The DOJ special counsel investigating classified documents found in Biden’s home and private office will not press charges.
The special counsel sees no point in prosecuting, in part, because the jury will see Biden as a “well-meaning elderly man with poor memory”. Report says Biden struggled to recall key milestones and events in his life during interviews.
No charges for Biden in classified docs case, because jury will see “well-meaning elderly man with poor memory”
A Department of Justice investigation of President Joe Biden’s unlawful retention of classified documents has concluded after more than a year. The investigation began just a few months after a raid on former President Trump’s home in Florida turned up hundreds of classified documents, including many that were top secret.
The raid on Trump’s home followed over a year of back-and-forth over the documents with the National Archives and the Justice Department. The search of Biden’s homes and offices began when clerks were cleaning out an old office in Washington D.C. which Biden used following his time as Barack Obama’s VP. The Justice Department initiated an investigation and search of other Biden properties, headed by special counsel Robert Hur, a Republican Trump-era appointee. Biden and his staff cooperated fully with the investigation.
Agents took about 90 documents from Biden’s home and office, about 50 of which bore classified markings. The documents, most of which dated to the Obama administration, had to do with the Afghanistan War, and other sensitive military, security, and diplomacy matters.
Hur wrote up a 388-page report after conducting 173 interviews with 147 witnesses, including Biden himself. The Afghanistan documents were source material for Biden’s 2017 book “Promise Me, Dad”. The book was ghostwritten by Mark Zwonitzer, with whom, the report notes, Biden apparently shared classified information during the course of interviews conducted in preparation for the book.
Although Hur concluded that Biden had retained the documents “willfully”, he didn’t believe the evidence and testimony added up to a criminal case that could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The State Department is therefore not pressing charges against Biden or any of his staffers.
Biden’s memory has “significant limitations”, report says
Hur’s report indicated that it would be pointless to bring Biden before a jury because “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“.
On pages 211 and 212 of the report, Hur shares some observations on Biden’s memory. The report finds in Biden’s recorded 2017 interviews with Zwonitzer that it was evident even then that Biden was struggling to remember key dates and events from his life. It was apparently even worse during his October 2023 interviews with DOJ investigators. Here is an excerpt from the report (text made bold by present author):
Mr. Biden’s memory also appeared to have significant limitations – both at the time he spoke to Zwonitzer in 2017, as evidenced by their recorded conversations, and today, as evidenced by his recorded interview with our office. Mr. Biden’s recorded conversations with Zwonitzer from 2017 are often painfully slow, with Mr. Biden struggling to remember events and straining at times to read and relay his own notebook entries.
In his interview with our office, Mr. Biden’s memory was worse. He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (“if it was 2013 – when did I stop being Vice President?”), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (“in 2009, am I still Vice President?”). He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died. And his memory appeared hazy when describing the Afghanistan debate that was once so important to him. Among other things, he mistakenly said he “had a real difference” of opinion with General Karl Eikenberry, when, in fact, Eikenberry was an ally whom Mr. Biden cited approvingly in his Thanksgiving memo to President Obama.
White House lawyers protest too much
On pages 384-388, a letter from the White House is appended to Hur’s report. The letter is addressed to Special Counsel Hur and signed by Richard Sauber, a White House attorney, and Bob Baur, a personal attorney to President Biden. Most of the first two pages of this letter are taken up chastising Hur for his “prejudicial” language in his descriptions of Biden’s poor memory. The letter also questions why it was necessary at all to included these observations on Biden’s memory, since Hur had otherwise concluded in his report that the evidence did not support a prosecution, even without considering Biden’s memory lapses.
The attorneys further supply the context that Mr. Hur’s interview with Biden, which took place over two days, began on Oct. 8, 2023, the day after the Hamas-led attack on Israel. Ahead of the interview, the letter notes, Biden was “conducting calls with heads of state, Cabinet members, members of Congress, and meeting repeatedly with his national security team”.
The tone of this portion of the letter seems more directed at the public than at Special Counsel Hur, as if to assure them that Biden retained sufficient capacity to conduct all this important business. However, a less charitable reader of this letter might find it concerning that a man struggling to recall key events in his own life was in the position of having to conduct such business in a moment of crisis.
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