‘There’s Nothing There,’ Biden Said the Day Before the FBI Found More Classified Documents in His House
Last August, the FBI searched former President Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach resort, looking for classified documents. Last Friday, the FBI searched President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, looking for classified documents.
Both searches were unprecedented, and both turned up secret material stored in unauthorized locations. While the circumstances that led to the searches were starkly different, the broad parallels between the two investigations, each of which has been assigned to a special counsel, complicate already fraught decisions about whether Trump’s retention of government records justifies criminal charges. They also raise the question of how common such sloppiness is and what it says about a system that is ostensibly aimed at protecting national security.
The 13-hour search of Biden’s house, which the president’s lawyers suggested after it became clear that no one had any idea how many secret records he may have retained or where exactly they were located, discovered half a dozen classified documents, including material dating to his time as a U.S. senator. That was in addition to “roughly 10” classified records discovered in Biden’s former think tank office last November, “a small number” found in the garage of his Wilmington house and an adjacent room in December, and several more found in his home library on January 11 and 12.
Two weeks ago, after CBS News broke the story of the documents in Biden’s former office, the president said he had been “surprised” to learn about those records last fall. Last Thursday, after news reports revealed that additional classified material had been found at his house in Wilmington, Biden minimized the import of that development.
“We found a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place,” Biden told reporters. “We immediately turned them over to the [National] Archives and the Justice Department….I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there….There’s no there there.”
At that point, it was clear that the number of classified documents “in the wrong place” exceeded “a handful.” And the next day, the FBI found six more. Contrary to Biden’s assurances, there was something there: a pattern of carelessness belying Special Counsel to the President Richard Sauber’s claim that Biden “takes classified information and materials seriously.”
Sauber emphasized that Biden’s transgressions were unintentional. “We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced,” he said, “and the president and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake.”
Trump, by contrast, took thousands of government documents, including 325 marked as classified, when he left office, and he persistently resisted returning them, apparently because he considered them his personal property. That resistance included months of wrangling with the National Archives and Records Administration and incomplete compliance with a federal subpoena, which culminated in the FBI’s August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.
Unlike last week’s visit to Biden’s house, the Mar-a-Lago search was not consensual. It was authorized by a warrant that a magistrate judge issued after concluding that there was probable cause to believe the FBI would find evidence that Trump or his representatives had committed federal crimes. Specifically, the FBI cited statutes that make it a felony to remove or conceal government documents,
Article from Reason.com