The difference between the discovery of classified documents Biden and Trump

The difference between the discovery of classified documents Biden and Trump

The difference between the discovery of classified documents Biden and Trump

Just as former President Donald Trump is in the midst of an investigation and faces indictment for keeping classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after leaving office, news has broken that classified documents from the President Joe Biden’s time as vice president were traced to college. from the Pennsylvania center set up for Biden while he was away and at his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

There were 10 classified documents at the Penn Biden Center, including “Obama-era intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics including Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom,” it said. reported CNN, citing a source familiar with the matter. The White House said in a statement Monday that Biden’s personal attorneys discovered the documents in a locked closet there in November 2022. They then searched other locations and found a “small number” of additional classified documents in a storage space at Biden’s residence in Wilmington, by another statement from the White House Thursday.

Unlike Trump, who has refused repeated government requests to return his own set of larger documents, Biden’s team returned them to the government without being asked. But that still leaves the question of how and why they got there in the first place.

Attorney General Merrick Garland initially assigned John Lausch, a Chicago-based U.S. attorney — and a Trump appointee — to further investigate the Biden case. Then, on Thursday, Garland announced that Lausch had advised further investigation by a special counsel and that he had appointed Robert K. Hur to that position. Hur was appointed by Trump to serve as U.S. Attorney for Maryland and returned to private practice with the firm of Gibson Dunn after Biden took office.

In theory, this investigation should take place entirely separately from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the Mar-a-Lago documents. Practically, however, politics can interfere. For months, reporters covering the Trump investigation have reported skepticism within the FBI about whether Trump’s behavior warrants indictment. This news adds pressure to ensure that any case the DOJ brings against Trump is truly bulletproof.

The Biden documents investigation, briefly explained

Shortly after Trump took office in 2017, the University of Pennsylvania announced that former Vice President Joe Biden would lead “a new center focused primarily on diplomacy, foreign policy and national security” – the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. The center has secured offices in Washington, DC, near the Capitol and opened in 2018.

According to an intern interviewed by UPenn’s student newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, about 15 people worked there earlier this year, on issues such as writing speeches for Biden and helping him organize public conversations with d world leaders to be held on the Penn campus. The American Prospect also interviewed an intern, who said Biden had his own office but “never was there.” Longtime Biden aides (and current administration officials) Steve Ricchetti and Tony Blinken have run the center at various times. But Biden took time off from the center once he announced his presidential campaign in April 2019, and did not return.

Then, in November 2022, according to a statement by White House Counsel Richard Sauber, Biden’s personal attorneys were preparing to leave the center’s offices, when they found “what appear to be Obama-Biden administrative records” in a locked closet, “including a small number of documents with marks classified”. According to Sauber, Biden’s team informed the National Archives of the discovery the same day and returned the documents the next morning.

As for the documents, a source told CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Marshall Cohen and Evan Perez that there were 10 documents with dates between 2013 and 2016, and that they included “US intelligence memos and Briefing materials that covered topics including Ukraine, Iran and the U.K. Personal Biden family papers dealing with issues such as Beau Biden’s funeral were also in those boxes, the source said. from CNN, and some were in “an envelope with markings indicating they were the former vice president’s personal papers.”

Biden’s team then researched “other places where files from his office as vice president might have been sent during the 2017 transition,” per another statement from Sauber, and found “a small number” of additional documents at Biden’s residence in Wilmington, Delaware. Most of them were in a storage space in the garage, and one page contained materials stored in an adjacent room, the statement said.

So at this point, there are a variety of possible explanations, from benign to less benign, depending on what exactly the documents are, how they got there, and evidence of Biden’s personal involvement. But early reports of the Penn Biden Center documents suggest they deal with intelligence about politically sensitive countries.

Biden said on Tuesday that he was “surprised to learn that there were government documents that had been brought there” and that he didn’t know what they were. But Garland in November asked US Attorney Lausch to investigate further. Lausch was a Trump appointee, but the two Democratic senators from Illinois had previously asked Biden to keep him as U.S. attorney so he could complete ongoing investigations. In a statement Thursday, Garland said that last week, Lausch informed him “that further investigation by special counsel was warranted.” Garland announced that Robert Hur would be that special counsel on Thursday.

