WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden’s decision to allow the FBI to search his home in Delaware last week makes him vulnerable to new negative attention and embarrassment after earlier discoveries of classified documents in that home and former office. But it is a legal and political calculus his aides hope will pay off in the long run as he prepares to seek re-election.
wonderful, Almost 13 hours of research by FBI agents From the current president’s home in Wilmington is the latest black political eye for Biden, who has promised to reinstate the fit for office after the tumultuous tenure of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
But with his actions, Biden is doing more than complying with federal investigators charged with looking into the discovery of the records. The president aims to show that, unlike Trump, he never intended to keep the materials classified — a key distinction that experts say reduces the risk of criminal liability. His attorneys said he was given full access to the house “in order to move the process forward as quickly as possible.”
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“If I were a lawyer representing the President of the United States and wanted to show, ‘I am fully cooperative, and I care about showing transparency to the American public, and I take that very seriously,’” said Mary McCord, former National Security Official for the Department of Justice, “I think that is the advice that I’ll give it too.”
“I think it’s wrong of him to have those documents there. They show holes at the end of the administration,” she said, when Biden was finishing his term as vice president under Barack Obama.
Biden’s personal attorneys I discovered classified materials for the first time on November 2nd, a week before the midterm elections, as they were removing a desk Biden was using at the Ben Biden Center in Washington. Since that initial discovery, the Biden team has adopted a proponential approach to the investigation, even if it hasn’t been completely transparent in public.
They did not acknowledge the first discovery before the election, although they quickly reported the discovery to the National Archives, returning the documents the day after they were found and coordinating searches and subsequent discoveries with the Department of Justice.
Nor do they stand in the way of interviews with staff, including Kathy Chung, an executive aide to Biden when he was vice president, who helped oversee the packing of boxes that were moved to the Ben Biden Center.
She feels some responsibility given her position, but was “absolutely” unaware of filling out classified documents, according to a person familiar with her thinking. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
Biden himself said he was surprised to find the documents in his possession. Last Thursday, frustrated with all the focus, he told reporters, “There’s no way there.”
“I think you’ll find there is nothing there.”
It all fits on a theme: Biden and his aides maintain that mishandling of the document was not intended. As far as possible legal exposure to Biden goes, the question of intent is crucial: Federal law does not allow anyone to hoard Classified documents in an unauthorized locationbut it is only a prosecuted offense when someone is found to have “knowingly” removed documents from a suitable location.
However, welcoming the FBI’s search could backfire as investigators continue, if they find some evidence of criminality. Agents last week acquired an additional round of classified items, some handwritten notes and materials from Biden from his tenures as vice president and senator.
This is in addition to documents already handed over by Biden’s attorney. Agents can also choose to search the Ben Biden Center and another Biden home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, as the investigation continues.
Criticism of Biden’s handling of the matter It came from Democrats as well as Republicans. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the president should be “embarrassed by the situation.”
“I think he should feel a great deal of regret,” added Sen. Joe Manchin of DW.Va. Even Biden’s lawyers called it a “mistake.”
Meanwhile, the Republicans To use their new powers in the House of Representatives, where they regained a majority this month, to investigate Biden’s handling of the documents and hope to benefit from the investigation.
“It is troubling that classified documents have been improperly stored in President Biden’s home for at least six years, raising questions about who might have reviewed classified information or gained access,” House Oversight Chief James Comer wrote. to her”. in requesting visitor records for the Biden residence.
Trump and some of his supporters have been more outspoken, claiming that Biden is guilty of worse mishandling of classified documents than Democrats accuse him of Trump’s insolence. The former president is sure to press the accusation hard as he fights to win back the White House.
The investigation of Trump also centers On secret documents that ended up in the house. In this case, though, the Justice Department issued a subpoena for the return of documents Trump refused to return, then obtained a warrant and seized more than 100 documents during a dramatic August search of his Florida property, Mar-a-Lago. Federal agents are investigating possible violations of three federal laws, including one governing the collection, transfer, or loss of defense information under the Espionage Act.
In 2016, when the FBI recommended criminal charges be filed As for Hillary Clinton about the secret emails she sent and received via a private server when she was secretary of state, then-FBI Director James Comey said the Justice Department — when choosing which cases to bring over the past century — looked for evidence of criminal intent, indications For disloyalty to the United States, the retention of large amounts of classified documents or any effort to obstruct justice.
One year ago, Clinton’s attorney voluntarily gave the FBI a thumb drive containing nearly 30,000 emails from her tenure as Secretary of State.
It is not clear whether agents in the Biden investigation have advanced beyond the question of intent. The White House has yet to answer key questions, including how classified information from his time as vice president could end up inside his home in Delaware. But Attorney General Merrick Garland Hire a private attorney To head the investigation given the sensitive politics around it.
On Monday, Garland declared, in response to a question: “We don’t have different rules for Democrats or Republicans. … We apply the facts under the law in every case in an impartial, unbiased manner. That’s what we always do and that’s what we do in the matters you refer to.”
One of the main tests of the limits of Biden’s strategy revolves around the question of whether the president would agree to interviews with federal investigators if asked. White House officials have so far refused to say if he will do so or under what terms.
There are still consequences outside of criminal prosecution for any employee found to have mishandled classified documents, including ramifications for security clearances needed for national security work.
Meanwhile, Biden And his crew are trying Refocus the media and the public on his agenda. White House press secretary Karen Jean-Pierre said she would not answer questions about the investigation during her daily briefings, instead referring most inquiries to the Justice Department, White House attorneys, or Biden’s personal attorneys.
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