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拜登机密文件调查:法律免责,政治噩梦

MICHAEL D. SHEAR

2024年2月9日

关于在拜登的办公室和特拉华州的住所发现机密文件一事,拜登的律师一年多来一直陈述理由称属于偶然疏忽。 Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

The decision on Thursday not to file criminal charges against President Biden for mishandling classified documents should have been an unequivocal legal exoneration.

周四,针对拜登总统不当处理机密文件一事,对其不予提起刑事诉讼的决定本应是明确的法律免责。

Instead, it was a political nightmare.

但它却成为了一场政治噩梦。

The investigation into Mr. Biden’s handling of the documents after being vice president called him a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and described interviews in which he could not recall when he served as vice president, what year his son died or whom he agreed with during policy debates.

针对拜登成为副总统后不当处理机密文件的调查将其称为“善意、记忆力差的老人”,并且描述了他在接受问询时的场面,拜登在其中无法记起自己何时担任副总统、其子去世年份,或在政策辩论中他赞同哪一方。

The memory of the then-80-year-old president was so hazy during five hours of interviews with the F.B.I. investigators over two days, according to the report by Robert K. Hur, the special counsel, that it would be difficult to convince jurors that Mr. Biden knew his handling of the documents was wrong. Mr. Hur predicted in the report that if the president were charged, his lawyers “would emphasize these limitations in his recall.”

据特别检察官罗伯特·许的报告显示,FBI在两天进行的5个小时的问询中,当时80岁的现任总统记忆如此模糊,很难说服陪审员相信拜登当时明知自己不当处理了文件。罗伯特·许在报告中预测,如果总统受到指控,他的律师“将强调他在回忆事件方面的限制。”

In part because of Mr. Biden’s memory, Mr. Hur declined to recommend charging the president for what the report described as willful retention of national security secrets, including some documents shared by the president that implicated “sensitive intelligence sources and methods.”

针对报告所说有意留存国家安全机密,包括一些总统分享的、带有“敏感情报来源和获取方式”的文件,罗伯特·许拒绝建议对这位总统提起控罪,部分原因是拜登的记忆力。

“It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him — by then a former president well into his 80s — of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness,” Mr. Hur wrote.

“要说服陪审员,让他们判定一个到时候已经是80多岁的前总统犯下了一系列重罪很难,这些重罪需要一个有意愿的精神状态才能成立,”罗伯特·许写道。

In his own statement, Mr. Biden appeared to suggest a reason for why he was distracted.

在拜登的声明中,他似乎暗示了自己注意力不集中的原因。

“I was so determined to give the special counsel what they needed that I went forward with five hours of in-person interviews over two days on Oct. 8 and 9 of last year, even though Israel had just been attacked on Oct. 7 and I was in the middle of handling an international crisis,” he wrote. “I just believed that’s what I owed the American people.”

“我当时决心要给特别检察官他们所需的,因此在去年10月8日和9日,尽管当时以色列刚刚于10月7日遭到袭击,我忙于处理一场国际危机的时候,我仍然在这两天里接受了五个小时的问询,”他写道。“我认为这是我应该为美国人民做的。”

The president’s lawyers, Bob Bauer and Richard Sauber, took exception in a Feb. 5 letter with Mr. Hur’s description of the president’s memory.

针对罗伯特·许对拜登总统记忆力的描述,总统的律师鲍勃·鲍尔和理查德·索伯在2月5日的一封信里表达了不同意见。

“It is hardly fair to concede that the president would be asked about events years in the past, press him to give his ‘best’ recollections and then fault him for his limited memory,” the lawyers wrote. “The president’s inability to recall dates or details of events that happened years ago is neither surprising nor unusual.”

“总统会被问到多年前发生的事、迫使他给出自己‘最佳’回忆,然后怪罪于他受限的记忆力,这有欠公平,”律师们写道。“总统未能回忆起日期或多年前发生事件的细节既不令人惊讶,也并非不寻常。”

Concerns about Mr. Biden’s age have been a recurring theme of his presidency over the past three years. Fueled in part by video of the president appearing weak or stumbling in public, many voters have expressed concern about his mental and physical fitness as he seeks to remain in the White House until he is 86 years old.

