President Joe Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials,” but no charges are warranted, the special counsel investigating his handling of classified documents said in a lengthy report made public on Thursday.
U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland confirmed Wednesday in a letter to lawmakers that he had received the final report from special counsel Robert Hur. Garland appointed Hur to serve as special counsel after reports surfaced about the classified documents recovered from Biden’s former office and one of his homes in Delaware in 2022 and 2023.
Biden speaks at White House regarding special counsel’s report
Update 8:18 p.m. EST Feb. 8: President Biden spoke for the second time on Thursday from the White House following the release of Hur’s report earlier in the day Thursday.
“The special counsel acknowledged I cooperated completely. I did not throw up any roadblocks. I sought no delays,” Biden said in the investigation into the handling of classified documents, according to CNN. Biden also stated that he was cooperative and participated in a five-hour interview a little over two days after Israel was attacked by Hamas.
“I just believed that’s what I owed the American people so they could know no charges would be brought and the matter closed,” Biden said.
The special counsel’s report also claimed that Biden forgot when his son, Beau Biden, died or when he served as vice president, CNN reported.
“How in the hell dare he raise that? Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, it was none of their damn business,” Biden said. “I don’t need anyone to remind me when he passed away.”
Biden said that his “memory is fine,” according to The Associated Press. He also said that he is the “most qualified” person to be president.
Biden said that he did not share any classified information and he is unsure how the classified documents ended up in his garage, the AP reported.
-- Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Biden makes first public comment on the report
Update 4:36 p.m. EST Feb. 8: Thursday afternoon, President Biden made his first public comments after the special counsel released its report earlier in the day.
“Bottom line is the special counsel in my case decided against moving forward with any charges,” Biden said at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Leesburg, Virginia, according to CNN.
Biden mentioned that he was interviewed for the report following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
-- Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Trump releases statement through his campaign
Update 4:31 p.m. EST Feb. 8: Former President Donald Trump released a statement following the findings from the special counsel.
“This has now proven to be a two-tiered system of justice and unconstitutional selective prosecution! The Biden Documents Case is 100 times different and more severe than mine,” Trump said in a statement obtained by CNN.
-- Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Attorneys for Biden object to statements about president’s memory in report
Update 4:10 p.m. EST Feb. 8: In a 5-page letter to the special counsel that was included in the report issued Thursday, Biden’s attorney, Bob Bauer, and White House counsel Richard Sauber criticized the special counsel’s discussion of Biden’s memory, saying it was not “accurate or appropriate.”
“The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events,” they said. “Such comments have no place in a Department of Justice report, particularly one that in the first paragraph announces that no criminal charges are ‘warranted’ and that ‘the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden’s guilty.’”
In the report, the special counsel said that Biden’s memory “appeared to have significant limitations” both during interviews held in October 2023 and in 2017, when the president worked with a ghostwriter for his 2017 memoir “Promise Me, Dad.” The report described Biden’s conversations with the ghostwriter as “often painfully slow, with Mr. Biden struggling to remember events and straining at times to read and relay his own notebook entries.”
The report noted that the president’s memory appeared to be worse during interviews held with the special counsel’s office in October 2017.
“He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended ... and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began,” according to the report. “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.”
In the letter included in Hur’s report, Bauer and Sauber said that the reports comments on Biden stand “in marked contrast to the lack of pejorative comments about other individuals.”
“The same predictable memory loss occurred with other witnesses in this investigation. Yet unlike your treatment of President Biden, your report accepts other witnesses’ memory loss as completely understandable given the passage of time,” the letter read.
Special counsel: If charged Biden ‘would likely present himself ... as a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man’
Update 3:50 p.m. EST Feb. 8: Special counsel Hur said in the report made public Thursday that one of the considerations in whether to file charges against Biden was how he might present himself 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,” the report said.
“Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt. It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him-by then a former president well into his eighties-of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”
The special counsel said evidence indicated that Biden might have known that he had classified materials in his possession in 2017 based on a recorded conversation with the ghostwriter for his memoir, “Promise Me, Dad,” in which he said “just found all the classified stuff downstairs.”
The special counsel detailed Biden’s “limited precision and recall during his interviews with his ghostwriter and with our office” noting that it might make jurors “hesitate to place too much evidentiary weight on a single eight-word utterance to his ghostwriter about finding classified documents in Virginia, in the absence of other, more direct evidence.”
