By Samantha Flom
Former President Donald Trump criticized what he described as “two standards of justice” in the United States on Jan. 19 pointing to the Justice Department’s disparate treatment of his handling of classified information and President Joe Biden’s.
“We have two standards of justice in this country, one for people like you and me, and one for the corrupt political class, of which there are many,” Trump said in a video posted to Twitter on Jan. 19 by his son, Donald Trump Jr.
The former president noted: “At the very same moment when my ultra-secure Mar-a-Lago home was raided by the FBI, Joe Biden was harboring classified documents in his China-funded Penn Center and his unsecured garage—right on the floor, piles of paper. … Yet, while I’m being persecuted by a Trump-hating special counsel … Joe Biden, in the meantime, is being given white glove treatment by an establishment hack who tried to cover up the Russia hoax.”
On Jan. 12, after bipartisan calls for a special counsel, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney Robert Hur to lead the DOJ’s investigation of Biden’s handling of classified materials, citing Hur’s “long and distinguished career” as a prosecutor.
In his statement, Garland added that he was confident Hur would carry out his duties “in an even-handed and urgent manner.”
In response to that appointment, White House Special Counsel Richard Sauber said the president and his legal team were confident that the investigation would absolve Biden of any wrongdoing.
“We have cooperated from the moment we informed the Archives that a small number of documents were found, and we will continue to cooperate,” Sauber said in a statement. “We have cooperated closely with the Justice Department throughout its review, and we will continue that cooperation with the special counsel. We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced and the president and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovering of this mistake.”
Allegations of Bias
Despite the confidence of both the DOJ and the White House, Republicans have had mixed reactions to Hur’s appointment, with some questioning his impartiality.
“The Special Counsel that AG Merrick Garland just appointed is FBI Director Christopher Wray’s former assistant,” Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) noted via tweet. “They’re all in on it.”
Hur’s first role at the DOJ was in 2003, serving in the department’s Criminal Division as counsel and special assistant to then-Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray.
Wray has come under fire in recent years over allegations of political bias at the FBI.
Former Defense Department Chief of Staff Kash Patel recently echoed Nehls’ concerns, stating that he has “no faith” in Hur’s ability to be impartial as the attorney had allegedly “blockaded” Congress’ attempts to expose “the corruption of Russiagate” when Patel was a House Intelligence Committee staffer.
Hur, however, has pledged to conduct his duties as special counsel with “fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment.”
“I intend to follow the facts swiftly and thoroughly, without fear or favor, and will honor the trust placed in me to perform this service,” he vowed in a Jan. 12 statement.
As for Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed to investigate Trump’s handling of classified materials, Trump has slammed the prosecutor’s appointment as evidence that the Justice Department is being weaponized against him.
“I announce my candidacy and then they appoint a special prosecutor,” Trump said after Smith’s Nov. 18 appointment. “They found nothing, and now they take some guy who hates Trump. This is a disgrace and only happening because I am leading in every poll in both parties.”
“I’m not going to partake in this investigation,” he added.
Meanwhile, Smith, who is also leading the DOJ’s investigation of whether there was unlawful interference in the transfer of power after the 2020 election, has vowed to conduct the investigations “and any prosecutions that may result from them” independently.
“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said upon his appointment. “The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgement and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate.”
While both the investigations of Trump and Biden are now facing special counsels, the DOJ’s different approaches to the probes have also raised allegations of bias.
In the case of Trump, the FBI was directly involved in collecting the classified materials in the former’s president’s possession, conducting a raid on his Palm Beach, Florida, residence on Aug. 8.
On the other hand, in the investigation of Biden, the FBI has thus far been uninvolved in the searches of the president’s Wilmington, Delaware, home and his private office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington. Instead, Biden’s personal attorneys have been trusted with locating and reporting the classified materials, despite some of them lacking proper security clearance.
Attitudes towards the government’s treatment of both the Biden and Trump cases have tended to split across party lines.
Trump has maintained that, when he was president, he declassified all of the materials that were found at his home. The documents found in Biden’s possession, however, were from his time as vice president.
“The difference is that while I did everything right—I did nothing wrong—Biden did everything wrong,” Trump added. “The boxes hoax should be dropped immediately against President Trump.”
Many Democrats, however, say that Trump’s case is more serious than Biden’s.
Illinois’ Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on CNN Wednesday that “Trump was literally hiding documents and refusing to turn them over, whereas this White House has turned them over and has encouraged an investigation.”
In September, weeks after the FBI’s raid of Trump’s home, Biden himself criticized Trump for possessing classified documents in a “60 Minutes” interview.
“How that could possibly happen,” he said. “How one—anyone—could be that irresponsible. And I thought, what data was in there that may compromise sources and methods? … Totally irresponsible.”
After news broke of the documents found at locations connected with the president, Biden said he was “surprised” by their discovery, while the White House has maintained that the documents were “inadvertently placed” at those locations.