Biden’s classified documents blunder is nothing like Trump’s crime

By | January 15, 2023

Jonathan Chait writes:

The sweet spot for Donald Trump’s allies has always been when they can justify his abuses and crimes through misdirected comparisons rather than direct defense. Did Trump extort Ukraine into smearing his opponent? Well, Ted Kennedy once did something kind of like this. Did Trump try to stay in office after losing the election? Maybe so, but let us tell you about the time a Democrat registered an objection to the Electoral College count in Congress.

The key aspect of these arguments is exaggeration, not fabrication. They seize on real events, often genuinely bad things done by other politicians, then use them as pretext to dismiss actions by Trump of a vastly greater order of magnitude.

As many people have very neutrally pointed out, the news that President Biden held on to classified documents is pure manna for Trump’s defenders. It gives them a set of facts to work with that, if examined without any of the important context, can be spun to the willfully credulous as evidence that these men have committed similar crimes.

“There’s no good case for putting a President in prison — much less making two Presidents into cellmates — for improperly retaining materials from recent public office,” intones The Wall Street Journal. “When Mr. Trump was out on a limb by himself, this point was less obvious to some of our media competitors. Now that Mr. Biden faces a similar inquiry, perhaps they see how ridiculous it is.”

But Trump is not potentially facing charges because he improperly took classified documents. It’s because when the government found out about the documents, he refused to give them back and — allegedly — took steps to hide them from the FBI. This is not a small twist on the same crime. It is the crime. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports:

How much Mr. Biden was involved in the disposition of documents in the days leading up to his 2017 departure from the White House is not clear. He had a hectic schedule as he tried to squeeze in as much activity as possible.

Within the final week or so, he was surprised with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Mr. Obama. He spoke by phone with leaders from Iraq, Kosovo and Japan. And he embarked on a last overseas journey, first to Kyiv, Ukraine, where he met with Petro Poroshenko, the president, and from there to Davos, Switzerland, for the annual meeting of business and political titans, where he met with leaders of Serbia and the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

All the while, papers back in Washington were being sorted and packed. The hours were short, the unbreakable deadline approaching. On that last day, Mr. Biden attended Mr. Trump’s inauguration, then headed to Union Station for a train trip back to Delaware. And boxes of documents were shipped to their destinations. [Continue reading…]

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