Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What do facts show about classified documents found in Biden's home and an office?


We now know the findings of a special counsel who investigated President Biden's retention of classified documents.


His report finds, quote, "evidence" that Biden, quote, "willfully retained" the classified material from his vice presidency. Yet the same report repeatedly gives reasons that the evidence falls short and would not be likely to persuade a jury, which is why Robert Hur declined to prosecute.

INSKEEP: NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has been reading. Ryan, good morning.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What do you find in these hundreds of pages?

LUCAS: Well, look. This is a long report, but it does focus on a couple of sets of classified materials that FBI agents found in their searches of Biden's homes and office. One are documents related to military and foreign policy in Afghanistan during the Obama administration, and the other are handwritten notes that date to Biden's time as vice president. Biden jotted down notes in these things during intelligence briefings with President Obama and in White House Situation Room meetings. Some of this material is classified. And it's some of that material that Hur says that Biden shared on at least three occasions, the report says, with a ghostwriter that he was working with.

But as you said, there are no charges here. The report says, ultimately, the evidence doesn't support bringing charges. It doesn't establish Biden's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Hur says in the report that it would be hard to prove that Biden willfully intended to break the law. And it also describes him as a, quote, "sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory" and says it would be hard to convince a jury to convict him.

INSKEEP: And unsurprisingly, Republicans have jumped on that last part, describing Biden as an old man with memory problems. How is the president responding to that?

LUCAS: Well, look. Legally, this report is good news for Biden in the sense that there are no charges. But that doesn't mean that it can't still create political problems for him. And the parts of Hur's report that raise questions about his age and mental acuity are certainly a case in point. There's even a line in there that in his interviews with investigators, Biden didn't remember the year his son, Beau, died. Biden talked to reporters last night, and he took that remark head-on. Let's take a listen.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: How in the hell dare he raise that? Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, wasn't any of their damn business.

LUCAS: You can hear in that comment there how upset Biden was. And he said there's no reason for what he called such extraneous stuff to be in the report. And he said the bottom line here is that there are no charges. And this investigation is now closed.

INSKEEP: Former President Trump is facing criminal charges for the way that he handled classified documents and, of course, is claiming now that he is being treated differently. What is the response to that?

LUCAS: Well, look. The Justice Department rejects any allegation that there's a two-tier justice system in this country. It's worth pointing out that Robert Hur is a Republican. Before he was appointed special counsel, he served as a U.S. attorney during the Trump administration.

Now, yes, you have a Biden case. You have a Trump case. But there are significant differences between those two cases. Hur even points them out in his report. Trump was provided multiple opportunities to return the classified documents that were found at Mar-a-Lago. According to the indictment, Trump refused to do so and even actively sought to obstruct investigators by trying to get others to destroy evidence and then lie about it to investigators. Biden, on the other hand, he voluntarily turned over classified documents to the National Archives and Justice Department after they were found. He then voluntarily agreed to FBI searches of his homes. He sat down for an interview with Hur's team. So, as Hur says, there are significant distinctions between these two cases.

INSKEEP: In fact, the special prosecutor says at one point the fact that Biden agreed voluntarily to searches of his home implies that perhaps he did not realize that classified documents were there. Ryan, thanks so much.

LUCAS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.