As the legal machinery works, Americans face the reality that both potential opponents in the 2024 presidential election will be the subject of special counsel investigations as the campaign begins to take shape. As Kinzinger quite aptly points out, at least for now, the legal distinction may be lost in the ensuing political debate.
The Biden case unfolded quickly — at least in public. It is now known that classified documents were found at the offices of the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Pennsylvania, a Washington think tank; in the garage of Biden’s residence in Wilmington, Delaware; and at another location in the Wilmington house.
Timeline: Biden keeps classified documents
The first batch was spotted on Nov. 2, six days before the midterm elections. Those documents in Biden’s garage were discovered on December 20. Another document had just been found in a room near the garage of Biden’s Wilmington home, the president’s lawyer revealed Thursday. The garage where his Corvette is stored is locked, Biden said.
Hours after the last revelation, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he had appointed former top Justice Department official and Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert Hull as special counsel investigating the matter. Garland appears to have had no choice but to appoint a special counsel, but the facts are far from the findings of the Trump documents.
Timeline: Trump and the Mar-a-Lago Documents:
Although little is known about the Biden case, legal differences may be important. Trump is known to have hundreds of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, some at the highest level. Biden has far fewer — about 10 at Biden’s Penn Center office, and a few more in Delaware. Biden said he was “surprised” to learn the documents were in his possession, adding that he takes classified material very seriously. He also said he did not inquire about the contents of the documents found.
Another difference is that one of Biden’s personal lawyers discovered the documents and called the White House counsel. These documents are voluntarily submitted to the National Archives and Records Administration. Some of what was discovered was marked top secret. On Nov. 4, the National Archives’ inspector general contacted the Justice Department to alert officials to what had happened.
Ten days later, Garland asked U.S. Attorney in Chicago John Rausch, a Trump appointee, to conduct a preliminary investigation, which led to Hull’s appointment on Thursday. Biden’s White House said he and his attorneys have been working with the National Archives and the Justice Department and will continue to do so.
By contrast, officials at the National Archives have repeatedly asked Trump to return the documents but were denied, leading the FBI to raid Mar-a-Lago last summer. More classified documents were found even after Trump’s lawyers told the administration there were no more classified documents inside the former president’s mansion. One of the questions in the Justice Department’s investigation of Trump’s documents is whether he or others obstructed justice.
Biden’s team has questions to answer, both to Hull’s team and to the public. So far, the president and his team have not been completely candid.Classified documents uncovered ahead of midterms, but no one on Biden team says anything in public At the time, though, Biden made the investigation into the Trump documents a political topic during the fall campaign, calling Trump’s possession of classified material “irresponsible.”
The rules for handling highly classified material are clear. They never leave the secure facility. A quick disclosure before the election would embarrass Democrats at the very least and could be politically damaging.
When CBS News reported last week that documents had been found at the Biden Center in Pennsylvania, White House officials confirmed the claim but did not reveal that other documents had been found at the Biden residence, even though that had been known for weeks. On Saturday, Special Counsel to the President Richard Sorber revealed that when he went to Biden’s home to look at an earlier discovery, he found five more documents.
These are other examples of a lack of transparency, though the White House may have argued that it should not have revealed facts about the Justice Department investigation. By the time the first stories broke last week, Garland had received a recommendation from Rausch to appoint a special prosecutor.
More classified documents found at Biden’s Wilmington home, White House says
During the investigation, Hur and his team had a lot to answer. The history of such investigations shows that it can take many months to complete an investigation and make a decision on whether to charge someone. Some Biden supporters have questioned the need for a special prosecutor in the absence of evidence of a crime. But the politics of the matter left Garland with no choice but to refer the matter to the special counsel.
Another factor in all of this is the Justice Department’s policy that a sitting president cannot be criminally prosecuted. Former presidents can.
Trump and his allies have seized on the fact that Biden classified material in his possession after leaving the vice presidency to suggest that the two cases are equivalent and that it would be a miscarriage of justice to accuse Trump rather than Biden.
Garland has been accused of a double standard of high-profile raids on the former president in the middle of an election year while failing to mention Biden’s documents before the election or before media coverage. Trump will use classified material in Biden’s possession as leverage in an attempt to evade possible prosecution.
Document discovery spotlights Biden’s frequent use of Wilmington home
Trump has accused the special counsel in charge of investigating Trump’s possession of classified documents and his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, Jack Smith, of personal bias and wants him removed. He has stepped up those attacks in the past few days.
Meanwhile, some conservatives have questioned Hur’s impartiality because, while he was at the Justice Department, he was involved in overseeing Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump. Investigation of campaign collusion. Mueller’s investigation revealed various contacts between Trump officials and the Russians, but found no criminal conspiracy.
The revelation that Biden possesses classified documents is a political gift to House Republicans, who battled over their selection of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as Speaker of the House in the first week of the year. Unlike previous chaotic situations. Any speaker election in over a century.
House Republicans have already planned an investigation into the Biden administration and Biden’s son Hunter. Now they have a new goal. Republicans risk exaggerating, but for now, they have a chance to put Biden on the defensive — and distract attention from their own disorderly meeting.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), has requested a classified briefing on the matter by the end of the month. So did Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, went further, demanding that the White House provide all relevant documents and communications related to the documents by Jan. 24. On Friday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio, R-House Judiciary Committee Chairman) and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), sent a letter to Garland requesting executive branch documents and communications, signaling their determination to investigate, too.
In Biden’s White House, officials hope to use coming year to draw attention positive influence A bipartisan infrastructure bill, a bipartisan chip bill and huge spending on climate initiatives approved on a partisan vote last summer, the document saga is an unexpected setback — a clear distraction that no outside opponent can blame.
Garland is trying to ensure that investigations into Trump and now Biden will proceed as prescribed and that charging decisions will be based on facts and the law. For Trump defenders, the fact that classified material held by the former vice president, now president, ended up in think tanks and Biden’s private residence is important in itself. Regardless of Garland’s views on the integrity of the investigation, this greatly complicates the work of the two special counsels.