- An investigation into alleged mishandling of classified documents has concluded with no charges for Joe Biden.
- The probe was launched after Biden’s legal team found classified papers at his think tank and personal residence.
- The US president addressed the report, telling media he did not break the law.
In a fiery exchange with reporters in the White House on Friday, United States President Joe Biden hit back at allegations that his memory and mental faculties are in decline after a report by a special prosecutor brought them into the spotlight.
Biden was addressing the newly released report surrounding his alleged mishandling of classified documents in a surprise address to the nation, telling reporters: “I did not break the law, period”.
The president also expressed outrage when referencing the report penned by special counsel Robert Hur, which stated that Biden, 81, in an interview last year did not remember key events , Beau, and presented as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
“How in the hell did he dare raise that,” Biden said of Hur’s mention of his son’s death. “I don’t need anyone to remind me when he passed away.”
When taking questions, Biden firmly shut down reporter’s questions about his abilities to lead the US.
“I am well-meaning, I am an elderly man and I know what the hell I am doing,” he said. “I’ve been president — I put this country back on its feet.”
When a reporter asked if Biden could continue as president – he shot back “my memory is so bad, I let you [the reporter] speak”.
Earlier, Biden’s lawyers said his memory lapses were not unusual for someone trying to describe events that took place years ago.
“Such comments have no place in a Department of Justice report,” they wrote in comments included in Hur’s report.
After the report’s release, Biden’s lawyers criticised Hur for what they said was overreach.
“It was plain from the outset that criminal charges were not warranted,” his personal lawyer Bob Bauer said. “Yet the special counsel could not refrain from investigative excess.”
What did the investigation find?
The was released on Thursday (local time) following a 15-month investigation led by Hur over Biden taking taking about national security matters with him when he left the vice presidency in 2017.
Hur said he opted against bringing criminal charges because Biden cooperated and would be difficult to convict.
Hur found that Biden took a handwritten memo to then-President Obama in 2009 opposing a planned troop surge in Afghanistan, and handwritten notes related to intelligence briefings and national security meetings.
Biden told his ghostwriter during a conversation in February 2017, a month after leaving the vice presidency, that he had “just found all the classified stuff” downstairs in a home he was renting in Virginia, referring to documents on the US war in Afghanistan.
Hur’s report found that Biden read aloud classified notebook passages to his ghostwriter on at least three occasions recounting meetings in the White House Situation Room.
The ghostwriter deleted audio recordings of his conversations with Biden after learning about the special counsel’s investigation but kept transcripts, Hur said.
Hur wrote that Biden’s actions “present serious risks to national security, given the vulnerability of extraordinarily sensitive information to loss or compromise to America’s adversaries.”
But he said the documents may have been taken to Biden’s home while he was vice president, when he had the authority to keep such documents.
Hur said Biden would not have faced charges, even absent a longstanding Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president.
Members of Biden’s legal team found the classified papers at the office of Biden’s Washington think tank and his personal residence in Wilmington, Delaware.
What next for Joe Biden?
Hur’s conclusion ensures that Biden, unlike his expected 2024 presidential rival Donald Trump, will not risk prison time for mishandling sensitive government documents.
But it could cause further embarrassment for Biden as the oldest person to ever serve as US president tries to convince voters that he can serve another four-year term.
Biden has also sought to draw a contrast with Trump, 77, on issues of personal ethics and national security.
Biden emphasised that he had cooperated with the investigation.
“I did not throw up any roadblocks. I sought no delays,” Biden said, adding that Hur noted he returned the classified documents, while “Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite.”
Trump has described the four criminal prosecutions he faces — including one for his handling of classified documents — as politically motivated. He has claimed, without evidence, that Biden was behind the state and federal cases.
“THIS HAS NOW PROVEN TO BE A TWO-TIERED SYSTEM OF JUSTICE AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL SELECTIVE PROSECUTION!” Trump wrote on social media.