在过去三年里,关于拜登年纪的担忧一直是他总统任期中不断出现的主题。在拜登寻求在白宫留任至86岁,一些选民已经表达过对他精神和身体健康的担忧,这在一定程度上是由总统在公开场合看起来身体虚弱或步履蹒跚的视频所推动的。

During fund-raisers on Wednesday, Mr. Biden twice recalled a 2021 conversation with Helmut Kohl, the onetime German chancellor, who died in 2017. His spokeswoman later said he misspoke, as many public officials do.

在周三的资金筹集活动上,拜登两次回忆道2021年与曾担任过一任德国总理的赫尔穆特·科尔的对话,而后者已于2017年去世。拜登的发言人随后表示他这是口误,就像许多公职人员一样。

Mr. Biden has tried to laugh off the issue, insisting that with age comes wisdom. And his aides have repeatedly insisted that despite how the president sometimes comes across in public, he remains sharp and tireless when he is in private, in discussions with aides or in meetings with foreign leaders.

拜登试图对这个问题一笑置之,坚称智慧随着年纪增长。他的顾问也多次坚称,不论这位总统有时的公开形象看起来如何,但他私下在与顾问讨论问题或与外国领导人的会面中仍然十分敏锐,不知疲倦。

But the report released on Thursday challenges those descriptions, not by relying on short snippets of Mr. Biden posted to social media but rather on hourslong interactions with the president in controlled settings. And the descriptions of his memory were more vivid than what is normally found in legal documents like the one released on Thursday.

但周四公布的报告挑战了上述说法,这不是通过拜登在社交媒体上发布的寥寥几句,而是在受控环境下与这位总统数小时的互动。此外,对其记忆力的描述也比通常会在法律文件中看到的要生动地多(就像周四公布的这份一样)。

Mr. Biden’s political rivals, including former President Donald J. Trump, who has had his own string of unforced gaffes, are certain to seize on the detailed conclusions in the report as evidence that he is too frail to lead the country for another five years.

包括前总统特朗普(他也曾有过一系列自发的失态行为)在内,拜登的政敌肯定会抓住这份报告中细节详尽的结论,将其作为拜登身体过于虚弱无法再次领导这个国家五年的证据。

In the report, Mr. Hur wrote that in a 2017 recorded conversation between Mr. Biden and the ghostwriter for his book, Mr. Biden struggled to “remember events” and was “straining at times to read and relay his own notebook entries.” Mr. Hur said that the interviews in 2023 with investigators were even worse.

罗伯特·许在报告中写道,在2017年拜登与他回忆录的代笔人之间的一段对话录音中,拜登“回忆事件”时感到吃力,“有时艰难地阅读和转述自己的笔记本条目”。罗伯特·许说,拜登2023年与调查人员的面谈情况更糟。

08dc biden 03 gtqv master1050前马里兰州检察官罗伯特·许被任命为调查拜登不当处理机密文件一案的特别检察官。

“He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (‘if it was 2013 — when did I stop being vice president?’), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (‘in 2009, am I still vice president?’),” the report said. “He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.”

“他不记得自己是什么时候担任副总统的,在采访的第一天就忘记了自己的任期是什么时候结束的(‘如果是2013年——我是什么时候不再担任副总统的?’),在采访后的第二天又忘记了自己的任期是什么时候开始的(‘2009 年,我还是副总统吗?’)报告写道。“他甚至没过几年,就记不清他的儿子博·拜登是什么时候去世的。”

Mr. Hur was nominated by Mr. Trump to be the U.S. attorney in Maryland, but was later chosen by Attorney General Merrick Garland to lead the investigation into Mr. Biden’s handling of classified documents.

罗伯特·许曾被特朗普提名为美国马里兰州检察官,但后来被司法部长梅里克·加兰选中,领导对拜登处理机密文件一案的调查。

Mr. Biden’s lawyers have been arguing for more than a year that the discovery of classified documents at Mr. Biden’s offices and Delaware home was no more than accidental oversight, and certainly not criminal behavior like the 37 felony charges brought against Mr. Trump for his handling of classified material after leaving office.

