You Don’t Say: Classified Docs Discovered In Private Office Used by Then-VP Biden Just Days Before November Midterms (UPDATE ADDED)
[guest post by Dana]
President Biden’s lawyers confirmed that classified documents from his time as vice president were discovered in a private office just days before the 2022 midterms (Nov. 2, to be precise):
Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked the *US attorney in Chicago to investigate the matter, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN, and congressional Republicans are also taking notice.
Biden’s lawyers say they found the government materials in November while closing out a Washington, DC-based office – the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement – that Biden used as part of his relationship with the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an honorary professor from 2017 to 2019.
Fewer than a dozen classified documents were found at Biden’s office, another source told CNN. It is unclear what the documents pertain to or why they were taken to Biden’s private office. Federal officeholders are required by law to relinquish official documents and classified records when their government service ends.
President Biden’s special counsel released a statement that made it clear that, upon discovery of the documents, established protocols were followed:
“The White House is cooperating with the National Archives and the Department of Justice regarding the discovery of what appear to be Obama-Biden Administration records, including a small number of documents with classified markings,” Richard Sauber, special counsel to President Biden, said in a statement. “The documents were discovered when the President’s personal attorneys were packing files housed in a locked closet to prepare to vacate office space at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C. The President periodically used this space from mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 campaign. On the day of this discovery, November 2, 2022, the White House Counsel’s Office notified the National Archives. The Archives took possession of the materials the following morning.”
“The discovery of these documents was made by the President’s attorneys…The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives. Since that discovery, the President’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives.”
As you can imagine, Trump supporters and Biden detractors are up in arms about the revelation and what they see as hypocrisy. Donald Trump demanded to know when the FBI would be raiding President Biden’s home(s).
Experts point to a distinction between Trump and Biden’s classified documents situation:
Bradley Moss, a security clearances expert, told “CNN This Morning” on Tuesday that so far, and if no more problematic evidence emerges, the current president team’s conduct was different because of “the cooperation and the absence of obstruction in which they have engaged compared to what Donald Trump did.”
“So far, it’s completely apples to oranges here,” said Moss, who is the deputy executive director of the James Madison Project.
As of this morning, President Biden has not responded to questions about the classified documents:
As the press is herded out of the room, a reporter asks Biden: " Any response to the discovery of classified documents at your office?"
Biden does not answer. pic.twitter.com/baf4mFwSPP
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) January 10, 2023
(*U.S. Attorney John Lausch is a Trump nominee.)
UPDATE: Today President Biden addressed the question of whether he knew about the classified documents and whether the public should have been notified earlier:
“When my lawyers were clearing out my office at the University of Pennsylvania, they set up an office for me. Secure office in the Capitol. When I ran, the four years after being vice president, was a professor at Penn. They found some documents in a box. You know locked cabinet? Or at least a closet…And as soon as they did, I realized there were several classified documents in that box. And they did what they should have done. They immediately called the archives, immediately called the archives, turned them over to the archives.
And I was briefed about this discovery and surprised to learn that there are any government records that were taken there to that office. But I don’t know what’s in the documents. I’ve my lawyers have not suggested I ask what documents they were. I’ve turned over the boxes. They’ve turned over the boxes to the archives. And we’re cooperating fully, cooperating fully with the review, and which I hope will be finished soon. And there’ll be more detail at that time.
It appears that President Biden knew about the classified documents right after they were discovered. Given that this was 5 days before the midterm elections, I believe that the White House should have been up front with the American people about the discovery. I have no idea if it would’ve moved the voting needle one way or the other, but the optics are bad. It looks like a strategic decision was made to keep quiet about the documents because of the impending election. Considering that Democrats were already bracing for a red wave, they didn’t want to risk an even worse outcome. In other words, politics as usual.