WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s decision last week to allow the FBI to search his Delaware home puts him in the crosshairs after earlier discoveries of classified documents at his home and former office. negative attention and embarrassment. But aides hope it is a legal and political consideration in the long run as he prepares to seek re-election.
FBI Agents Conducted an Extraordinary Nearly 13-Hour Search The home of incumbent President Wilmington is the latest political black eye for Biden, who has pledged to restore office decorum following the tumultuous tenure of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
But through his actions, Biden is doing more than deferring to federal investigators assigned to investigate the records’ findings. The president aimed to show that, unlike Trump, he never intended to withhold classified material — a key distinction that experts say could reduce the risk of criminal liability. “In order to move this process forward as quickly as possible,” he was granted full access to the home, his lawyer said.
“If I were a lawyer and I was representing the President of the United States, I wanted to say, ‘I’m fully cooperating, I do care about showing transparency to the American public, I do take that seriously,’ and I think that’s what I would give as well. recommendations,” said Mary McCord, a former senior Justice Department national security official.
It’s not that she approves of him handling the files.
“I think he was wrong to put those documents there,” she said. “It shows a misstep at the end of the administration,” when Biden was coming to the end of his vice presidency under Barack Obama.
Biden’s personal lawyer first discovered classified material Nov. 2, a week before the midterm elections, they were cleaning out the offices Biden had used at the Biden Center in Pennsylvania, Washington. Since the initial discovery, Biden’s team has been accommodating with the investigation, even if they have not been fully transparent in public.
They did not acknowledge the first discovery before the election, though they quickly notified the National Archives of the discovery, returned the documents the day after they were found, and coordinated the subsequent search and discovery with the Justice Department.
They also did not impede interviews with staff, including Kathy Chung, an executive assistant to Biden when he was vice president, who helped oversee the packing of boxes that were brought to the Biden Center in Pennsylvania.
She felt some responsibility given her position, but she had “absolutely” no idea that classified documents were being packaged, according to a person familiar with her thinking. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
Biden himself has said he is surprised the documents are in his hands. Frustrated with all the focus, he told reporters last Thursday: “There’s nothing there.”
“I think you’ll find there’s nothing there.”
It all fits with one theme: Biden and his aides insist the mishandling of documents was not intentional.In terms of Biden’s possible legal exposure, the question of intent is key: Federal law does not allow anyone to store classified documents in an unauthorized locationbut it is only an indictable offense if someone is found to have “willfully” removed documents from their proper places.
Still, welcoming the FBI’s search could backfire if investigators uncover some evidence of a crime. Last week, agents seized another shipment of classified-marked items, as well as some handwritten notes and materials from Biden’s tenure as vice president and senator.
And that doesn’t include the documents already turned in by Biden’s lawyers. As the investigation continues, agents also have the option to search the Biden Center in Pennsylvania and another Biden home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Criticism of Biden’s handling of the matter From Democrats and Republicans. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the president should be “embarrassed by the situation.”
“I think he should have a lot of regrets,” added Senator Joe Manchin of Virginia. Even Biden’s own lawyer called it a “mistake.”
Meanwhile, Republicans seek They regained their majority in the House of Representatives this month, using their newfound powers to investigate Biden’s handling of documents and hoping to take advantage of the investigation.
“Disturbingly, classified documents have been improperly stored in President Biden’s home for at least six years, raising questions about who may have reviewed or had access to classified information,” said the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, a Tennessee Republican. James Comer wrote. When asking about visitor logs at Biden’s residence.
Trump and some of his supporters have been more vocal, claiming that Biden’s mishandling of classified documents was more serious than Democrats’ sanctimonious accusations against Trump. The ex-president is sure to emphasize the charge vigorously as he campaigns to regain the White House.
Investigations into Trump have also focused on About classified documents that ended up in the home. In that case, though, the Justice Department issued a subpoena for the return of documents Trump refused to return, then obtained a search warrant and seized more than 100 documents during a dramatic raid of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in August. Federal agents Potential violations of three federal laws are under investigation, including under the Espionage Act that governs the collection, transmission or loss of national defense information.
In 2016, when the FBI advised against filing criminal charges When asked about classified emails Hillary Clinton sent and received through a private server when she was secretary of state, then-FBI Director James Comey said the Justice Department had chosen to bring In which cases, it has been looking for evidence of criminal intent, signs of disloyalty to the United States, retention of large amounts of classified documents or any obstruction of justice.
A year ago, a Clinton lawyer voluntarily gave the FBI a USB drive containing some 30,000 emails from her time as secretary of state.
It’s unclear whether surrogates in the Biden investigation have moved beyond the question of intent. The White House did not answer key questions, including how classified information from his tenure as vice president ended up in his Delaware home.But Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special prosecutor Leading the investigation given the sensitive politics surrounding it.
Garland declared in response to a question on Monday: “We don’t rule differently for Democrats or Republicans. … We apply the fact of the law in each case in a neutral and nonpartisan way. That’s What we’ve been doing is what we’re doing with what you’re referring to.”
A key test of the limits of Biden’s strategy revolves around whether the president will agree to be interviewed by federal investigators. White House officials have so far declined to say whether he would do so, or under what conditions.
There could still be consequences beyond criminal prosecution for any staff member found to have mishandled classified documents, including impact on security clearances required for national security work.
Meanwhile, Biden and his staff are trying to Bring the media and public back to his agenda. White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said she would not answer questions about the investigation at her daily briefing, instead referring most questions to the Justice Department, White House counsel or Biden’s personal attorney.