We still need to see the specific charges in Donald Trump’s latest indictment. But based on what we know, there’s no reason to take seriously Trump’s false equivalency with President Joe Biden’s classified documents situation, which is still being investigated. Indeed, the more we learn about the former president's apparent mishandling of hundreds of government records and his obstruction of the investigation, the less justification he has to complain about other people not being charged.
Trump whined ahead of his expected indictment that Biden wouldn’t be charged for possessing classified documents, and the Republican re-upped that complaint when he broke the news of his indictment on social media Thursday.
But as I wrote earlier this week, one of the many differences between Trump’s case, on the one hand, and Biden and Hillary Clinton, on the other, "can be boiled down to one issue: possible obstruction." Instead of stonewalling the investigation, Biden, Clinton and even Trump’s own former vice president, Mike Pence, who recently learned he isn’t being charged in his own documents probe, all apparently cooperated with the authorities.
As NBC News reported Thursday:
Biden’s case is far different, his aides have argued, in that he promptly returned classified documents to the government when they were discovered in his office and then voluntarily allowed federal authorities to search his properties for additional materials. The FBI had to seek a warrant to retrieve documents from Trump after he rebuffed efforts to repossess them.
Recall the words of then-FBI Director James Comey, in explaining the decision not to charge Clinton in 2016, when he noted that charges have come in cases with “clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice.”
Again, we still need to see the specific charges against Trump, but, based on what's known to date, his indictment may well reflect some or all of those factors. NBC News reported that Trump faces seven charges in his latest indictment, including conspiracy to obstruct and at least one charge related to the Espionage Act.
To be sure, even if Biden is found to have committed a crime, he would presumably benefit from the same policy of the Justice Department not charging sitting presidents that Trump enjoyed during special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. But that’s probably not what’s keeping Biden’s name out of an indictment while Trump's name is in one.
Rather, it seems the facts and the law are what account for the distinction.
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