Biden political future clouded by classified document probe
Virtually everything was going right for President Joe Biden as he opened the year. His approval ratings were ticking up. Inflation was slowing. And as Democrats united behind his likely reelection campaign, Republicans were at war with themselves after a disappointing midterm season. But on Thursday, Biden's political outlook veered into more uncertain territory after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate the Democratic president's handling of classified documents.
Democrats publicly and privately conceded that the stunning development was at best an unwelcome distraction at an inopportune time that muddies the case against Donald Trump. The Republican former president is facing a special counsel of his own and is under federal criminal investigation for his handling of classified documents and other potential transgressions.
There are major differences between the two cases. Most notably, there is no suggestion that Biden purposefully tried to prevent the documents discovered at his home or office from being turned over or that he was even aware of their presence. Trump, who is being probed for potentially obstructing investigators, also had far more classified documents in his possession.
But Thursday's appointment of a special counsel nonetheless thrusts legal uncertainty over the sitting president and could revive debate among Democrats about the wisdom of him seeking a second term.
"No one's going to say this is helpful," veteran Democratic strategist James Carville said. "It's pretty evident that's not the case."
As Democrats recoiled into a defensive posture, Trump's would-be Republican rivals in 2024 acknowledged that the contours of the upcoming race had shifted.
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