Robert K. Hur Appointed To Examine Biden’s Handling of Classified Documents
Finding a few classified documents once in a locked closet once, may be a mistake. Finding new classified documents at Joe Biden’s home garage, a problem.
So, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who is overly deliberate in all things, has appointed a special counsel, Robert K. Hur, to examine Biden’s handling of classified documents from his time in the Obama administration.
In legal and political terms, Garland’s move was quick and protective of the process – possibly just to stop the noise. Hur will have independence in investigating and deciding what to make of two instances and to address a rising number of outstanding questions just as Biden’s Republican opponents are poised to jump all over the president politically with yet another concurrent, if partisan investigation.
At first glance, the immediate appointment of Hur may somewhat insulate the Justice Department from accusations of partisanship – though that is doubtful – when the naming of Jack Smith to look at Donald Trump took more than a year.
We’re now left with two special counsels investigating a former president and a sitting president even as we understand that these are not equal legal cases of mistrust arising from unauthorized possession of government documents. But in the world of politics and depending on who’s telling the story, they will be used to show inappropriate equivalency.
Hur needs to find out how these documents ended up in two Biden civilian quarters and what is in them, with the understanding that Biden has cooperated – even notified – the National Archives and Justice about his documents. But there is no suggestion yet that there is anything approaching criminal intent – usually the reason for a special counsel.
Jack Smith has been asked to hone in exactly on appropriate criminal charges, including obstruction of justice, for Trump in actively resisting delivery of his manyfold more documents, with more than 300 carrying classified markings as well as the schemes leading to Jan. 6, 2021.
Shut down the political the chortling in circulation, please: None of this should give us pleasure. Though the circumstances of the two cases differ markedly, what they share is a disregard for ensuring that documents meant to stay secret indeed did stay secret.
What the Biden announcements about locating classified documents – and government records at his office altogether – inadvertently has done is to undercut perceptions that Justice can make a clean decision on whether to pursue criminal charges against Trump.
A decision on any charges in either case will depend on Garland, who will have a hard time defending the results publicly as fair and even.
Trump had made clear his disdain for rules, laws and prohibitions, and legal distinctions aside, had showed that he was vulnerable to a court judgment of wrongdoing yet to be outlined.
Biden had played the legal and moral high ground, cooperating where Trump had resisted, openly acknowledging a problem where Trump tried to hide it. This appointment of a special counsel will weaken a sitting president already in a difficult legislative and political position.
As politicians, both men are aging egoists. What we have in two cases are moves from the White House in which they forgot to check that ensuring that government secrets stayed safe was part of their job.
Unfortunately, a split Congress will never come together to determine a better way for presidents and vice presidents on their way out of office to fully account for the documents they touched.