The FBI raided President Joe Biden’s home and uncovered more classified material, deepening the controversy over his secret documents and heightening the political fallout.
Biden’s lawyers argued that Friday’s search highlighted his cooperation with a special counsel’s investigation — implicitly distinguishing him from former President Donald Trump’s conduct in his own classified documents scandal.
Yet the reality of FBI agents raiding the private home of a sitting president remains an extraordinary reality, one that the White House has sought to downplay. That raises new questions about why Biden still has classified information from his time as vice president; how material, typically handled with extreme care by federal employees, ended up in his private residence; and whether it was safe during its years there , will not be spied on.
The new findings have prompted some sharp criticism of the president, even among Democrats. The White House’s management of the controversy has fueled the classic drip cycle of slowly emerging Washington scandals, distracting from periods of presidential political success and opening up opportunities for a new Republican House majority.
“When this information is discovered, it degrades whoever has it, because it shouldn’t have happened,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Whether it’s the employee’s fault or the lawyer’s fault, it makes no difference. Elected officials bear ultimate responsibility,” the Illinois Democrat added.
Durbin, like other Democrats, has sought to draw sharp comparisons between Biden’s cooperation with the Justice Department and Trump’s months of apparent obfuscation, and possibly even potential criminal obstruction of his own trove of classified documents. However, top Republicans are trying to use the opportunity Biden offers his political opponents to deepen his unease.
“I think, as a former federal prosecutor, it’s important that they stop relying on lawyers to carry out searches,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” , even though it was consensual.” The Texas Republican continued, “But the truth is, the FBI conducted this search, not his lawyers. That would really intensify the investigation. ”
Despite the legal nuances between the Biden and Trump cases, many voters may simply see both as relevant to the broader issue of classified material kept by Biden and Trump. While the incumbent’s current embarrassment may prove to be short-lived years from now when his legacy is assessed, it represents a huge breakthrough for Trump’s 2024 campaign, as it appears to have weakened the strongest early lines of attack against him one.
Biden’s personal attorney, who released a 13-hour FBI visit to Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home on Saturday night, said the Justice Department took “six items, including classified Marked documents and surrounding materials, some of which were from the president’s service in the Senate and some of which were from his time as vice president.” Attorney Bob Ball said in a statement that the department also took some autographs from the vice president’s tenure Handwritten notes.
Before that, the president’s lawyers had found about 20 documents at Biden’s home and an office in Washington that he has used since leaving the vice presidency.
White House senior counsel Richard Sauber wrote in a statement Saturday that Biden has been “committed to handling this responsibly because he takes it seriously” and that he and his team ” Work quickly to make sure the DOJ and the Special Counsel get what they need for a thorough review.”
It was an apparent attempt to separate the president’s situation from that of Trump, who refused to let him turn over classified information about his Mar-a-Lago residence and apparently misled investigators about the information he had, accusing The FBI planted incriminating information and claimed he had declassified it, though there was no sign of the kind of paper trial that would imply such a procedure.
One of the potential charges Trump faces in his own special counsel investigation is obstruction of justice. Biden’s actions don’t appear to suggest he faces a similar risk, even though he isn’t protected by past Justice Department interpretations of guidelines for immunity from prosecution for sitting presidents.
In theory, if the evidence warrants such a step, and Biden can get away with censure, it might eventually be possible to find grounds to prosecute Trump, for example on grounds of obstruction. But while such legal distinctions may exist, the political consequences of such an approach would be inflammatory. Questions about whether to indict Trump as a former president and current 2024 White House candidate — over the document saga and his role leading up to the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot — have become radioactive. Any notion that he’s being treated differently than Biden, and that the two rivals could become rivals in 2024 would create a political hell that Trump is sure to take advantage of.
The new documents uncovered Saturday represent the latest example of the White House and the president trying to minimize the matter following subsequent events — including the discovery of more classified material.
After Biden previously suggested that classified documents found in his garage were safe because it was locked to protect his beloved Corvette, he told reporters who asked him about it on Thursday, “There’s nothing there, there’s nothing there. ”
Yet the next day, FBI investigators raided his Wilmington home in the presence of his legal team and found more classified material, further blurring the lines between his case and Trump’s. difference. While Democrats have defended the president, his allies in Congress have expressed concern, even frustration, that the White House has yet to quell the controversy.
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, for example, said Sunday that while the president is cooperating with the investigation, important questions remain.
“So that’s why there needs to be an independent investigation. … How many documents are we talking about? Dozens, a few or hundreds? How serious are they? Why were they taken? Has anyone had access to them? ’” Kane said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia — who has sometimes taken a stand that has clashed with Democratic leaders in part because of Trump’s popularity in his home state — has been critical of Biden, and demand an answer.
“It’s unbelievable how this could have happened. It’s completely irresponsible,” he told CNN’s Bash. “What should be done is exactly what (Attorney General) Merrick Garland did. Put the special counsel. Let’s wait and see. Some people take sides.” Well, it’s better than President Trump and President Biden did more shocking. ” Maybe it’s true. I don’t know. Maybe it’s not true. Let’s find out.
Friday’s FBI raid, and the apparent cooperation of Biden’s legal team, appeared to take away from one of the main talking points for Republicans — that Trump was being unfairly treated because his property was “searched” while Biden Deng’s property no. Republicans are using the line even though last year’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago was authorized by a court authorization that requires the FBI to convince a judge that there was probable reason to believe a crime may have been committed.
But few Republicans have mentioned that distinction. Florida Senator Rick Scott tweeted: “Think about it – Joe Biden has kept classified documents in his home for years with no one explaining or holding accountable why.” Among other gloating tweets from Democrats, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri added: “Sounds like continuous flouting of the law. The American people have a right to know what’s in all these documents that Biden has illegally hoarded. Who else has access to them.”
The GOP euphoria reflects how open Republicans are now, and Trump’s astonishing luck after a lackluster start to the 2024 presidential campaign.