Biden will not face criminal charges for mishandling classified documents, says ‘memory is fine’ From Reuters

©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York City, U.S., February 7, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

By Andrew Goudsward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will not face charges for knowingly taking classified documents when he left the vice presidency in 2017, according to an attorney’s report released on Thursday that will raise new issues for the Democrat as he seeks re-election.

Special prosecutor Robert Hur said he decided not to press criminal charges after a 15-month investigation because Biden was cooperating and would be difficult to convict, describing him as an “older, well-intentioned man with a poor memory.”

Hur’s conclusion ensures that Biden, unlike his 2024 presidential rival Donald Trump, will not risk prison for mishandling sensitive government documents.

But that could cause further embarrassment for Biden, 81, as the oldest person ever to serve as US president tries to convince voters he can serve another four-year term.

“Mr. Biden would likely stand before a jury, as he did during our interview, as a sympathetic, well-intentioned older man with a poor memory,” wrote Hur, who served as the top federal prosecutor in Maryland during the Trump administration and was chosen to lead the Biden investigation by Attorney General Merrick Garland in January 2023.

Biden has also sought to draw a contrast with Trump, 77, on issues of personal ethics and national security.

In a speech to congressional Democrats in Virginia, Biden stressed that he had cooperated with the investigation.

“I didn’t create any obstacles. I didn’t seek delays,” Biden said, adding that Hur noted he returned the classified documents, while “Mr. Trump would do the opposite.”

Trump has described the four criminal cases he faces – including one for handling classified documents – as politically motivated. He claimed, without evidence, that Biden was behind the state and federal cases.


Trump allies used the report as an opportunity to highlight concerns about Biden’s age.

“If you’re too stupid to be prosecuted, then you’re too stupid to be president,” said Alex Pfeiffer, a spokesman for Make America Great Again, a group allied with Trump.


Hur wrote that Biden’s memory was “severely limited” when he was interviewed by members of his prosecution team. Biden forgot what year his term as vice president under President Barack Obama began and when it ended, Hur wrote, and he forgot what year his son Beau died.

Biden was emotional about his son’s inclusion in the special counsel’s report during his speech at the White House.

“How the hell dare he bring that up. Frankly when I was asked the question I thought to myself, it was none of their business,” Biden said.

He also defended his mental acuity, declaring, “my memory is fine.”

Biden’s lawyers said his memory lapses were not unusual for someone trying to describe events that happened years ago. “Such comments have no place in a Department of Justice report,” they wrote in comments included in Hur’s report.

After the report was released, Biden’s lawyers criticized Hur for exaggerating.

“It was clear from the beginning that criminal charges were not warranted,” said his personal attorney Bob Bauer. “However, the special prosecutor could not refrain from investigative excess.”


White House counsel Richard Sauber said Hur’s report contained “a number of inaccurate and inappropriate comments.”

Hur found that Biden brought a handwritten memo to then-President Obama in 2009 opposing a planned troop surge in Afghanistan, and handwritten notes related to intelligence briefings and national security meetings.

Biden told his ghostwriter during a conversation in February 2017, a month after leaving the vice presidency, that he had “just found all the classified stuff” downstairs in a house he rented in Virginia, referring to US War documents. United States in Afghanistan.

Hur’s report found that Biden read aloud passages from confidential notebooks to his ghostwriter on at least three occasions while recounting meetings in the White House Situation Room.

The ghostwriter deleted audio recordings of his conversations with Biden after learning of the special prosecutor’s investigation, but kept the transcripts, Hur said.

Hur wrote that Biden’s actions “present serious national security risks, given the vulnerability of extraordinarily sensitive information to loss or compromise by America’s adversaries.”

But he said the documents may have been taken to Biden’s home while he was vice president, when he had the authority to keep such documents.

Hur investigators interviewed Biden in October as part of his investigation.

Hur said Biden would not face charges, even in the absence of a long-standing Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president.

Members of Biden’s legal team found the classified documents at Biden’s think tank office in Washington and at his personal residence in Wilmington, Delaware.

Trump faces a 40-count federal indictment for storing highly sensitive national security documents at his Florida resort after leaving office in 2021 and obstructing the U.S. government’s efforts to recover them.

While the two cases have similarities, there are also some notable differences.

The White House said Biden’s lawyers found a small number of classified documents and turned them over after discovery.

Trump held out until a 2022 FBI search uncovered about 100 classified documents, leading to obstruction of justice charges against Trump and two employees at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Trump has pleaded not guilty. The trial is scheduled for May but will likely be delayed.

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