The revelation that classified materials were discovered in the offices of a think tank formerly used by the president Joe Bidenas well as at home Delawarehas raised questions about how the circumstances compare with last year’s seizure of hundreds of documents marked as classified Mar-a-Lagoresidence in Florida of the former president Donald Trump.
the attorney general Merrick Garland appointed a special attorney on Thursday to investigate the matter.
Here’s a side-by-side look at the similarities and differences between the two situations:
How many classified documents are we talking about?
In the case of Bidenit is unclear precisely how many classified materials have been obtained from the president’s office and home. Richard Sauberspecial adviser to the president, said Monday that “a small number of documents with classified marks” were discovered on November 2, 2022, in a locked cabinet at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagementa group of experts in Washingtonwhile Biden’s personal lawyers cleaned the offices.
Biden maintained an office in the Penn Center after leaving the vice presidency in 2017 until before launching his 2020 presidential campaign. He was affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and it continued to operate independently of the Biden administration.
Thursday, Sauber said a second batch of documents with classified markings, a “small number,” he said, had been found in a storage space in Biden’s garage near Wilmington, Delaware, with a document located in Biden’s personal library at his home. . On Saturday, Sauber said a total of six pages of classified documents were found earlier in the week during a search of Biden’s home and turned over to law enforcement officials. Justice Department.
In the case of Trumpapproximately 300 documents with classification marks, including some at the top secret level, have been recovered since he left office in January 2021.
In January 2022, the National Archives and Records Administration recovered 15 boxes of documents and told D officialsDepartment of Justice containing “a lot” of classified material. In August, the agents of the FBI Some 33 boxes and containers of 11,000 Mar-a-Lago documents were taken, including about 100 with classification marks found in a storage room and an office.
How quickly were the classified documents delivered?
In the situation of BidenAfter the materials were discovered in the think tank, the president’s personal attorneys immediately alerted the attorney’s office for the White Housewhich notified the National Archives, which took over the documents the next day, Sauber said.
“Since that discovery, the President’s personal lawyers have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are properly in the Archives’ possession,” Sauber said in a statement.
Sauber said this week that part of that cooperation included Biden’s personal lawyers looking into other places where records might have been sent after Biden left the vice presidency in 2017. That search wrapped up Wednesday night, Biden told reporters. reporters at the White House on Thursday, though he said he did not say when the second batch of documents was found.
But Sauber revealed on Saturday that he traveled to Biden’s home near Wilmington on Thursday and recovered a total of six pages of classified documents.
He made the trip after the president’s personal attorneys discovered a classified-marked document consisting of one page in a room adjacent to the garage the night before. The president’s personal lawyers, who do not have active security clearances, called off their search after finding the document.
Sauber, who has security clearance, later found the additional classified pages. Sauber said that the Justice Department he was “immediately notified” after the documents were found at Biden’s home and the department’s lawyers took custody of the records.
On Wednesday, the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, evaded questions about Biden’s handling of classified information and the West Wing’s handling of discovery. She said the White House was committed to handling the matter in the “right way,” pointing to immediate notification of the National Archives by Biden’s personal attorneys.
In the case of Trump, a representative told the National Archives in December 2021 that presidential records had been found at Mar-a-Lago, nearly a year after Trump left office. Fifteen boxes of records containing classified material were transferred from Mar-Lago to the archives in January.
A few months later, researchers from the Justice Department and the FBI visited Mar-a-Lago to learn more about classified materials brought into Florida. Federal officials also served a subpoena for some documents believed to be in the estate.
In August 2022, FBI agents conducting a search recovered 33 boxes from Mar-a-Lago. The search came after Trump’s lawyers provided sworn certification that all government records had been returned.
Also read: Special prosecutor appointed for Biden files
Could the president face charges for the discovery of the documents?
In the case of BidenDespite the discovery of classified materials, there is no indication that the president himself was aware of the existence of the records before they were released.
The administration has also said the records were turned over quickly, with no intent to hide them. That is important because the Justice Department it historically looks for willfulness, or the intent to mishandle government secrets, when deciding whether to press criminal charges.
But even if the Justice Department were to find the case prosecutable on the basis of the evidence, the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel has concluded that a president is immune from prosecution during his time in office. The former special counsel Robert Mueller cited that guidance in deciding not to reach a conclusion on whether Trump should face charges as part of his investigation into coordination between the campaign of Trump of 2016 and Russia.
On Thursday, the attorney general Merrick Garland appointed a special attorney to investigate. Robert Howthe former federal attorney appointed by Trump in Maryland, will lead the investigation. He will replace the Justice Department’s top prosecutor in Chicago, John Lauschwho recommended to Garland last week that special counsel be appointed.
Former President Trump is likely to face obstruction exposure in the protracted battle to recover the documents. And, since he is no longer in office, he would not have the protection from possible prosecution that would apply to a sitting president.
In November, Garland named Jack Smitha veteran war crimes prosecutor with experience in public corruption investigations, to lead investigations into Trump’s withholding of classified documents, as well as key aspects of a separate investigation involving the January 6, 2021 insurrection and efforts to undo the 2020 election.
What did the leaders say about the discovery of the files?
Responding to journalists’ questions on the North American Leaders Summit in Mexico on Tuesday, Biden he said he was “surprised to learn” that documents had been found in his think tank. He stated that he did not know what was in the material, but he takes classified documents “very seriously.”
He said his team acted appropriately by promptly delivering the documents. “They did what they should have done,” Biden said. “They immediately called the Archives.”
On Thursday, Biden told reporters at the White House that he is “fully and completely cooperating” with a Justice Department investigation into how classified information and government records are stored.
As vice president, Biden would have had the power to declassify some documents, although he has not said he declassified those found in the offices of his think tank or at his Delaware home.
In September, discussing the situation with Trump, Biden He told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that the discovery of top-secret documents at Mar-a-Lago raised concerns that sensitive data was compromised, calling it “irresponsible.”
Trump, who when he was president in office had the ability to declassify documents, has at times claimed that he did so with respect to documents he took with him, although he has provided no evidence of this. He commented in an interview with Fox News in September that a president can declassify material “even thinking about it.”
The former president called the search for Mar-a-Lago an “unannounced raid” that was “neither necessary nor appropriate” and represented “dark times for our nation.”
Of Biden, Trump weighed in Monday on his social media site, asking, “When is the FBI going to raid Joe Biden’s many homes, maybe even the White House?”
What are the political implications?
The disclosure of documents, in the case of Bidencould intensify skepticism among Republicans and others who already say politics underpins the former president’s investigations.
There are also possible ramifications in a new Congress controlled by the Republican Partywhere conservatives vow to launch widespread investigations into the Biden administration.
On the latest news, the new speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, a representative from California, said: “I think Congress needs to look into this.” Contradicting several colleagues from his party, he added: “We don’t think a special prosecutor is necessary.”
The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, the Ohio representative Mike Turner, requested that intelligence agencies conduct a “damage assessment” of potentially classified documents.
Immediately after, Trump and his supporters took advantage of the search for Mar-a-Lago as a partisan attack by Democrats who had long wanted to remove him from office.
At his 2024 campaign launch in November, at the same club agents had searched months earlier, Trump referenced the investigations against him and portrayed himself as “a victim” of misguided prosecutors and law enforcement. “Washington Rot, Rot, and Corruption.”
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