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Biden plans to keep quiet on Trump documents charges


By Andrea Shalal and Heather Timmons

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Don’t expect U.S. President Joe Biden to comment about the 37-count indictment against Donald Trump that accuses the former president of risking some of the country’s most sensitive security secrets after leaving the White House in 2021.

Administration officials plan to maintain their silence on the Trump indictment, a reflection of Biden’s view that no president should interfere with the Justice Department, administration sources said. Given that Trump is Biden’s chief rival in the 2024 presidential race, the campaign should proceed carefully in any mention of the charges, some political experts say.

Many fellow Republicans that are challenging Trump in 2024 have rebuked the Justice Department, not Trump, over the documents, and accused Biden of “weaponizing” the department, even though Trump’s indictment was handed down by a grand jury.

So far, Biden’s campaign has not mentioned the indictment. On Saturday it tweeted about infrastructure.

“Let me just say that silence is the best response,” said Robert Reich, a former labor secretary under President Bill Clinton and professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Going forward, the Biden campaign’s best strategy is simply to encourage people to read the indictment, said Jeremi Suri, a historian and presidential scholar at the University of Texas at Austin, while circulating comments from Republicans like Trump’s former attorney general, who said Sunday Trump was “toast” if the charges are proven true.

The campaign should also remind the public that the indictment came from the people of Florida in a grand jury, not the Biden administration, Suri said.

“They should do everything they can to look like they’re not politicizing this while politicizing this,” he said.

Biden declined to answer shouted questions about the indictment in Washington on Saturday when he left the Catholic church where he worships, heading straight to his waiting limousine and skipping his customary wave to waiting reporters. On Friday he said he had not spoken to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and had no plans to do so.

Even speaking off the record, many Biden officials carefully avoided giving their opinion about the 37 charges Trump faces over his handling of classified documents. And Democrats in Congress close to Biden have stressed the rule of law rather then using the occasion to take jabs at Trump.

“It is a sad day for a former president of the United States to be federally criminally charged but the basis of the rule of law in our democracy is that no man is over the rule of law. I remain confident that he will get the due process of law to which he is entitled,” Delaware Senator Chris Coons said.

Biden has often criticized Trump’s policies and the extremism of his followers without naming Trump himself, a strategy political experts said in the past appeals to Americans exhausted by the chaos of the previous administration.

Biden, a Democrat, won the presidency in 2020 by directly attacking Trump, promising to restore what he called the “soul of America” after his predecessor’s tumultuous four years in office.

As a former longtime chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden was so disturbed by Trump’s repeated attempts to influence and attack the Justice Department while in office that it was one of his motivations for running for the presidency in 2020, one administrative source said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Heather Timmons in Washington; Editing by Mark Porter)

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