拜登的律师一年多来一直辩称,在拜登的办公室和特拉华州的家中发现机密文件不过是意外疏忽,肯定不是像特朗普因卸任后对机密材料的处理而被控37项重罪那样的犯罪行为。

On Thursday, the special counsel came to the same conclusion after reviewing a total of seven million documents, a fact celebrated inside the White House and at the president’s re-election campaign headquarters, where aides are preparing to wage a fierce battle to prevent Mr. Trump’s return to the White House.

周四,特别检察官在审查了总计700万份文件后得出了同样的结论,白宫内部和总统竞选连任总部都在庆祝这个结果,总统的助手们正准备展开一场激烈的战斗,阻止特朗普重返白宫。

08dc biden 02 gtqv master1050司法部公布的一张照片显示了罗伯特·许报告中的一张照片。

But the report refuted the longstanding argument by the president’s lawyers that Mr. Biden never put the nation’s national security at risk. Investigators found documents at Mr. Biden’s home in a “box in the garage, near a collapsed dog crate, a dog bed, a Zappos box, an empty bucket, a broken lamp wrapped with duct tape, potting soil and synthetic firewood.”

但报告驳斥了总统律师长期以来的论点,即拜登从未危及国家安全。调查人员在拜登家中的一个“车库里的箱子、一个倒塌的狗箱、一张狗床、一个Zappos盒子、一个空桶、一盏缠着胶带的破灯、盆栽土和合成木柴”附近都找到了文件。

While concluding that “the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mr. Hur nonetheless wrote that Mr. Biden took classified documents and notebooks about Afghanistan with him in 2016 after leaving the vice presidency, and shared some of those documents with his ghostwriter.

虽然罗伯特·许得出结论,认为“证据并不能毫无疑问地证明拜登有罪”,但他还是写道,拜登在2016年卸任副总统职位后带走了有关阿富汗的机密文件和笔记本,并给他的代笔人看了其中的一些文件。

The tough language by Mr. Hur could set the stage for Mr. Trump and his allies to launch a fresh round of political attacks on Mr. Biden for doing the very same kinds of things Mr. Trump is accused of doing. And it will probably complicate the monthslong effort by Mr. Biden and his advisers to draw sharp distinctions between the actions of the two presidents.

罗伯特·许的强硬措辞可能会为特朗普及其盟友对拜登发起新一轮政治攻击创造条件,因为拜登的所作所为与特朗普被指责的行为如出一辙。拜登及其顾问长达数月的努力也可能因此而变得复杂,他们极力指出两位总统的行为之间存在差异。

But the most searing political damage is likely to be about Mr. Biden’s age, which many veteran Democrats already believe is the president’s biggest weakness. Some have privately said they worried that something would come along to remind voters about the age issue, including the possibility of a fall or a mental stumble.

但最严重的政治伤害可能还是与拜登的年龄问题有关,许多资深民主党人已经认为这是总统最大的弱点。一些人私下表示,他们担心会出现什么事让选民注意到年龄问题,包括摔倒或精神状态出状况的可能性。

Republicans began using the report to attack Mr. Biden almost immediately, sometimes going much further than the prosecutor’s actual conclusions.

共和党人几乎立即开始利用这份报告攻击拜登,有时甚至比检察官的实际结论更进一步。

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said on social media, falsely, that “the special counsel decided not to bring charges against Biden because they believe he has age related dementia.”

佛罗里达州共和党参议员马可·卢比奥在社交媒体上错误地宣称,“特别检察官决定不对拜登提出指控,因为他们认为他患有老年痴呆症。”

In some ways, Thursday’s report was the worst of all worlds: an official description of Mr. Biden behind the scenes, suggesting that with age come stumbles.

从某种程度上说,周四的报告是最糟糕的结果:官方对拜登幕后状况的描述表明,随着衰老,他的确会磕磕绊绊。

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