6 min read

Biden’s documents snag

How the new revelation about Biden’s handling of classified docs compares with the Mar-a-Lago investigation.
Biden’s documents snag
(White House)

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, January 10, 2023. The 2024 elections are 665 days away.

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Classified documents found at Biden’s post-VP office

Roughly 10 classified documents were found late last year at President Biden’s post-vice presidential office and turned over to the National Archives, CBS News reported last night. White House lawyer Richard Sauber confirmed the report, as did several other news outlets.

The documents reportedly surfaced while Biden’s D.C. office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement — a University of Pennsylvania think tank he worked out of in between serving as vice president and president — was being packed up. Biden’s personal attorneys made the discovery on November 2; the National Archives was notified that day and took possession of the documents the following morning.

According to Sauber, the documents were being kept in a “locked closet” in the Penn Biden offices. CBS reported that they were found mixed in a folder that also contained unclassified material. Let’s answer some questions you might be wondering:

How has the Justice Department responded? Attorney General Merrick Garland has assigned John Lausch, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, to review the situation and determine whether further investigation — or a special counsel — is necessary.

Lausch is based out of Chicago, but he is one of only two Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys who remain in office. (The other, David Weiss in Delaware, is already leading the investigation into Hunter Biden, the president’s son.)

U.S. Attorney John Lausch being sworn in. (U.S. Attorney’s office)

How have congressional Republicans responded? Newly-minted House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer (R-KY) said the disclosure proved the existence of a “two-tier justice system” within the Justice Department. “Is the White House going to be raided tonight?” he asked rhetorically, noting the DOJ’s response to classified documents being found at former President Donald Trump’s residence. “Are they going to raid the Biden Center?”

House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) also noted that the documents were found days before the midterm elections, but are only being revealed now. “They knew about this a week before the election,” he told CNN. “Maybe the American people should have known about it.”

The revelation comes as House Republicans are preparing to launch an array of investigations into the Biden administration, including with a select subcommittee that will be created today to probe the DOJ and other Biden-led agencies. The Biden documents discovery could be added to the GOP’s long list of investigative targets.

How does this compare with the Trump documents probe? Despite Comer’s claims of “two-tier justice,” there are two major differences between this situation and the documents found at Mar-a-Lago:

  1. There were far fewer of them. When the Justice Department raided Mar-a-Lago last August, about 13,000 presidential documents were found there, totaling 21,792 pages. More than 100 of them were classified. So far, at least, only 10 official documents were found at Biden’s offices.  
  2. They were turned over immediately. The Mar-a-Lago search came only after the National Archives noticed major historical documents were left out of the troves handed over by the Trump team at the end of his presidency, and then engaged in a months-long back-and-forth with the Trump team, during which investigators felt more documents were still being kept. In this case, the handoff was initiated by Biden’s team, and occurred immediately once they were found.

Trump is not only being investigated for mishandling government documents, but for possible obstruction of justice that took place when he repeatedly refused to hand them over once asked, allegations that have not emerged in the Biden probe.

Former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. (Trump White House)

Still, the two situations raise broader questions about the process that takes place at the end of presidential administrations, when all government papers are supposed to be turned over to the National Archives.

“At the heart of it is, in both situations classified national security information went somewhere it shouldn’t have,” a source familiar with the probe noted to the Washington Post.

🚨 More news you should know

Climate. “Earth’s protective ozone layer is slowly but noticeably healing at a pace that would fully mend the hole over Antarctica in about 43 years, a new United Nations report says.” [AP]

Trump probes. “The Georgia grand jury conducting a criminal investigation into whether there were any ‘coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 election’ in the state by former President Donald Trump and his allies has completed its work, a judge said in a ruling issued Monday.” [NBC]

  • What’s next: The special grand jury, which was not empowered to issue indictments, has now dissolved. The jurors recommended that their report be made public; a hearing will be held on January 24 to decide whether it will be. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis would then have to impanel another grand jury if she wanted to seek any indictments.

Congress. The House passed its new rules package on Monday in a 220-212 vote, with only one member breaking party lines: Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), who voted “nay.” The package included Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s extensive concessions to conservatives, including the restoration of a rule that would allow one member to trigger a vote to oust the speaker at any time. [Politico]

  • Also: After its brief, biennial spell running its own cameras while the House was organizing itself — resulting in behind-the-scenes footage of several dramatic episodes during the speaker votes — C-SPAN’s congressional feed is being operated by the government once again.

🗓 What your leaders are doing today

All times Eastern.

Executive Branch

President Biden is in Mexico City, Mexico. He will meet with Canadian president Justin Trudeau, take a “family photo” with Trudeau and Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and then join Trudeau and López Obrador for the 10th North American Leaders’ Summit, often called the “Three Amigos Summit.”

Later tonight, Biden will return to Washington, D.C. [Watch the three North American leaders speak to the press at 4:45 p.m.]

First Lady Biden will have lunch with Mexican first lady Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller and Canadian first lady Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. The trio will then tour the Templo Mayor, an Aztec temple. Biden will return to Washington tonight with her husband.

Vice President Harris is in Washington, but has nothing on her public schedule.

Legislative Branch

The Senate is on recess until January 23. The chamber will briefly convene today for a pro forma session — to fulfill the constitutional obligation of meeting every three days — but no legislative business will be conducted. [Watch at 10 a.m.]

The House will vote on:

  • A resolution to create a Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.
  • A resolution to create a Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. The panel, which was one of the concessions granted to conservatives by Speaker McCarthy, will be organized under the Judiciary Committee.  

[Watch at 10 a.m.]

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor dispute in which the Supreme Court could overturn a decades-old precedent preventing employers from suing unions in state court over staging a federally protected strike. [Listen at 10 a.m.]

👋 Before I go...

Here’s some good news: Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was released from the hospital on Monday after suffering cardiac arrest and collapsing during an NFL game.

Last week, after Hamlin was hospitalized, I shared about a GoFundMe fundraiser he had started to establish a toy drive in his hometown. The fundraiser’s goal was $2,500. When I wrote last week, donations had soared above $5 million.

Now, over 200,000 donors have contributed more than $8.6 million to the fundraiser, offering a surge of support to Hamlin’s chosen cause as he makes his remarkable recovery. Here’s the link again if you want to donate.

👍 Thanks for reading.

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— Gabe