January 18, 2023

Classified Documents

Lawyers for President Joe Biden found more classified documents at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, than previously known, the White House acknowledged Saturday. White House lawyer Richard Sauber said in a statement that a total of six pages of classified documents were found during a search of Biden’s private library… The latest disclosure is in addition to the discovery of documents found in December in Biden’s garage and in November at his former offices at the Penn Biden Center in Washington.” AP News

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From the Left

The left argues that there are questions to be answered, but thus far Biden’s conduct appears to be much less problematic than that of Trump.

“First, there’s the lack of prompt public disclosure: It was more than two months after the Nov. 2 discovery that CBS News first reported on the initial documents on Jan. 9. But while the White House confirmed that initial batch of documents at the time that story was published, it made no mention of the additional documents found on Dec. 20 in Biden’s garage… Then there’s the fact that the Nov. 2 discovery didn’t appear to spur an exhaustive, immediate search…

“The first documents were found Nov. 2. Then more were found Dec. 20. Then came one more on Jan. 11, and then five more pages on Jan. 12… The last known discovery of documents actually came after both the White House and Biden’s legal team indicated the search was done… The mixed signals and the fact that these searches spanned more than two months suggest this has been poorly handled at the very least.”

Aaron Blake, Washington Post

“The legal concept that prosecutors will have to use to determine whether to prosecute either president: intent. The relevant provision of the Espionage Act is fairly clear. It’s a crime if you both ‘willfully’ retain classified documents and also ‘fail’ to deliver them ‘on demand’ to the government official ‘entitled’ to receive them… Trump, through representatives, allegedly refused for months to return more than 30 boxes of documents…

“In contrast, according to what we know so far, Biden retained — perhaps by accident — what’s been described as a ‘small number’ of classified documents after leaving the vice presidency. When the documents were found, his lawyers appear to have promptly handed them over without even having to be asked… Intent is fundamental to the criminal law.”

Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Biden’s team appears to have raced to turn in the documents when they found them, and took the initiative to conduct a search of other locations where additional documents may be stored, and proactively turn them over to investigators. Compare that to the former president. He repeatedly resisted government attempts to reclaim his trove of documents over many months. ‘It’s not theirs; it’s mine,’ he proclaimed…

“His lawyers eventually provided a false written statement that all classified documents had been returned together. Finally, the Justice Department had to obtain a search warrant — and recovered over 100 more. Far from cooperating, he has continued to fight, impugn and lie about the investigation. That pattern is evidence of willful misconduct by Trump.”

Norman Eisen, CNN

From the Right

The right is critical of Biden’s handling of the situation, and argues that Trump is now much less likely to be prosecuted.

The right is critical of Biden’s handling of the situation, and argues that Trump is now much less likely to be prosecuted.

“Not only did President Joe Biden enlist [private] lawyers to clear out his private Washington office; he then used them — rather than security officers or the FBI — to search for additional classified documents… The president has a host of people who regularly handle classified material. So why use the lawyers? The answer appears the same as in the case of Hillary Clinton’s emails: control. Using private counsel allows Biden to raise attorney-client privilege…

“Unlike FBI agents, these lawyers are not acting on behalf of the public interest but for the president’s personal interests. If there are criminal charges, the key witnesses will be lawyers representing the president as an individual. They are more likely to minimize incriminating or embarrassing elements…

“And they are themselves under scrutiny. Since they may not have had sufficient clearances to do this work, it is in their interest to downplay any expectations or warnings of additional classified material scattered around Biden’s home or office. Concern over the use of lawyers has only grown with time.”

Jonathan Turley, New York Post

“The documents in the Wilmington house could present another problem for Biden, which is that Biden's son Hunter, when he was addicted to crack and in a downward spiral, was living in the house when the documents were in the garage. That could be a problem in two senses…  

“One, Hunter Biden, always trying to make some money off his father's names and connections, had a lot of shady foreign associates. And two, Hunter had what you might call a lax attitude toward information security. After all, he left a laptop filled with all sorts of information at a repair shop and never returned to claim it, leading to more problems than anyone could have imagined.”

Byron York, Washington Examiner

“Biden’s team knows that other top officials have committed egregious misconduct yet eluded indictment — most notoriously, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who was not indicted by the Obama–Biden Justice Department. The elephant in the room, however, is Donald Trump

“The Justice Department has spent many months carefully drawing a net around Trump that could end in prosecution for his own conduct of retaining classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. But the task of justifying to the public why a former president should be criminally charged for the first time in our history becomes vastly more difficult when DOJ has not only declined to prosecute his 2016 opponent, but is also potentially going to let the current president off the hook as well.”

The Editors, National Review

A libertarian's take

“‘Over the past 20 years, dozens of military and civilian employees of the U.S. government have been punished for taking classified documents home from work without authorization,’ Walter Pincus and Vernon Loeb wrote in 2000 for The Washington Post. ‘But few of these incidents have been made public, and the penalties have been extremely inconsistent, according to current and former federal officials.’ Military personnel faced legal penalties much tougher than those enforced against civilian government employees, the reporters found. And the higher you were in the hierarchy, the safer

“Pay less mind to debates over the relative handling of powerful political faction leaders when they take liberties with government documents. That's more their concern than yours. The real divide is in the difference separating the lenient treatment those powerful people can expect from the harsh penalties they would happily inflict on you.”
J.D. Tuccille, Reason

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