Every president probably stashes away classified documents. The chances of any president being successfully prosecuted for pilfering them are infinitesimal. Nevertheless, Joe Biden has engaged in the same behavior as Donald Trump – perhaps worse, since vice presidents are unable to declassify documents – and precedent and transparency, our very democracy, demanded that Attorney General Merrick Garland name a special counsel to investigate.
Right now, none of the rationalizations offered by the media for Biden’s actions over the past few days work anymore. When the story first broke, outlets stressed that one of the vital “distinctions” between the two incidents was that Biden was in possession of fewer documents than Trump. Biden aides, we learned, had been utterly shocked to discover only a “small number” of classified documents “locked” in the personal offices of the president’s “think tank” – as if the location or the number of documents, or the alleged lock, rather than the contents, were the most newsworthy aspect of the story.
Soon we learned that a second “batch” of classified documents was uncovered at an “undisclosed” location. Biden aides, we are told, began diligently rummaging through boxes to ensure they were in complete compliance with the law. NBC News reported that “the search was described as exhaustive, with the goal of getting a full accounting of all classified documents that may have inadvertently been packed in boxes when Biden cleared out of the vice president’s office space in January 2017.” It’s heartening to know that the Bidens are such diligent, law-abiding folk.
Yesterday, we were told that classified documents that are found in a serious office setting, rather than just “lying around” in a home, was an important difference between the two cases. Today, Biden’s lawyer says that “small number” of classified documents was also found “locked” in Biden’s garage and an “adjacent” room of his Wilmington, Delaware, home. (Don’t worry, the president assures us it was safely stored next to his beloved Corvette.) You know, if we find another “small number” of documents, we might just have ourselves a full cache.
No doubt, journalists are super curious to know how those classified documents got into Joe’s garage. I mean, the guy had a think tank office at his disposal in D.C. Moreover, the initial documents were alleged to have been discovered before midterms, and yet we’re only hearing about new ones months later – and in convenient dribs and drabs.
Soon after CBS’ initial story, a four-byline puff piece from CNN reported that the documents found in the think tank were related to Ukraine, Iran and the U.K., so not just keepsakes and letters and such. This week, we also learned, in another soft-peddled report by The New York Times, that Biden, despite his insistence that he knew nothing about his son Hunter’s foreign entanglements, had met with a liaison from the Ukrainian energy interest Burisma, among many other revelations. Recall, Obama officials had also raised concerns about the Biden family business. Is there any chance those Ukrainian documents would have been embarrassing to the president? Seems a reasonable question.
What’s important now, we’re going to be instructed, is that Biden “immediately” contacted the authorities and is fully “cooperating.” Is it possible, and I’m just theorizing here, that Biden and his aides are lying? For one thing, cooperating is fine, but it’s not everything. Trump has every right to hire a lawyer and fight the Archives over documents. Maybe he’s got a case, maybe he doesn’t. But perhaps Biden simply picked an opportune time to cooperate with his own administration to avoid any transparency. Far from “immediately” handing over this material, the president’s been in possession of classified documents for nearly seven years. How does the Justice Department know there aren’t more documents stashed away? How does it know Biden, like Trump, didn’t put them in his garage on purpose? Because he says so?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s entertaining watching the comically obvious attempts to mitigate the damage. But if Biden hasn’t done anything wrong, he has absolutely nothing to fear. Isn’t that how it works?