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Biden launches task force to prevent future classified document mishaps

President Joe Biden will soon name a high-level task force to recommend procedures that will prevent classified materials from being mishandled or inadvertantly lost during presidential transitions in the future, White House spokesperson Ian Sams said on Friday.

Mr Sams, who serves as a spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s Office, was addressing reporters at the daily White House press briefing following the release of a report from Special Counsel Robert Hur in which Mr Hur, a Republican who served in the Trump administration, assailed Mr Biden’s memory while declining to charge him with any crime stemming from the discovery of classified materials at his Wilmington, Delaware home.

He told reporters that the National Archives has found that the misfiling of classified materials during transitions has been a common occurrence which Mr Biden believes should be fixed.

“What we’re going to do is the President’s going to appoint a task force to review how transitions look at classified material to ensure that there are better processes in place so that when ... staffs around the building are roughly packing up boxes to try to get out during a transition ... at the same time ... they’re still governing and doing matters of state,” he said.

He added that the task force would “try to make recommendations” to prevent such things from happening, and said it would be led by a “senior government leader”.

Mr Hur’s report stated that Mr Biden had, in his estimation, “wilfully” kept classified notebooks containing handwritten diaries he’d taken during his time as vice president, but he did not recommend that Mr Biden face criminal charges, citing what he described as significant “mitigating factors” which led him to state that charges were not warranted and would not have been warranted even if Mr Biden were not president and barred from being prosecuted by Department of Justice policy.

The Republican prosecutor also noted that Mr Biden’s memory about the documents was “significantly limited” during his interviews with investigators, and he justified his decision by stating that there was not enough evidence to convince a jury that Mr Biden had wilfully retained the materials beyond a reasonable doubt, in part because the president had cooperated extensively with the probe.

“His cooperation with our investigation, including by reporting to the government that the Afghanistan documents were in his Delaware garage, will likely convince some jurors that he made an innocent mistake, rather than acting willfully-that is, with intent to break the law-as the statute requires,” he said.

But even as he declined to prosecute the president and reported that there was not enough evidence to justify charges or convince a jury of his guilt, the Republican prosector took rhetorical swipes at the 81-year-old president, describing him in one passage of the report as someone who would appear to jurors as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”.

Mr Sams attributed Mr Hur’s decision to include the derogatory remarks on Mr Biden’s mental acuity to “a very pressurised political environment” in which prosecutors who choose not to indict Democrats fear criticism from GOP leaders who claim there is a “two-tiered system of justice” in the US.

“There is pressure to criticise and to make, you know, statements that maybe in otherwise you wouldn’t make,” he said.