Too Old for the Court, But Not for the White House

The US president has predictably been let off the hook for mishandling state secrets and jeopardizing national security.

A US prosecutor’s report rationalizing why President Joe Biden won’t face justice for his mishandling of classified documents contained an excuse that ought to trigger some major soul-searching about the state of America’s leadership and how it got there. It won’t.

Instead, in a nation where gaslighting and thick-faced contempt take the place of serious political discussion, Americans are expected to accept that Biden shouldn’t be prosecuted partly because he’s a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” If that explanation – proffered in a report released on Thursday by US Department of Justice (DOJ) special counsel Robert Hur – isn’t absurd enough, citizens are also told to accept that the same guy who’s too addled for a jury to convict him is perfectly competent to serve as president and commander-in-chief.

The whole episode says a lot about how unjust, corrupted and broken Washington has become. For starters it comes at the same time Biden’s DOJ is prosecuting his chief political rival, ex-President Donald Trump, for mishandling classified documents. For another, as in the case of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a prominent Democrat is being let off the hook for exposing state secrets despite investigators admitting that they found evidence of criminal conduct.

This isn’t a minor violation of protocol, either. Hur found evidence that Biden “willfully retained and disclosed” classified materials from his two terms as vice president. As pictures included in Hur’s 345-page report showed, the documents were stashed in multiple locations, including cardboard boxes stacked in the garage of one of Biden’s homes.

The special counsel also found that Biden’s conduct “presented serious risks to national security, given the vulnerability of sensitive information to loss or compromise to America’s adversaries.” The mishandled documents contained information “implicating sensitive intelligence sources and methods,” including White House deliberations on the US occupation of Afghanistan.

Biden’s defenders argue that his case wasn’t as bad as Trump’s because unlike Bad Orange Man, the president cooperated with investigators and surrendered his documents when they were discovered. That’s both unmitigating and untrue.

Being cooperative after committing a criminal offense doesn’t make one less guilty of the crime. Moreover, Hur found a recorded conversation with the ghostwriter of Biden’s memoirs in which the former VP said he had “just found all this classified stuff downstairs.” That was in 2017, five years before one of Biden’s lawyers reported the discovery of classified materials at his think-tank office in Washington.

Incidentally, Biden’s ghostwriter deleted some of his recordings after learning of the special counsel’s investigation, but unlike the resort employees who allegedly helped hide Trump’s documents, he won’t be prosecuted. Another key difference in the cases was that Trump retained documents from his time as president and therefore had the authority to declassify such materials. Biden had no such power as vice president at the time his state secrets were retained. On the other hand, some of Trump’s charges concern alleged obstruction of justice, which could apply even if he were exonerated for keeping sensitive documents.

The more preposterous wrinkle in the case is Hur’s commentary about Biden’s mental state, as well as the White House’s reaction. During interviews with investigators, the president couldn’t even remember such details as when he served as VP and roughly when his son Beau died, the special counsel said. The recorded 2017 conversations with the ghostwriter were “painfully slow, with Mr. Biden struggling to remember events and straining at times to read and relay his own notebook entries.” Biden displayed “diminished faculties and faulty memory.”

At 81, Biden is already the oldest president in US history. “Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt,” Hur said. “It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him – by then a former president well into his 80s – of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”

In a nutshell: It’s about who you are, not whether you broke the law. Never mind that crimes were probably committed, and that national security was jeopardized, Biden’s DOJ concluded. The president is so scatterbrained and demonstrably old that jurors wouldn’t feel comfortable sending him to prison. But like the FBI’s then-director, James Comey, said in sparing Clinton prosecution in 2016, a criminal indictment wouldn’t be the “appropriate” remedy for this particular wrongdoing. Biden, who has been getting away with serious misconduct since he plagiarized his work as a college student nearly 60 years ago, will face no consequences.

Although Biden initially cheered the special counsel’s report in a written statement, noting that he was cleared of possible criminal charges, he later seethed in a hastily arranged press briefing at the White House. “Look, my memory is fine,” he insisted. He also claimed to be the “most qualified person in this country to be president.”

Biden and his defenders were angry that Hur said the quiet part out loud. Democrat politicians, such as Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, called it “unfair” and “despicable” for Hur to discuss Biden’s cognitive state – apparently forgetting that the assessment was used to help keep the president out of prison.

Everybody knows that when it comes to Biden’s mental fitness for the job, this emperor has no clothes. We’ve all seen him speaking gibberish, falling down and getting lost on stage. An NBC poll released earlier this month showed that 76% of US voters, including over half of Democrats, have concerns about whether Biden is mentally and physically fit to serve a second term as president. Most voters don’t believe Biden would even be able to finish a second term, by which time he would be 87 years old.

Ironically, at the same press conference called to deny that he has a faulty memory, Biden referred to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the leader of Mexico. At political fundraisers earlier in the week, he misremembered conversations with the leaders of France and Germany shortly after he took office in January 2021.

He claimed to have met with France’s Francois Mitterrand and to have spoken with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, neither of which happened. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Biden struggled to remember the name of Hamas, the Islamist group that’s at war with Israel.

Nevertheless, a White House spokesman later said it’s “inappropriate” to criticize Biden’s mental state. The administration also blamed the Israel-Hamas war for causing Biden’s struggles to remember key dates during his interviews with Hur, which were conducted shortly after the crisis began.

This is par for the course in Biden’s America, where farcical claims are confidently asserted by the authorities and reinforced by the establishment media. The 2020 presidential election was the “most secure in American history,” we’re told. The January 2021 US Capitol riot was a racially motivated “insurrection” in which police were killed – even though it had nothing to do with anyone’s skin color and the only person killed was a Trump supporter who was shot by an officer.

The list goes on. Investigators still can’t figure out who placed pipe bombs at the Republican and Democratic Party headquarters on the day before the riot; nor can they identify who left cocaine in the West Wing of the White House, one of the most secure buildings in the world. It’s also a total mystery as to who is trying to get Republican politicians killed through “swatting” calls making false emergency reports of violent crimes at their homes. There is no crisis at the border, except now Biden says that there is, but it’s not his fault.

US taxpayers are sending billions of borrowed dollars to help defend freedom and democracy in Ukraine – a country that has neither freedom nor democracy – and the White House says it’s “utterly false” to suggest that Washington had anything to do with blowing up the Nord Stream pipeline (despite Biden’s earlier vow to “end” it). The US government preaches the “key principles” of respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity in select locales, such as Ukraine, while continuing its nearly decade-long illegal occupation of Syria.

If Americans can stipulate to all that, why not accept that Biden is running the most powerful country in the world and is perfectly competent to do so? That will remain the official position of the ruling class and its media mouthpieces, and if they can keep Trump off this year’s election ballot, the “elderly man with a poor memory” will get another four-year term.

Tony Cox is a US journalist who has edited or written for Bloomberg News and several major daily newspapers. He has held editing and reporting posts from the US to Northeast Asia to the South Pacific, and he has lived in several European countries. His assignments over more than three decades in journalism have ranged from overseeing energy industry coverage on two continents to interviewing Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh.

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