The US president’s case is very different from Donald Trump’s handling of official material. But this carelessness is regrettable

There is no real equivalence between the classified documents found in Joe Biden’s possession at a former office and his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and those taken from Donald Trump. The president had just a tiny fraction of the thousands found on Mr Trump’s premises – but more important is the men’s dramatically different handling of the issue. Mr Biden’s team realised there were documents wrongly held, turned them over, and voluntarily allowed the FBI into his home to search for any more. In contrast, Mr Trump was required to return all classified material by a grand jury subpoena, relating to the potentially unlawful removal and destruction of White House documents. His lawyers said he had done so. The justice department then spent months trying to resolve the matter before it was obliged to obtain a warrant for a search of Mar-a-Lago – turning up many more classified papers.

Nonetheless, the discovery of the documents held by Mr Biden – and especially the drip-drip manner in which they have emerged – is an embarrassment. The president has been sold on his probity and competence compared to the man who preceded him, and challenged Mr Trump’s carelessness regarding classified material. The distinctions between the cases may well be lost on many voters, particularly given the rightwing media’s expertise in whataboutery. Senior Democrats have been exasperated enough to be unusually critical of Mr Biden.

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