NOT THE SAME: Why you can’t compare the Trump and Biden classified documents cases
Attempts to “both sides” the fact that Donald Trump purposefully took classified documents when he left the White House in January 2021 and the recent revelations that classified documents were found at a Pennsylvania University institute associated with President Biden have been debunked.
In 2022, attorneys for the former Vice President immediately turned over classified documents found at the University of Pennsylvania’s Biden Center for Diplomacy to the National Archives after the discovery.
The Department of Justice has transparent criteria when prosecuting those thought to have knowingly mishandled sensitive government materials.
- Willful mishandling of classified information
- the quantity of that information
- and disloyalty to the United States.
In the case of former President Trump, at least two of these four boxes are checked.
“The key difference with Trump is that two of the four are well met, and that is willful violation and obstruction of justice,” former U.S. attorney Barb McQuade said. “These cases typically are charged criminally only when an aggravating factor is present.”
Another key difference is that non-classified documents stored with the top-secret materials were dated after Trump was no longer President, raising concerns as to whether Trump accessed confidential government information when he was no longer authorized.
Not only were hundreds of classified records found improperly stored at the Florida resident’s Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate – the ex-President engaged in a nearly two-year cat-and-mouse game with the National Archives and the Justice Department when they attempted to retrieve the documents.
Those working on Biden’s behalf alerted federal officials to their discovery – following the appropriate protocol.
Trump’s team on the other hand, deliberately misled federal investigators for at least 18 months, leading to the FBI executing a search warrant at Trump’s Florida resort.
A year after being asked to turn over any top-secret materials, the former President returned over a dozen boxes whose contents alarmed the National Archives.
Several folders marked classified were included in the materials, setting NARA on a mission.
Hundreds of documents were found strewn across multiple areas at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, and additional records were recently recovered from a nearby storage facility that included wrestling belts and ninja swords.
“The two factors that are present for Trump do not appear to be present in the Biden case, and so for that reason, I would say that these cases are very different,” McQuade said.
The former federal prosecutor added that she would not prosecute President Biden based on the facts in the case.
There has been no evidence that President Biden was aware the classified documents were stored at his UPenn office.
Original reporting by Hugo Lowell at The Guardian.
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