Biden decides to say as little as possible on Trump indictment

WASHINGTON – It is unusual for the leader of the free world to remain silent, but U.S. President Joe Biden is clearly determined to say as little as possible about the federal indictment against his predecessor Donald Trump.
His White House dodges questions on the matter. His campaign won’t answer them. And Biden himself wants nothing to do with it.

“I have no comment on what happened,” he told reporters Friday in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

The reticence reflects the precarious and unprecedented situation Biden finds himself in: Just as Trump is the first former president to be indicted by the federal government, Biden is the first sitting president whose chief political rival is indicted by his own government.

While not unforeseen, the indictment against Trump brought a new round of reminders that Biden doesn’t want to get caught up in the drama with comments of any kind. He fears providing fodder for efforts by Trump and his allies to portray the Justice Department as engaging in politically motivated prosecution.

Eric Dezenhall, a longtime crisis communications consultant, said Biden’s cautious path was prudent.

“There are certain positions you take not because they are persuasive but because they do the least harm,” he said. “Any syllable uttered by Biden or the White House team will be used in court and politically to validate the witch-hunt narrative.”

Biden, who made restoring the independence of the Justice Department a central campaign promise in 2020, now aims to reinforce that principle as a matter of policy.

“I never once, not once, suggested to the Justice Department what it should do or not do, with regard to bringing an indictment or not bringing an indictment,” Biden stressed Thursday. “I’m honest.”

Later that night, according to the White House, the president learned of the 37 felony charges filed against Trump by a Miami investigative jury through news coverage of Trump’s announcement that he had been summoned to turn himself in on Tuesday.

Asked Friday if he had spoken to Attorney General Merrick Garland about the case, Biden responded dryly.

“I haven’t talked to him at all,” he told reporters in Rocky Mount. “I’m not going to talk to him.”

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