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The Editors

Biden (and Trump) Should Have Known Better

The presidents' recklessness with classified material reflects a disregard for the rules others are expected to follow.

Come on, man.

Come on, man.

Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

For weeks, the White House has insisted (with some justification) that the parallel special-counsel investigations into President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump for mishandling classified documents are in no way comparable. Yet in critical respects, both cases can be traced to a common dysfunction: the willingness of government leaders to disregard the rules that others are expected to follow.

The government goes to great lengths to protect its secrets. As a condition of receiving security clearances, government officials and contractors pledge to adhere to strict rules governing the handling of sensitive material. National-security agencies maintain designated email servers, printers and travel bags for classified documents, many of which can only be read in secure rooms and must be locked in a safe when not in use. Removing such documents from government facilities can result in the loss of security privileges, administrative punishment, job termination and even criminal prosecution.