HARRISBURG, Pa. — Former President Donald Trump called foul on the Justice Department’s decision not to seek charges against President Biden for retaining and disclosing classified documents while he faces prosecution on similar charges.
Speaking to a gathering of thousands at the National Rifle Association Friday night in this key swing state, the likely Republican nominee said if Mr. Biden wasn’t to be charged, neither should he.
“This is nothing more than the selected persecution of Biden’s political opponent, me,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump’s criticism follows a scalding report from Special Counsel Robert Hur that found Mr. Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified military and national security documents, but concluded that he would not face criminal charges. The report characterized Mr. Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory” who would strike a sympathetic figure to a jury.
Mr. Biden and his administration have since pushed back against the report’s characterization, but that did not stop Mr. Trump taking a swing at the descriptions of the president’s failing memory. The former president said he’s not sure whether Mr. Biden is calling the shots in his administration.
“I don’t know that it’s Biden, because I don’t think he knows he’s alive,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump currently faces dozens of charges accusing him of illegally keeping classified documents in his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida and for obstructing the retrieval of the documents after he left office in January 2021.
The ex-president promised to “completely overhaul” the Justice Department that he says the Biden administration has weaponized against him, should he win in November.
Mr. Trump also told the audience of NRA members that “no one will lay a finger on your firearms” if he wins the presidency, and promised to roll back gun restrictions imposed by Mr. Biden.
“Every single Biden attack on gun owners and manufacturers will be terminated on my very first week back in office, perhaps my first day,” Mr. Trump said. For example, he said he would undo regulations on pistol braces.
Though Mr. Trump’s path to recapture the White House is not a foregone conclusion, his grasp on the GOP’s presidential nomination is all but assured.
Mr. Trump’s remarks in Pennsylvania, though to a friendly crowd, were an attempt to build a foothold in the battleground state that once helped to propel him to the White House in 2016 but spurned him in 2020. Pennsylvania is also the state where Mr. Biden grew up.
The former president has dominated in early GOP caucus and primary contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and holds a commanding double-digit lead in former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s home state ahead of their primary contest on Feb. 24.
Prior to the ex-president’s speech, Sen. John Fetterman, Pennsylvania Democrat, took a jab at Mr. Trump for his own gaffes and memory hiccups.
“Trump doesn’t know if he’s talking about Haley or Pelosi or anything,” Mr. Fetterman said at a forum on gun violence and the upcoming election. “So we can keep talking back and forth, but it comes back to the very core choice that we have as a nation: Do we want order over chaos? Do we want the truth over lying? Do we want virtue over just corruption and sleaze?”
Much of Mr. Trump’s speech focused on developments that he believed would have never happened under his administration had he been reelected in 2020, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the surge of illegal crossings at the southern border.
He also bragged about killing the Senate’s long-awaited foreign aid package that paired border security policy with Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan spending. Now, the Senate is teeing up a new foreign aid package without border security.
Mr. Trump argued that Congress did not need to pass legislation to secure the border, and instead any president could enact more stringent border policies through executive action — a point made routinely by House Republicans who promised to kill the foreign/aid border package.
“You know the president has the right to say ‘close the borders.’ The bill is a hoax,” Mr. Trump said. “The Democrats are asking for this bill. That’s so ridiculous. It’s a horrible bill. It’s actually going to make it worse.”
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