cooperated with investigators during interviews.

“We considered whether to charge the ghostwriter with obstruction of justice, but we believe the evidence would be insufficient to obtain a conviction and therefore declined to prosecute him,” the report said.

147 Witnesses

Over the course of the inquiry, investigators conducted 173 interviews of 147 witnesses and collected over seven million documents, according to the report.

In a lengthy statement, Biden’s personal lawyer Bob Bauer said Hur had “no choice but to find that criminal charges were not warranted” based on the facts and law.

But Bauer lambasted Hur for “investigative excess” that he said violated Justice Department norms, including criticizing uncharged conduct and the subject of an investigation with “unfounded” commentary.

“He had other choices, which should have been guided by the department’s rules, policies, and practices, and he made the wrong ones,” Bauer said.

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