special prosecutor appointed to investigate
Presidential lawyers assured that classified documents found in Joe Biden’s office and in his private residence had been “accidentally removed”.
After the discovery of a new batch of classified documents, this time in Joe Biden’s private garage, the US Department of Justice appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the politically sensitive case. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday that Robert Hur, a former federal prosecutor in the District of Maryland, will be tasked with determining whether or not Biden broke the law by retaining these documents after he left the vice presidency in 2017. “Extraordinary circumstances require the appointment of a special prosecutor for this case”, said Garland. “This appointment underscores the ministry’s commitment to independence and accountability in highly sensitive matters, and to making decisions based solely on facts and law.” Robert Hur has been appointed by Donald Trump to his post as attorney in Maryland.
“We are confident that a careful investigation will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced and that the President and his attorneys acted promptly when they discovered this error.”, for his part indicated presidential lawyer Richard Sauber in a press release issued after the announcement of the special prosecutor’s appointment. The move demonstrates the embarrassment of the department, which previously assigned another special counsel to investigate another illegal safekeeping of classified documents, this time by former President Donald Trump.
A secret discovery
On Monday night, news from CBS revealed that Biden was also keeping secret documents from his time as Obama’s vice president. These documents were found in Washington in the offices of his foundation for political reflection, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement (Center for Diplomacy and Global Initiatives) on November 2, 2022, a few days before the midterm elections. They would then be quietly turned over to the National Archives, and their discovery kept secret. The White House initially declined to comment on the CBS disclosures. Later, a Biden adviser acknowledged that “a small amount of classified documents” had indeed been found at the bottom of a cupboard by Biden’s personal lawyer at the Center’s office, and given to the national archives.
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On Wednesday, NBC News reported that a new batch of documents had been found by the president’s legal team, this time at Biden’s private Wilmington, Delaware residence. Some documents are in the library. The others are stored in the garage that houses the president’s Chevrolet Corvette convertible. Biden’s second home in the Beach resort town of Rehobot was also searched, but no other documents were found. The initial batch will contain 10 classified documents, including US intelligence reports and briefing notes on Ukraine, Iran and the UK. Some are classified “Top secret”, the highest level. It is currently unknown how many documents are in the second batch and what they are about.
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“People know that I take classified documents seriously,” Biden said Thursday in response to pressing questions from reporters. “I have also said that we are fully and completely cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation… My attorneys have reviewed another location where documents from my tenure as vice president are kept, and they completed this review last night. They found a small number of documents marked classified as classified in storage areas and filing cabinets in my home and in my personal library.”
Biden is in a tough situation
But this affair put America’s president in a difficult political situation. It also allows the prosecution of Donald Trump by the Department of Justice for similar facts to be more complicated than ever. Republicans have not failed to draw parallels with the investigation opened against Trump for illegal possession of classified documents and denounced the double standards on the part of the Judiciary. The FBI raided Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago residence last August, where federal investigators found a box containing classified documents that the former president took when he left the White House, stashed in a room at the club. Other documents were found in a storage unit Trump rented in Palm Beach.
Democrats pointed out that the cases weren’t quite the same, the number of documents was much smaller, and that Biden immediately turned them into archives, while Trump lied about their existence, then repeatedly refused to return them.
But these differences are politically negligible. Biden, who called“not responsible” possession of classified documents by Donald Trump, is in a difficult position to defend. Unlawful possession of confidential documents is a serious violation of federal law, regardless of the amount and whether their retention was intentional or accidental. The Espionage Act stipulates, among other things, that anyone who “negligently allowing classified information to be removed from its proper place of detention… will be fined or imprisoned.”
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Biden’s violation of this law also complicated the position of the Department of Justice. Garland personally made the decision to send the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago. The appointment of a second special prosecutor, demanded by elected Republicans, made it possible to avoid accusations of bias. But it will be politically difficult for American courts to prosecute Donald Trump on facts similar to those that Biden is now being accused of.
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