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Justice Department will not charge Biden in classified documents probe

President Biden, seen at the White House on Sept. 25, 2023. The Justice Department has concluded its investigation into classified documents found in Biden's residences and office space.
Susan Walsh
/
AP
President Biden, seen at the White House on Sept. 25, 2023. The Justice Department has concluded its investigation into classified documents found in Biden's residences and office space.

Updated February 8, 2024 at 3:17 PM ET

A Justice Department special counsel has recommended no criminal charges be brought against President Biden in connection with the classified documents that were found at his Delaware home and a think-tank office in Washington, D.C.

In a nearly 350-page report released Thursday, special counsel Robert Hur says President Biden held onto classified documents after he left the Obama administration and became a private citizen, and that Biden even disclosed some of those materials to his ghostwriter. But the report says the evidence did not establish Biden's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

"We conclude that no criminal charges are warranted in this matter," the report says. "We would reach the same conclusion even if Department of Justice policy did not foreclose criminal charges against a sitting president."

Hur's decision not to pursue charges against the president brings an end to a lengthy investigation that began after Biden's lawyers found classified documents in November 2022 in the offices of the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C.

Biden's personal attorneys turned over those materials, which were said to date to his time as vice president, to the National Archives and Records Administration. Federal agents then found a small number of additional classified documents in a search of Biden's home in Wilmington, Del. Agents also searched Biden's vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., but did not turn up any sensitive materials.

Hurwas appointed as special counselto investigate the matter in January 2023.

Democrats had hoped the investigation would wrap up quickly so it would not become an issue in the presidential campaign. Instead, the probe lasted more than a year, and Hur's report now lands as Biden looks set to square off in the 2024 campaign in a rematch with former President Donald Trump.

Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence were embroiled in their own classified documents mishaps. Pence's case concluded quickly with no criminal charges filed.

Trump, on the other hand, is facing more than three dozen federal criminal charges after boxes of classified material were uncovered in unsecure locations at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump and his associates have pleaded not guilty in the federal case, which is being prosecuted by special counsel Jack Smith.

Prosecutors allege that Trump had a direct hand in packing the material as he left the White House in 2021 and pushed his attorneys to mislead the FBI about what documents he had in his possession.

While both the Trump and Biden cases involve the retention of classified documents, there are significant differences between the two.

Biden's attorneys quickly returned the materials, and cooperated with investigators. Trump, in contrast, is accused of willfully keeping the records and actively trying to obstruct officials from recovering them.
Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Politics Morning EditionAll Things Considered
Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.
Jaclyn Diaz