Democrats stress differences between Biden, Trump cases in special counsel report

After the release of a special counsel's report that found President Biden would not be indicted for mishandling classified documents, Democrats sought to focus on their argument that the report offers a far more damning assessment of the former President Donald Trump, even though Republicans did. continued to seize on elements of the document that called Biden's memory into question.

Special Counsel Robert K. Hur 388 page report, released Thursday evening, began by stating that the Justice Department had determined that no criminal charges were warranted and that investigators would have reached the same conclusion even if Biden were not president. Hur's report also makes “several important distinctions” between the cases of Biden and Trump, who faces federal criminal charges centered on his own handling of classified documents.

“Most notably, after having 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 many months, but he also obstructed justice by having others destroy the evidence and then lie,” Hur wrote .

Biden, on the other hand, “turned over classified documents to the National Archives and the Department of Justice, consented to the search of multiple locations, including his home, sat for a voluntary interview, and cooperated with the investigation in other ways,” he said. report noted.

Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House counsel's office, appeared at Friday's White House press conference to emphasize that the Justice Department had found “no evidence to hold” against Biden, marking the first time in US history that no one was indicted. after a special counsel investigation.

Sams noted that Biden ordered his team to immediately return all classified documents found and never attempted to obstruct justice. Biden also opened “every room of his family home and beach house to extensive FBI searches” and spent two days speaking with investigators – while dealing with the fallout from the Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7, Sams said.

“[Biden] did not exercise executive privilege over the contents of the report. It was transparent. He had nothing to hide,” Sams said. “There was a long, intensive and, in many ways, yes, excessive investigation. … All the theories were explored, but the facts and the evidence proved them The decision was that there was no case to answer.

Special counsel's report paints scathing picture of Biden's memory

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Connecticut) rejected Republican arguments that Hur's decision not to indict Biden showed a two-tiered justice system, saying it was “absurd” to compare Biden and Trump's cases .

“Read the documents. It's not hard. Biden cooperated fully. Trump obstructed at every turn,” Himes, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on social networks Friday. ” They know that. And they know how much their arguments damage Americans’ confidence in their democracy.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, noted that Biden's retention of a small number of documents containing classified information had “resemblances striking” with those of former Vice President Mike Pence and former President Ronald Reagan. processing of classified information after their mandate.

Trump, Raskin said, was the exception.

“To be clear, and as the special counsel's report explicitly notes, there is clearly no comparison here to the conduct of former President Trump,” Raskin said in a statement Thursday. “Trump obstructed efforts by the National Archives and law enforcement to recover hundreds of government documents by deliberately hiding them, lying about their whereabouts, and using others to destroy and conceal evidence. Trump deliberately and illegally retained hundreds of presidential and classified files, which he kept in a bathroom, ballroom, office and other locations at Mar-A-Lago, and showed them to several repeated to the guests.

Raskin, who also served on the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, added that the House Oversight Committee would continue to explore ways to address “the problem more difficult for officials who deliberately steal and steal.” concealing confidential and top-secret government documents,” another reference to Trump.

In its public responses to the report on Thursday, the White House also highlighted these differences. Richard Sauber, Biden's special adviser, called the president's cooperation throughout the 15-month investigation “extraordinary” and downplayed mentions in the report of Biden's memory as “inaccurate and inappropriate comments” with which the White House did not agree with.

“The simple truth is that President Biden takes classified information seriously and works to protect it. He spent decades at the highest levels of government defending and advancing America’s national security and foreign policy interests and protecting its secrets,” Sauber said in a statement.

Although he did not mention Trump by name, Sauber noted that Hur acknowledged in his report that errors in packing documents at the end of an administration are “unfortunately a common phenomenon” that has become produced in administrations of both parties over the past 50 years.

“Now that this investigation is complete, President Biden plans to take further substantial steps to help prevent such errors in the future and will announce it soon,” he said. “We disagree with a number of inaccurate and inappropriate comments contained in the Special Prosecutor's report. Nonetheless, the most important decision made by the special prosecutor – that no charges are warranted – is firmly based on the facts and evidence.

Trump continued to insist that he is being treated unfairly by the Justice Department compared to how Biden was treated. Unlike other Republicans in their response to the report, Trump did not focus on the parts of the report that questioned Biden's mental acuity.

“THIS IS NOW PROVEN TO BE A TWO-TIER SYSTEM OF JUSTICE AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL SELECTIVE PROSECUTIONS!” » Trump posted a speech on his social network on Thursday that also falsely claimed that he had “cooperated much more” with authorities and that Biden had “50 times” more documents than him.

The former president's actions in his classified documents case led to this investigation becoming a criminal case. The investigation into Trump's missing documents resulted in 40 federal charges against Trump, including willful withholding of national defense secrets and obstruction of justice.

Top House intelligence officials who were part of the Gang of Eight — a bipartisan group that reviewed classified documents recovered from the homes of Biden, Trump and former President Mike Pence — disagreed in their comments on the report of the special prosecutor on Thursday.

Himes, the top Democrat, noted in a statement that the former president had “multiple opportunities to return the hundreds of highly classified documents in his possession and either refused or failed to do so.”

But his Republican colleague, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Michael R. Turner (Ohio), echoed the criticism of many prominent figures in the Republican Party. Turner said Biden “deliberately withheld” the documents for decades, calling the special prosecutor's decision not to pursue charges as emblematic of a “two-tiered system of justice.”

The Gang of Eight study, Himes added, clearly highlighted the need for “better systems” to track classified documents and “make sure they don't end up where they don't belong.” .

On CNN Friday morning, Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) claimed that Hur used “very, very flimsy evidence” to conclude that Biden deliberately withheld classified information, emphasizing that there was a difference between the notes taken by Biden about classified information. information during his tenure in relation to documents bearing genuine classified marks.

“President Biden, in the course of his work, took numerous notes – some must have been unclassified information, some unclassified – and he naturally believed that his notes were his and that they did not bear any classified brands,” Goldman said on CNN. “It’s a big difference.”

Goldman also accused Hur, a Trump appointee, of including comments about Biden's memory to deflect Republican criticism “because he did not indict President Biden, who fully cooperated, while Donald Trump did been indicted, in part, because of his extreme obstruction of justice.

President Biden delivered an emotional speech from the White House on February 8 in response to a special counsel's report questioning his mental acuity. (Video: The Washington Post)

Meanwhile, Republicans have overwhelmingly seized on Hur's characterizations of Biden's age and memory, arguing that the report painted a person unfit for office. In remarks from the White House Thursday evening, Biden vehemently disputed the report's questioning of his mental acuity. A mistake later in the press conference – when Biden confused the presidents of Mexico and Egypt – however, only fueled a media frenzy Friday morning around his memory.

At the White House briefing, Sams pushed back against what he called “gratuitous and inappropriate critiques” of Biden's memory included in the report.

“Unfortunately, the gratuitous remarks that the former attorney general spoke about naturally made headlines and got your attention,” Sams said. “The gratuitous comments – which respected experts say are inappropriate – are inappropriate and they should not distract from the fact that the case is closed and that the facts and evidence show they reached the correct conclusion.”

Other Democrats defended Biden, pointing to Trump's recent misfires — which more later Thursday evening. wrongly declared Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to be the president of Turkey — and by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who last week confused Iran and Israel in an interview.

Mariana Alfaro and Praveena Somasundaram contributed to this report.

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