Jacquelyn Martin, Pool
- President Biden faces his own special counsel investigation over mishandled secret documents.
- Like Trump, Biden has faced his own drip, drip, drip of revelations in the case, and questions about his role.
- But so far there’s no evidence of aggravating factors like willful retention that may lead to charges.
One president charged, another under investigation for wrongly keeping secrets.
News broke Thursday night that former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Miami grand jury in connection with a similar type of investigation — the alleged mishandling of government secrets — that another special counsel is probing President Joe Biden over.
The Biden investigation appears to be far from over. It began in November after Biden’s attorneys located and alerted the government to files found in a private office he had used after his vice presidency. Biden is prepared to sit with the investigators but hasn’t been asked so far, NBC News reported Thursday, suggesting the probe led by special counsel Robert Hur may still be many steps from completion.
Like Trump, Biden has faced his own drip, drip, drip of revelations in the case, and questions about his role. After the files were found at the office he’d used, another batch of documents were discovered in his garage in Delaware; Biden claimed they were in the locked garage where he stores a Corvette. Then another file was found at his Delaware home.
The FBI undertook searches of these spaces associated with the sitting president, an unprecedented investigative step only matched by the search warrant executed at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in August that resulted in the recovery of 103 documents with markings that, despite Trump’s claims, show no signs of having been declassified.
Trump allegedly bragged about having a classified document about US options to strike Iran. Biden allegedly kept intelligence memos, but no evidence has similarly emerged that he discussed having them with others; Biden has said he was “surprised” by the discovery that he’d had classified records, and is cooperating with the investigation.
As such, the legal cases facing these political opponents appear quite different. Trump is reportedly charged with false statements, illegal retention of national defense secrets, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Aides to Biden, by comparison, took the proper steps of alerting the National Archives and Records Administration that classified files had been found and oversaw their return.
It’s unusual for the Justice Department to prosecute someone for mishandling classified records without evidence of so-called aggravating factors, such as obstruction of justice or willful violation, Insider’s Sonam Sheth has reported. And in the unlikely event the special counsel does seek charges, Biden as the current president would be shielded from a criminal prosecution until when he’s left office.