President Biden "willfully retained and disclosed classified materials," a bombshell report released on Thursday by special counsel Robert Hur revealed. However, Hur recommended against pursuing criminal charges, citing concerns that a jury might perceive Biden as an "elderly man with a poor memory."
Biden, 81, violated legal restrictions on retaining sensitive documents during his 36 years in the Senate and following his eight-year vice presidency. He stored these documents in cardboard boxes, often "surrounded by household detritus," in various locations, including his garage in Wilmington, Delaware, the report claims. Investigators discovered a recording of Biden confiding in his ghostwriter Mark Zwonitzer in April 2017, three months after leaving vice presidency.
In the recording, Biden admitted to still possessing official records because he "didn't want to turn them in," much like former President Donald Trump, who faces 40 criminal charges and a potential prison sentence of up to 450 years for resisting the surrender of documents after leaving the White House in 2021.
Zwonitzer told investigators working under Hur that he deleted certain audio files of Biden after the investigation had started. He also acknowledged being aware of the ongoing probe at the time he deleted the files.
"I'm not going to say how much of the percentage it was of my motivation," the writer said, according to the report.
A dozen official documents were found to contain information that still qualifies as top secret. This included material from 10 handwritten notebooks and two notecards maintained by Biden. Numerous other documents were identified as containing secret or confidential information.
Authorities also found information in the "notebooks [that] remains classified up to the Top Secret level and includes Sensitive Compartmented Information, including from compartments used to protect information concerning human intelligence sources," the report said.
According to the 388-page report, the Afghanistan documents were found "in a badly damaged box in the garage, near a collapsed dog crate, a dog bed, a Zappos box, an empty bucket, a broken lamp wrapped with duct tape, potting soil, and synthetic firewood."
Photographs released in the report showed a cluttered storage space in Biden's garage, featuring a running machine, a step ladder, and what seemed to be an old bean bag.
Other images showed the interior of a disorganized storage closet in the garage. There were also photographs of a messy closet in Biden's office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington.
The report included pictures of his home office in the basement of his Delaware residence, revealing notebooks stored in unlocked drawers.
Old Age to Save Him
The report delivered a strongly critical evaluation of Biden's management of sensitive government materials. However, the report recommended against criminal charges, citing the unlikelihood of a conviction. This was attributed to the belief that jurors would perceive Biden as having "diminished faculties."
"[A]t trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory," the report says.
During questioning with Hur's investigators on October 8 and October 9, Biden reportedly appeared confused on numerous points. The White House has consistently claimed that the President is mentally fit for office, despite occasional public errors.
Biden "did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended ('if it was 2013 — when did I stop being Vice President?'), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began ('in 2009, am I still Vice President?')," the report says.
"He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died [May 2015]. And his memory appeared hazy when describing the Afghanistan debate that was once so important to him.
"Among other things, he mistakenly said he 'had a real difference' of opinion with General Karl Eikenberry, when, in fact, Eikenberry was an ally whom Mr. Biden cited approvingly in his Thanksgiving  memo to President Obama."
White House lawyer Richard Sauber criticized Hur in a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, pointing out "a number of inaccurate and inappropriate comments" in the report.
However, Sauber did not dispute the accuracy of the descriptions of the President.
While Biden's lapses in memory may have helped him evade criminal liability, they are likely to pose a significant political challenge. National polls already indicate that large majority of voters believe he is too old, infirm, or both to hold office.