WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday declined to comment on the federal indictment of Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor and the frontrunner for the GOP nomination to challenge his re-election bid.
“I have no comment,” Biden told reporters during a visit to a community college in North Carolina.
Biden also said he has not discussed the case with Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“And I’m not going to talk to him,” Biden added.
During the flight to the state, senior deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton said the White House would not comment out of respect for the Justice Department’s independence and to protect “the integrity of their processes.”
“Listen, the rule of law is a fundamental principle of our democracy, and we are going to respect it,” she said.
Dalton said Biden and his top aides were not given advance notice of the indictment and found out about it through news reports.
Trump, himself, announced late Thursday that he had been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges related to the hundreds of classified documents seized at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.
Trump declared his innocence in a video statement and in social media posts.
More than 300 classified documents have been recovered more than a year after Trump left the White House, most under subpoena in June 2022 or during an FBI search in August 2022. The department’s special counsel of Justice, Jack Smith, investigated the potential mishandling of national defense records.
A special counsel is still investigating the handling of classified documents found at a former office used by Biden and at his home in Wilmington, Delaware.
In Biden’s case, the White House has argued that the documents, about 10 in number, were returned to the archives the day after they were discovered by the president’s attorneys.
In contrast, Trump has repeatedly resisted efforts by the National Archives to recover his material, including failing to fully respond to a subpoena issued for the archives by federal law enforcement authorities. This prompted the FBI to conduct an unprecedented search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, resulting in the seizure of the classified documents and thousands of other government records.
The indictment escalates the Justice Department’s extraordinary predicament of a president seeking re-election by trying to convict the current frontrunner for the GOP nomination.
Biden was asked at a press conference Thursday about how he would convince Americans they can trust the Justice Department’s independence when Trump repeatedly attacks it.
“Because you notice that I have never – not once – suggested to the Department of Justice what it should or should not do, in relation to laying a charge or not laying a charge. “, said Biden. “I’m honest.”
Contributor: Bart Jansen
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden does not comment on Trump indictment over classified documents