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Biden says he did nothing wrong and has no regrets as documents probe continues

By Sarah May
|
January 20, 2023

As questions about his alleged mishandling of classified documents show no sign of abating, President Joe Biden on Thursday appeared somewhat incredulous about reporters' ongoing curiosity about the situation, saying that he has “no regrets” about his conduct and that the media will ultimately realize there is “nothing there,” as The Hill reports.

Biden's remarks came during a joint appearance with California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) after the pair surveyed damage from severe weather that recently gripped the state.

“Nothing there”

After finishing his comments on the aftermath of the winter storms that have taken a significant toll on parts of the Golden State, a reporter asked the president if he harbored any regrets about the scandal that threatens to overshadow his administration.

Clearly annoyed by the question, Biden said, “You know, I'll answer the questions, but here's the deal. What, quite frankly, bugs me is that we have a serious problem here we're talking about,” in an apparent reference to the impact of climate change on weather patterns and subsequent natural disasters.

“We're talking about what's going on, and the American people don't quite understand why you don't ask me questions about that,” Biden added.

Once he got that complaint off his chest, Biden permitted the reporter to finish the question about whether Biden felt regret about not disclosing the document discoveries when they occurred – right before the midterm elections.

“We found a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place. We immediately turned them over to the [National] Archives and the Justice Department. We're fully cooperating and looking forward to getting this resolved quickly,” Biden stated.

The president went on, downplaying the significance of the story by adding, “I think you're going to find there's nothing there. I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. It's exactly what we're doing. There's no there there.”

Ethics complaint lodged

Though Biden cited adherence to the legal advice he has been given since the existence of classified documents at his Wilmington, Delaware home a well as the Washington, D.C. office of a think tank affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, his receipt and acceptance of that guidance from particular attorneys is now the subject of a formal ethics complaint, as Fox News reports.

On Tuesday, government watchdog group Protect the Public's Trust (PPT) lodged a complaint with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics questioning the role being played by the White House Counsel's Office in assisting Biden with the documents investigation.

In a statement from the organization announcing the filing, PPT argued for a thorough investigation of the possibility that due to the manner in which searches for additional classified documents at Biden's Delaware homes were carried out, “taxpayer resources may have been inappropriately used and untenable conflicts of interest created by the involvement of senior White House lawyers in a matter that could personally benefit President Joe Biden.”

The filing takes specific issue with the fact that, according to multiple press accounts of the search process, attorney Richard Sauber of the White House Counsel's Office has been “heavily involved in the president's personal legal matter,” even traveling to Wilmington to “facilitate providing the document the president's personal counsel found on Wednesday to the Justice Department.”

PPT contends that “The White House Counsel's Office is not the president's personal law firm. It does not represent the president in purely personal matters that are separate from his role as president. Yet, the White House Counsel's Office appears to be acting as lawyers to Joe Biden, private citizen, rather than President Biden in this matter.”

The group also raises concerns about what it calls potentially “untenable conflicts of interest” stemming from the fact that Biden's possession of classified documents from his time as vice president could implicate the Office of the Presidency and/or the White House Counsel's Office in failures to enforce security protocols” and as such, there could be a “divergence of interests between Joe Biden, in his personal capacity, and the Office of the Presidency, the institution that the White House Counsel is supposed to represent.”

Stonewalling slammed

Not only has Biden's response to the documents controversy drawn criticism from almost all corners, the lack of transparency inside the White House press room has been a particularly glaring concern among journalists and pundits from across the ideological spectrum.

Beset by questions about inconsistencies in her accounts of document searches and complaints about her unwillingness to do much more than refer reporters to the Department of Justice for answers she refuses to provide, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre's navigation of the crisis has earned scorn from voices as diverse as Fox News contributor Joe Concha and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough.

In the eyes of former White House press secretary and current Fox News personality Dana Perino, Jean-Pierre has been unfairly sent out by the administration to “twist in the wind” and that Biden and his chief of staff, Ron Klain, are to blame.

Lamenting the position in which Jean-Pierre seems to have been placed with regard to the status of the search for more documents, Perino said, “One, they didn't tell her. And I believe when she said she didn't know, she found out the same day the press corps did. So it looks like she was involved in a cover-up if she did know. But she didn't know.” Perino added that this approach is “ruining [Jean-Pierre's] ability to have a command in that room,” something she says will do the White House no favors in the long run.