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The differences between the Trump and Biden documents cases


Washington – Special Counsel Robert Hur report detailing his investigation The indictment against President Biden for allegedly retaining sensitive government information as a private citizen immediately drew comparisons to the case against former President Donald Trump, who faces 40 federal charges for obstruction and allegedly withheld dozens of sensitive documents once he left the White House.

The charges against Trump were filed by another special counsel, Jack Smith. Trump has pleaded not guilty and continually criticized Smith’s investigation. He used Hur’s findings Thursday to call for the charges against him to be dropped, saying Hur’s decision not to bring charges in the Biden case was evidence of the Justice Department’s political motivations.

But Hur himself has outlined what he sees as important distinctions between the two legal cases. And experts said the way Trump and Mr Biden reacted once they were informed they might have sensitive records and the nature of the documents themselves were the main reasons why the investigations collapsed. finished differently.

The Trump and Biden documents

Federal investigators recovered about 300 documents bearing the classification markings of Trump’s club at Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House, according to Justice Department court documents. They were recovered in three batches between January and August 2022, when the FBI raided the former president’s home in South Florida.

Prosecutors alleged that Trump preserved boxes containing documents marked classified in several locations at Mar-a-Lago, including a ballroom, a bathroom and a storage room where more than 80 boxes were stacked. Many boxes contained “highly classified documents mixed with other documents,” such as photographs and newspapers.

The documents Trump is accused of keeping contained information about US nuclear programs; the defense and weapons capabilities of the United States and other countries; the vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to attacks; and how the United States would retaliate in response to an attack. Prosecutors said they included documents prepared by the CIA, NSA, Pentagon, Department of Energy and other intelligence agencies.

In addition to Mar-a-Lago, the special prosecutor alleges that some boxes containing sensitive government documents were taken to Trump’s property in Bedminster, New Jersey, and said Trump then shared some information with perpetrators of books.

In Mr. Biden’s case, Hur said investigators recovered dozens of documents containing sensitive information that he kept after his vice presidency, including files on military and foreign policy in Afghanistan. He also had notebooks containing handwritten entries on national security and foreign policy issues. Investigators determined that 37 of these entries contained top secret or secret information.

Hur’s team wrote that some of the handwritten notes contained information on intelligence sources and methods, military programs and capabilities, and “[p]the lands and capabilities of foreign terrorist organizations. »

During Mr. Biden’s interview with the special adviser, Hur wrote that the president said he probably kept the notebooks because ”

Prosecutors alleged that Trump resisted handing over the documents for months and was assisted by his aide Walt Nauta and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos de Oliveira. Both face various charges related to obstruction and have pleaded not guilty.

Nauta allegedly moved a total of 64 boxes out of the Mar-a-Lago storage room “at Trump’s direction,” prosecutors allege. Smith’s team also said the three men allegedly tried unsuccessfully to delete videos showing the boxes had been moved after the subpoena for the surveillance footage was issued.

In Mr. Biden’s case, his personal lawyer discovered sensitive government documents on November 2, 2022, at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, where Mr. Biden held an office after leaving the vice presidency in 2017. The lawyer informed the White House counsel’s office, which in turn informed the National Archives. Two days later, the Archives notified the Justice Department, and a U.S. attorney was quickly assigned to review the case.

In December, additional documents relating to Afghanistan were discovered in the garage of the president’s Wilmington home, and Mr. Biden’s lawyers notified the Justice Department.

The investigation became public on January 9, 2023, when CBS News reported the US Attorney’s investigation. Attorney General Merrick Garland named Hur special counsel two days later.

In the following weeks, the FBI conducted searches of Mr. Biden’s homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with his consent. Agents then searched the University of Delaware’s storage facility.

Why Trump was indicted and Biden was not

While the special prosecutor “discovered evidence that President Biden deliberately retained and disclosed classified documents” in a manner that “presents[ed] serious risks to national security,” the report states that “no criminal charges are warranted in this matter.” Justice Department policy states that sitting presidents cannot be criminally charged, but Hur said his team would have reached the same conclusion even if it had. t.

Hur himself laid out the distinctions between the cases of Trump and Mr. Biden.

“Mr. Biden turned over classified documents to the National Archives and the Department of Justice, consented to the search of several locations, including his home, participated in a voluntary interview, and cooperated with the investigation of another manner,” the report said.

It’s that cooperation, combined with how the investigation began and evidence of his knowledge and intentions, that distinguishes the cases, according to Hur.

Trump, on the other hand, is accused of falsely claiming that he was fully cooperating with the FBI and had turned over all the documents investigators sought, even though he continued to keep dozens of them.

“[A]fter being given several 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 several months, but he also obstructed justice by having others destroy the evidence and then lie about it. Hur’s report.

While Smith determined he had gathered enough evidence to file charges against Trump, Hur wrote that ”

Fredericksen, the former federal prosecutor, said, “The decision not to prosecute is the obvious right decision,” based on Mr. Biden’s cooperation and the evidence in the report.

“It’s not a difficult decision to make at all. It’s an easy decision to make,” he added.

Prosecutors “don’t bring cases like this,” which is “when someone comes forward voluntarily,” Fredericksen said. One of the most difficult aspects of a case for a federal prosecutor is proving and establishing the defendant’s intent, he argued. According to him, “there is no evidence that the president was, at any time or another, aware that what he was doing was wrong.”

But with Trump, “the evidence of obstruction, of lying, as the indictment alleges…That’s what reflects the intentionality of the conduct,” Fredericksen said.

Parlatore, Trump’s former lawyer, said he didn’t think charges were warranted in either case.

Instead, Parlatore argued that the Trump and Biden investigations demonstrated a greater need for oversight of the handling of classified records within the federal government, which he said remains a “vulnerability.”

“I don’t think Trump should have been indicted. I don’t think Biden should have been indicted,” Parlatore said. “I think it’s something that needs to be fixed procedurally.”



Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.cbsnews.com

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