“We searched for such additional evidence and found it wanting,” the report says.
‘I cooperated completely’ with special counsel, Biden says
Update 3:40 p.m. EST Feb. 8: In a statement released by the White House, Biden said he was “pleased to see” that the special counsel “reached the conclusion I believed all along they would reach — that there would be no charges brought in this case and the matter is now closed.”
He said that he “cooperated completely, threw up no roadblocks, and sought no delays,” adding that he sat for five hours of interviews in October 2023 “even though Israel had just been attacked on October 7th and I was in the middle of handling an international crisis.”
“I just believed that’s what I owed the American people so they could know no charges would be brought and the matter closed,” he said. “Over my career in public service, I have always worked to protect America’s security. I take these issues seriously and no one has ever questioned that.”
Biden appeared to have known about classified records in 2017
Update 3:30 p.m. EST Feb. 8: Evidence indicates that Biden knew that he had classified documents in his possession less than a month after he left the vice president’s office in 2017, according to Hur’s report.
In a recorded conversation with a ghostwriter who he worked with for his book, “Promise Me, Dad,” Biden said that he had “just found all the classified stuff downstairs.” At the time, he was renting a home in Virginia, according to the special counsel.
The papers, which were from the fall of 2009 and had markings that showed some to be top secret, ended up in a box in Biden’s garage after the consolidated his belongings in Delaware in 2019.
“Evidence supports the inference that when Mr. Biden said in 2017 that he had ‘just found all the classified stuff downstairs’ in Virginia, he was referring to the same marked classified documents about Afghanistan that FBI agents found in 2022 in his Delaware garage,” the special counsel’s report said.
The condition of the box in which the documents were found suggested to investigators that they might have been forgotten.
Biden shared some classified information with ghostwriter for 2017′s ‘Promise Me, Dad’
Update 3:25 p.m. EST Feb. 8: Biden shared some classified information that was included in notebooks he kept during his eight years as vice president with a ghostwriter for his 2017 memoir, “Promise Me, Dad,” according to the special counsel’s report.
“To our knowledge, no one has identified any classified information published in Promise Me, Dad,” the report read. The notebooks, which included handwritten notes from Biden on classified subjects, were found in the office and basement den of his home in January 2023.
Classified materials kept by Biden included documents on Afghanistan, notebooks
Update 3:10 p.m. EST Feb. 8: Hur said in his report that classified documents kept by Biden included records about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan and notebooks in which Biden had written about issues of national security and foreign policy “implicating sensitive intelligence sources and methods.”
The items were found in the garage, offices and basement den of Biden’s home in Wilmington.
Report: Biden ‘willfully’ retained, disclosed highly classified materials; no charges warranted
Update 3 p.m. EST Feb. 8: The special counsel’s report said that Biden disclosed highly classified materials, including documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan, but authorities found that no charges were warranted.
“We conclude that no criminal charges are warranted in this matter. We would conclude the same even if there was no policy against charging a sitting president,” according to Hur’s report. “Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified information after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.”
Original report: Prosecutors do not plan to pursue criminal charges in the case, The Washington Post reported.
The attorney general said that before Hur submitted his report on Monday, the special counsel reached out to White House officials to determine whether the report included anything that fell under executive privilege. In a statement obtained by The Associated Press, a spokesman for the White House Counsel’s office said that the White House completed its review on Thursday morning.
“In keeping with his commitment to cooperation and transparency throughout this investigation, the president declined to assert privilege over any portion of the report,” Ian Sams said.
The report may still be released with redactions from the Justice Department if it contains classified information, the AP reported.
It was not immediately clear when Hur’s report would be made public. Garland said Wednesday that he would give Congress “the report, its appendices, and the letter from counsel following completion of the White House’s privilege review.” He added that he is “committed to making as much of the Special Counsel’s report public as possible, consistent with legal requirements and Department policy.”
Last year, authorities said that documents with classification markings were found in storage at Biden’s home in Wilmington. The records were from his time as vice president under President Barack Obama.
Classified documents were also found in November 2022 at Biden’s former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, D.C.
The discoveries came after hundreds of classified records were found at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Trump is facing federal charges for his handling of the documents.
Authorities also said last year that they found classified records at former Vice President Mike Pence’s home in Indiana. Charges were not filed in that case.
© 2024 Cox Media Group