Biden facing scrutiny as more classified documents discovered
In the wake of revelations that a second cache of classified documents dating back to President Joe Biden's time as vice president has been found in addition to a first batch located at an office connected to his University of Pennsylvania-affiliated “think tank,” the commander in chief is now facing a new level of scrutiny as well as accusations of hypocrisy, as the Daily Mail reports.
Though it remains unknown precisely what the second set of materials may contain or discuss, the White House is facing increasing calls to provide greater transparency surrounding the discoveries, particularly in light of the Justice Department's ongoing probe of former President Donald Trump for alleged mishandling of classified documents.
As CBS News reported earlier this week, what the Biden camp describes as a “small number” of documents bearing classified markings were discovered back in November in a locked closet at the aforementioned think tank office by personal attorneys for the president.
The presence of the documents in the office represents a potential violation of the Presidential Records Act, which requires all such material to be turned over to the National Archives and triggers a series of protocols meant to protect classified information.
According to a report from CNN, an anonymous source indicated that among the first set of documents found were “intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom,” and other reports suggested that at least some bore top-secret and “sensitive compartmented information” (SCI) markings, indicative of their extreme sensitivity.
On Wednesday, Biden aides reported having found a second set of classified materials in a different location from the one in which the first tranche was found, according to NBC News, and on Thursday, according to Fox News, it was revealed that those documents were discovered in the garage of one of the president's Delaware homes.
Double standard alleged
In response to the explosive revelations about the document discoveries, the Biden White House and its defenders in the media attempted to downplay the situation, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declining to answer reporters' questions about whether more documents may yet be found in the president's possession or when he was told that they had been found.
“I'm just not going to speak to this. I'm going to let the process continue. It's an ongoing process,” Jean-Pierre said. “It is more prudent and more appropriate for my colleagues at the White House Counsel.”
Though some left-leaning media outlets have already attempted to draw distinctions between Biden's possession of classified documents and the actions that led to last year's FBI raid on Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, which has since also yielded the appointment of a special counsel to probe the matter, many on the Republican side of the aisle remain unconvinced.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham argued on Wednesday, as the Mail noted, for Attorney General Merrick Garland to tap another special counsel to review Biden's conduct, saying, “Garland, if you're listening, if you thought it was necessary, attorney general, to appoint a special counsel regarding President Trump, then you need to do the exact same thing regarding President Biden when it comes to handling classified information.”
Conservative legal activist Mike Davis tweeted, according to The Hill, “Unlike President Trump, then-VP Joe Biden wasn't the president when he took records with him when he left office. Presidents have the constitutional and statutory power to declassify and take records when they leave office. Not VPs. FBI raid? Intel assessment?”
Former Vice President Mike Pence blasted what he views as the blatant double standard unfolding before the country's eyes, saying that the raid on Trump's home was a “massive overreach,” but noted that “having now created that standard and now abandoned that standard when the current president of the United States is found to have had classified documents in his possession after leaving office, I think it just, I have no words right now. It's just incredibly frustrating to me.”
Probes impacted, initiated
The events of the last few days have prompted speculation as the impact the Biden document discoveries may have on the ongoing investigation into Trump's document handling practices, with former U.S. attorney Jay town telling the Associated Press, “I don't think that it impacts Trumps legal calculus at all, but it certainly does impact the political narrative going forward.”
“To the extent that the political narrative is a consideration, it does make it harder to bring charges against former President Trump as it relates to the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago,” Town added.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) top GOP member of the House Intelligence Committee has already requested a damage assessment regarding the documents found in Biden's possession, as the AP further noted, and Rep. James Comer (R-KY), chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee has also just launched a probe into the situation.
In a letter to Biden's White House Counsel, Comer wrote, “The Committee is concerned that President Biden has compromised sources and methods with his own mishandling of classified documents. Under the Biden Administration, the Department of Justice and the [National Archives and Records Administration] have made compliance with the Presidential Records Act a top priority,” in what was a clear reference to the actions taken against Trump.
“For months, NARA failed to disclose to Committee Republicans or the American public that President Biden – after serving as Vice President – stored highly classified documents in a closet at his personal office,” Comer said. “NARA learned about these documents days before the 2022 midterm elections and did not alert the public that President Biden was potentially violating the law.”
Perhaps in response to the aforementioned allegations of disparate standards depending on party affiliation, on Thursday, Garland announced the appointment of a special counsel to review the Biden document discoveries, and it is increasingly clear that the president cannot continue to evade questions about the type of conduct he declared unfathomably “irresponsible” when allegedly committed by his predecessor.