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President Joe Biden’s lawyers immediately notified federal officials when they found documents, and Biden also consented to searches of his homes and offices. Biden sat for a five-hour interview with the special counsel.
Trump refused to turn over documents and enlisted others’ help to destroy or hide evidence, an indictment stated.
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After the Justice Department said it would not pursue criminal charges against President Joe Biden for retaining classified documents, former President Donald Trump compared it with his own documents case and cried foul.
"I did nothing wrong, and I cooperated far more," Trump wrote in a Feb. 8 statement.
It will be up to a jury to decide whether Trump did "nothing wrong." But his statement that he cooperated far more than Biden is absurd.
Robert Hur, the special counsel who investigated Biden, summarized Trump’s lack of cooperation in a report about Biden’s case.
"Most notably, after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite," Hur wrote. "According to the indictment, he not only refused to return the documents for many months, but he also obstructed justice by enlisting others to destroy evidence and then to lie about it. In contrast, Mr. Biden turned in classified documents to the National Archives and the Department of Justice, consented to the search of multiple locations including his homes, sat for a voluntary interview and in other ways cooperated with the investigation."
Trump’s spokesperson did not respond to PolitiFact for this fact-check.
A timeline of the Biden investigation that PolitiFact created based on news reports and statements by Biden lawyers showed that his lawyers quickly alerted federal officials after finding the documents. Biden also cooperated with federal law enforcement searches of his homes and offices.
Nov. 2, 2022: Biden’s lawyers discovered documents, some classified, in a locked closet at Biden’s post-vice presidential office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, D.C. They found the documents while cleaning out the office. That same day, the White House Counsel’s Office notified the National Archives and Records Administration and the agency took the materials Nov. 3.
Nov. 14, 2022: Attorney General Merrick Garland directed John Lausch, a U.S. attorney in Chicago, to conduct an initial investigation.
At some point in November 2022: The FBI searched the Penn Biden Center with the Biden team’s consent, according to Jan. 31, 2023, news reports by CBS and other outlets that did not name sources. CNN reported that a search warrant was not used, which is a sign that Biden’s team cooperated.
Dec. 20, 2022: Biden’s personal attorneys searched his Wilmington, Delaware, home’s garage and found more records. The attorneys notified Lausch so the Justice Department could arrange to take the documents.
Jan. 12, 2023: Garland appointed Hur as special counsel.
January and February 2023: On Jan. 20, 2023, the FBI searched Biden’s Wilmington home and found more documents. A Feb. 1, 2023, search of Biden’s home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware turned up no classified documents. In a statement about the Feb. 1 search, Biden’s personal attorney Bob Bauer said that DOJ "sought to do this work without advance public notice, and we agreed to cooperate."
Oct. 8-9, 2023: Biden sat for a voluntary interview with Hur. The interview "lasted more than five hours," Hur wrote, and Biden "provided written answers to most of our additional written questions."
The Trump timeline we wrote based on news reports and court records of his charges showed that Trump tried to thwart federal officials.
May 6, 2021: National Archives and Records Administration’s chief counsel emailed Trump’s representatives seeking missing records, a search warrant showed.
December 2021: A search warrant stated that NARA continued to make requests of Trump representatives until late December, when the agency was advised that 12 boxes were ready for retrieval.
April 29 and May 1, 2022: A lawyer wrote letters on Trump’s behalf requesting that the National Archives delay the disclosure to the FBI of the retrieved records. Acting archivist Debra Steidel Wall denied this request and stated that the boxes contained "over 100 documents with classified markings, comprising 700 pages."
May 11, 2022: Trump accepted a grand jury subpoena seeking classified documents. The indictment states that Trump told his attorney, "I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes" and "What happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play ball with them?" and "Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?"
Between May 23 and June 2, 2022: At Trump’s direction, his personal aide Walter Nauta moved 64 boxes from a Mar-a-Lago storage room to Trump’s residence, according to the indictment.
June 2, 2022: A Trump attorney reviewed the documents in the Mar-a-Lago storage room and met with Trump. The attorney said that Trump made a plucking motion and told the attorney he should take the documents to his hotel room, and if there was anything "really bad in there," pluck it out.
June 3, 2022: Justice Department officials briefly met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and retrieved more documents marked classified. A Trump lawyer signed a declaration saying that all the materials marked classified were turned over. But investigators later learned there were more records and that same month subpoenaed Trump again, seeking surveillance footage.
Aug. 8, 2022: The FBI, with a search warrant, searched Mar-a-Lago, removing 25 more boxes of documents. Days later, Garland said that the Justice Department had exhausted efforts to retrieve the material in other ways. "Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search, and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken." The indictment said that the search followed Trump’s refusal to cede records.
Trump was indicted in June 2023 on about three dozen counts, including charges of willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and making false statements.
"Trump endeavored to obstruct the FBI and the grand jury investigations and conceal his continued retention of classified documents," the indictment said. It said Trump did this by:
"Suggesting that his attorney falsely represent to the FBI and grand jury that Trump did not have the documents called for by the grand jury subpoena."
Directing Nauta "to move boxes of documents to conceal them from Trump’s attorney, the FBI and the grand jury." (Nauta was also charged.)
"Suggesting that his attorney hide or destroy documents" called for by the subpoena.
Giving the FBI and the grand jury some of the documents called for by the subpoena "while claiming he was cooperating fully."
Causing the submission of a certification to the FBI and grand jury "falsely representing" that all documents had been produced.
Comparing himself with Biden, Trump said, "I cooperated far more" in his classified documents investigation.
Government records rebut his statement.
Biden lawyers alerted federal officials on the same day they found the documents, and Biden cooperated with searches and sat for an interview for the special counsel’s investigation.
Trump’s indictment shows he failed to cooperate on multiple occasions. He refused to return documents for months and enlisted others to hide or destroy evidence. Trump once asked his attorney, according to the indictment, "Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?" His lack of cooperation culminated in an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago in August 2022.
It’s ridiculous for Trump to state that he cooperated more than Biden.
We rate this statement Pants on Fire!
President Donald Trump, Press release, Feb. 8, 2024
U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida, Superceding indictment of Donald Trump and Waltine Nauta and Carlos de Oliveira, July 27, 2023
U.S. Attorney’s Office, Special counsel report in Biden classified documents case, Feb. 8, 2024
PolitiFact, Joe Biden classified documents timeline: Where, when were files found? Jan. 25, 2023
PolitiFact, ‘All they had to do was ask,’ said Trump: A timeline of efforts to retrieve presidential records, Aug. 25, 2022
PolitiFact, Read the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, what agents took, Aug. 12, 2022
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