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Special counsel report on Biden memory, Trump, Afghanistan troops

Biden returns to the White House in Washington

(Reuters) - A 15-month investigation into U.S. President Joe Biden for improperly handling classified documents ended on Thursday, after Special Counsel Robert Hur's probe concluded the president cooperated and a jury would be unlikely to find him guilty.

Hur's 388-page report covered a lot of other topics, though. It includes references to Biden's memory and powers of recollection, the relative strength of a documents case against former President Donald Trump, and Biden's views of the Afghanistan war.

Here are some direct quotes from the report:

BIDEN'S MEMORY

He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended ("if it was 2013 - when did I stop being Vice President?"), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began ("in 2009, am I still Vice President?")

He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died. And his memory appeared hazy when describing the Afghanistan debate that was once so important to him.

Among other things, he mistakenly said he "had a real difference" of opinion with General Karl Eikenberry, when, in fact, Eikenberry was an ally whom Mr. Eiden cited approvingly in his Thanksgiving memo to President Obama.

BIDEN VS. TRUMP

It is not our role to assess the criminal charges pending against Mr. Trump, but several material distinctions between Mr. Trump's case and Mr. Biden's are clear.

Unlike the evidence involving Mr. Biden, the allegations set forth in the indictment of Mr. Trump, if proven, would present serious aggravating facts.

Most notably, after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite. According to the indictment, he not only refused to return the documents for many months, but he also obstructed justice by enlisting others to destroy evidence and then to lie about it.

A JURY MIGHT HAVE SYMPATHY

Mr. Biden will likely present himself to the jury, as he did during his interview with our office, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory. While he is and must be accountable for his actions - he is, after all, the President of the United States - based on our direct observations of him, Mr. Biden is someone for whom many jurors will want to search for reasonable doubt.

It would be difficult to convince a jury they should convict him - by then a former president who will be at least well into his eighties - of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.

AFGHANISTAN TROOP SURGE

In 2009, then-Vice President Eiden strongly opposed the military's plans to send more troops to Afghanistan. U.S. policy in Afghanistan was deeply important to Mr. Biden, and he labored to dissuade President Obama from escalating America's involvement there and repeating what Mr. Biden believed was a mistake akin to Vietnam.

Despite Mr. Biden·s advice, President Obama ordered a surge of additional U.S. troops, and Mr. Biden's views endured sharp criticism from others within and outside of the administration. But he always believed history would prove him right.

(Reporting by Heather Timmons; Editing by Daniel Wallis)