Biden or Trump, who is more at risk on classified documents?

Looking back, Joe Biden may regret calling Donald Trump’s “irresponsible” attitude with sensitive information. For three weeks, the disclosure of classified documents found in Biden’s former office and in his garage was a bit of a mess for the American president. Like Donald Trump, the Secretary of Justice has appointed a special attorney to investigate the fiasco. Yet if the threat of impeachment was real for his predecessor, Joe Biden appears to be losing political capital for now.

The scale: Ten times more classified documents on Trump than on Biden

For Donald Trump, the soap opera lasted more than two years. The National Archives first claimed and acquired the 15 boxes that Trump’s team took during his move from the White House to Mar-a-Lago which contained 184 classified documents. Trump’s lawyers later turned over an additional 38 sensitives after the subpoena. And the FBI, suspecting there may still be some, found 103 others during the search, some of which were marked as “top secret.” Based on washington post, which is the most sensitive regarding foreign countries’ nuclear defense capabilities. Altogether, this makes a total of 325 problematic “secret” documents. As president, Donald Trump clearly has the power to declassify any document, but he doesn’t appear to have followed the necessary procedures — and his defense of declassification “with a thought” has not convinced legal experts.

Joe Biden’s team conducted an audit last year. In early November, they notified the National Archives that sensitive documents dating to Vice President Biden’s tenure had been found in one of his former offices in the Penn Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania. On December 20, attorneys for the president discovered, in the garage of the Wilmington home, a “small quantity of documents” that were potentially classified, and notified the Department of Justice. On January 11, the lawyers found classified documents, this time in a room adjacent to the home’s garage. The next day, presidential lawyers found an additional five pages there. We don’t know the official figures, but according to CBS, we have about twenty documents, some “top secret”, before the final shot, which would make a total of 26.

Legal risks: Biden is protected while he is president, Trump runs the risk of obstruction

The 1978 law required the president and vice president of America to submit, at the end of their mandate, all emails, letters, and other working documents to the National Archives. Joe Biden implied that he was not aware of the whereabouts of these documents, and his attorneys maintained that they had been moved “accidentally”, and that they were cooperating with the Department of Justice. This is an important point: “The Department of Justice (DOJ) seldom prosecutes” when violations of the 1978 law are “accidental and innocent,” according to Moss. Not to mention that the DOJ considers that the sitting president cannot be impeached – however he can retroactively apply until the end of his term.

Donald Trump no longer enjoys this protection. And an FBI search showed he was targeted — before a special prosecutor was appointed — by an investigation for “deliberately” withholding classified documents. Obviously, the former president was accused of voluntarily moving these documents into his box, and refusing to return them for 18 months. The charges, in theory, each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

To be sure, these two investigations by independent prosecutors risk weighing on the 2024 presidential election, when Donald Trump has already started and Joe Biden is thinking about it. Even if technically, neither the indictment, let alone the verdict, can prevent someone from becoming a candidate.

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