News of this situation has only just become public, and so far there have been no reports indicating whether Justice Department investigators believe there may have been a violation of criminal law. . So at the moment we are still missing many facts about what happened and we only have speculation to go on for the most part..

The Trump Mar-a-Lago Documents Investigation, Briefly Explained

The controversy over the Trump documents, on the other hand, began when the National Archives realized, a few months after Trump left office, that various documents from his administration that should be archived under the Presidential Archives Act were missing. A long back-and-forth ensued: Trump eventually returned boxes containing classified material, the Archives thought he was still holding some and asked the FBI to get involved, and Trump appeared to defy a subpoena. to appear from the grand jury to hand over the documents.

So in August, the FBI obtained a warrant to search Mar-a-Lago, and they found dozens of other documents with classified marks there, prosecutors said. We still don’t know exactly what was in those documents – it’s a bit of a problem to publicly assess the strength of cases like this, as the information remains classified.

But the Washington Post reported that some of the documents contained “highly sensitive information regarding Iran and China,” including a description of Iran’s missile programs, and prosecutors expressed concern that the information could expose jeopardize human intelligence sources.

Still, reports suggest that DOJ prosecutors and FBI agents working on this investigation don’t entirely agree on the strength of the case.

According to a Washington Post report in December, the FBI was initially unsure whether they wanted to take up the case, and some officers “weren’t sure” they had probable cause for the search. And in October, Bloomberg News reported that some “internal critics” of the FBI questioned why Trump would be charged when Hillary Clinton was not participating in her own investigation of classified information. (Clinton had classified information in chain letters sent to her personal email account she had used for work; Trump had paper documents in boxes at Mar-a-Lago.)

Furthermore, another Washington Post article suggests that the most disturbing and speculative theories about Trump’s motives for keeping classified documents were unfounded, in the eyes of investigators. They came to believe, instead, that his motive was “largely his ego and a desire to keep the materials as trophies or keepsakes”.

That wouldn’t get him off the hook for violating the Classified Information Act, but it’s certainly a less clear-cut threat to national security than, say, the attempted sale of documents would be.

The differences between the two cases so far

There is a fundamental similarity here in that classified documents were found at both the Penn Biden Center and Mar-a-Lago. There are also many differences, as well as other issues where we lack sufficient information to know what is similar and different:

  • There were allegedly 10 documents with classified marks at the Penn Biden Center and a “small number” at Biden’s residence in Wilmington; over 300 were at Mar-a-Lago.
  • Some of Mar-a-Lago’s documents were reportedly highly sensitive, involving intelligence about Iran and China. Some of the Biden Center documents were intelligence briefing documents regarding politically sensitive countries like Iran and Ukraine.
  • Biden’s team says they returned the documents as soon as they discovered them, offering them to the National Archives without being asked. Trump, when asked by the Archives to return missing documents, returned some but fought hard against returning others, including ordering that some boxes be moved to hide them from visiting government officials.
  • Trump insisted that the classified documents be kept at Mar-a-Lago. Biden’s level of involvement in keeping the documents is unclear, but they were reportedly found among other personal documents.
  • Investigators believe Trump’s motive for keeping the documents was his “ego,” while it’s still unclear how the Biden Center documents got there.

Prosecutors will assess all of these topics to determine whether to bring charges. But politics will also be difficult to avoid. There were already internal skeptics of the Trump case before the Biden news broke, and they were already going to have powerful allies equipped with subpoenas in the GOP-led House of Representatives. Now they will surely be more active in criticizing any perceived double standards – and Garland and Smith may well think even more before indicting Trump.

Update, January 12, 1:45 p.m. ET: This story was originally published on January 10 and has been updated to include the White House disclosure on Thursday that additional documents were found at Biden’s residence in Wilmington and Robert Hur’s appointment as attorney. special.

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