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Biden 'wilfully' retained classified documents but will not face criminal charges

President Joe Biden  (AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden (AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden “wilfully” retained and disclosed highly classified materials when he was a private citizen, including documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan, an inquiry has found.

A Justice department report from special counsel Robert Hur was critical of Biden’s handling of sensitive government materials, but also details the reasons why he should not be charged with a crime.

A section of the report suggests President Biden is not being charged because he is an "elderly man with a poor memory".

“Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden wilfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen,” Hur wrote.

Hur’s report says evidence suggests that many of the classified documents recovered by investigators at the Penn Biden Center, in parts of Biden’s Delaware home, and in his Senate papers at the University of Delaware were retained by “mistake.”

Biden said in a statement that he was “pleased” the special counsel had “reached the conclusion I believed all along they would reach that there would be no charges brought in this case and the matter is now closed.”

He added: "The bottom line is the special counsel decided, in my case, against bringing charges," he said.

"This matter is now closed.

"I'll continue to do what I've always done: stay focused on my job like you do, my job of being president."

The report comes after a yearlong investigation into the improper retention of classified documents by Biden, from his time as a senator and as vice president.

After Biden’s lawyers uncovered classified documents at his former office, Biden’s representatives promptly contacted the National Archives to arrange their return to the government.

The National Archives notified the FBI, which opened an investigation. Biden made his homes available to agents to conduct thorough searches, and that is how the most sensitive documents came to the attention of the Justice Department.

Hur assessed that the documents at the Penn Biden Center had not been “wilfully” retained as was the case with some others.

Biden could not have been prosecuted as a sitting president, but Hur’s report states that he would not recommend charges against Biden regardless.

“We would reach the same conclusion even if Department of Justice policy did not foreclose criminal charges against a sitting president,” the report said.

Part of the report focuses on Biden’s handling of classified documents about Afghanistan that he retained after he left office as vice president in his Delaware home. Biden preserved materials documenting his opposition to the troop surge, including a 2009 classified handwritten memo to then-President Barack Obama.

“These materials were proof of the stand Mr Biden took in what he regarded as among the most important decisions of his vice presidency,” the report said.

The documents have classification markings up to the Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information Level and were found in a box in Biden’s Delaware garage “that contained other materials of great significance to him and that he appears to have personally used and accessed.”

Photographs included in the report showed some of the classified Afghanistan documents stored in a worn cardboard box stored in his garage, apparently in a loose collection with other household items, including a ladder and a wicker basket.

Classified documents from the Obama administration were also found in Biden’s basement den, according to the report. Classified documents from his time in the Senate in the 1970s and 1980s were also found in his garage.

Despite signs that Biden knowingly retained and disclosed classified materials, Hur’s report said criminal charges were not merited for multiple reasons.

Those include the fact that as vice president, and during his subsequent presidency when the Afghanistan records were found, “he had the authority to keep classified documents at his home.”

As part of the probe, investigators reviewed a recording of a February 2017 conversation between Biden and his ghostwriter in which, referring to the 2009 memo to Obama, Biden said that he had “just found all the classified stuff downstairs.”