WASHINGTON – After learning that President Biden’s attorneys found top-secret documents stashed in his unsecured office at a DC think tank six days before the midterm elections, Republican lawmakers are asking why it took more than two months for the public to learn about the discovery.
Though the White House said Biden’s attorneys wasted no time notifying the National Archives and Records Administration that they’d found 10 documents with classified markings mixed in with Biden family papers at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, the fact was not made public until CBS News reported on it Monday night.
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) dashed off a letter asking the Archives why it failed to disclose the Nov. 2, 2022 find immediately.
“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,” Comer pointed out. “Meanwhile, NARA instigated a public and unprecedented FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago—former President Trump’s home—to retrieve presidential records.
“NARA’s inconsistent treatment of recovering classified records held by former President Trump and President Biden raises questions about political bias at the agency,” Comer added.
“Classified documents were found at Joe Biden’s think tank before the midterms,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) said on Twitter Tuesday. “Why are we just finding out now?”
“They knew about this a week before the election, maybe the American people should have known that,” incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told reporters late Monday. “They certainly knew about the the raid on Mar-a-Lago 91 days before this election, but nice if on November 2, the country would have known that there were classified documents at the Biden Center.”
House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) called the secrecy “troubling” and accused the Justice Department of covering up the find.
“It is no wonder the American people do not trust the DOJ and FBI, who have targeted Joe Biden’s political opponents,” she said.
Former President Donald Trump was also quick to question the timing in a post to Truth Social on Tuesday. The 76-year-old is currently under investigation by the Justice Department regarding his own alleged mishandling of classified documents.
“Why didn’t the ‘Justice’ Department announce the Highly Classified documents found in the Biden Office before the Election?” Trump wrote.
Trump’s former acting Director of National Intelligence, Ric Grenell, raged on Twitter: “The
@TheJusticeDept knew before the midterm elections that Joe Biden had CLASSIFIED documents unsecured at a Think Tank office – and they didn’t disclose it. Why isn’t the DC media outraged about election interference?”
The documents discovered by Biden’s personal lawyers reportedly included intelligence memoranda regarding Ukraine and Iran.
In his letter, Comer requested the Archives provide all “documents and communications” about the clearout at Biden’s former office, including the agency’s conversations with the White House and Justice Department.
In a separate letter, Comer asked the White House Counsel’s office for copies of the documents, communications about the discovery, and a list of those who may have had access to the office where they were found. The White House had no immediate response.
Ironically, the Biden team’s prompt reporting to NARA may help the president skirt legal jeopardy because the primary statutes criminalizing the mishandling of classified documents require proof that it was done “knowingly” or “willfully,” one legal expert told the Post.
While the case is drawing comparisons to the allegations that Trump held onto roughly 150 classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, the promptness of Biden’s attorneys sets the two cases apart, national security lawyer and former federal prosecutor Bradley Moss told the Post.
“These two cases are similar in that both involve constitutional officers who were sloppy in how their staff relocated records after they left office: Mr. Biden in 2017 and Mr. Trump in 2021,” Moss said. “The clear distinction so far, and we need to see all the details still, is that Mr. Biden’s team did the proper thing by immediately notifying security authorities and having the documents returned.”
Comparatively, it took an FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022 to recover boxes of classified documents from Trump’s office and a storage room at the Palm Beach resort after the Archives said it contacted Trump lawyers in an effort to retrieve documents taken when he left the White House the previous year.
“Mr. Trump and his team delayed, obfuscated and at one point submitted a false statement to the FBI in an 18 month saga before the Mar-a-Lago raid,” Moss said.