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Prosecutors highlight differences between Trump and Biden handling classified documents

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Prosecutors battled back this week against claims that their prosecution of former President Donald Trump in case that accuses him of mishandling classified documents was vindictive and politically motivated.

Trump, 77, the frontrunner for the GOP nomination to challenge incumbent President Joe Biden, has pleaded not guilty to 40 felony counts that allege he kept sensitive military documents, shared them with people who didn’t have security clearance, and tried to get around the government’s attempts to get them back.

Prosecutors said Trump’s case is different from Biden’s.

Biden shared government secrets with his ghostwriter, but prosecutors announced earlier this month that they don’t plan to charge him with a crime, according to a special counsel report. The 388-page Justice Department report found that Biden was careless with classified documents, but didn’t commit a crime. That report raised fresh questions about Biden’s memory.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team of prosecutors claims Trump’s handling of classified documents was distinguishable from Biden’s handling of classified documents.

“The defendants have not identified anyone who has engaged in a remotely similar suite of willful and deceitful criminal conduct and not been prosecuted,” prosecutors wrote. “Nor could they. Indeed, the comparators on which they rely are readily distinguishable.”

Prosecutors said Trump fought to return the classified documents, unlike Biden.

“Most notably, Trump, unlike Biden, is alleged to have engaged in extensive and repeated efforts to obstruct justice and thwart the return of documents bearing classification markings,” prosecutors wrote. “And the evidence concerning the two men’s intent – whether they knowingly possessed and willfully retained such documents – is also starkly different.”

Prosecutors asked Judge Aileen Cannon to toss Trump’s claims of selective and vindictive prosecution.

“Separately, the evidence that defendants have presented falls woefully short of establishing either discriminatory intent (for purposes of a selective prosecution claim) or animus and causation (for purposes of a vindictive prosecution claim). They contend that the incumbent president has secretly directed this prosecution – using the Special Counsel as a ‘puppet’ or ‘stalking horse,’ – in order to retaliate against Trump for exercising his right to criticize him and run against him,” prosecutors wrote. “But the sources on which they rely, even if taken at face value, undercut rather than support this conspiracy theory, as they repeatedly emphasize that the prosecutorial decisions made by the Department of Justice generally, and the Special Counsel specifically, have been made on the basis of the facts and the law, not political considerations. The defendants offer no evidence to the contrary, because there is no such evidence.”

In June, Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 counts that allege he kept sensitive military documents, shared them with people who didn’t have security clearance, and tried to thwart the government’s efforts to get them back. In August, Trump’s attorneys entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf to additional charges in the documents case. Charges in a superseding indictment allege Trump attempted to delete surveillance video at his Mar-A-Lago home in Florida.

Trump’s attorneys have signaled that they are planning to allege their client is the victim of selective prosecution, a procedural defense that argues the criminal justice system discriminated against Trump by bringing charges.

Such claims require evidence that may be difficult for Trump to produce, experts have warned.