About Those Documents…

Given the controversy surrounding the discovery of retained classified documents at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago residence, you’d think that when Joe Biden people discovered documents at his former office in November last year that they’d have done everything to ensure their response would be impeccable.

You’d think.

Apparently, that’s not the case, and Biden has now handed the Republicans even more toys to play with. It turns out that there wasn’t just one set of documents, or even two, as a third document has now been discovered. The first batch came from his University of Pennsylvania office, the second and third from his Wilmington, Deleware home. The problem is, it took them 48 days after the first discovery to either look for or report finding the 2nd one, and another 23 days for the third. While nothing about the delays appears to be potentially criminal, it doesn’t look good.

According to Business Insider, the following timeline was presented by Attorney General Merrit Garland during a Thursday morning press conference, where he also introduced former US Attorney Robert K. Hur as the Special Council who will look into the situation.

  • November 4: NARA tells the Justice Department that the first batch of classified papers was found at the Penn Biden Center, and that the documents have been secured.
  • November 9: The FBI begins an assessment to determine whether any laws were broken.
  • November 14: Garland asks US Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. to conduct an initial investigation.
  • December 20: Biden’s personal counsel tells Lausch that an additional batch of documents was discovered in the garage of Biden’s residence, in Delaware.
  • January 5: Lausch recommends that Garland appoint a special counsel.
  • January 12 (morning): Biden’s personal counsel informs Lausch that an additional classified document was found at Biden’s residence. According to a statement from the White House, “one page was discovered among stored materials in an adjacent room.”
  • January 12 (afternoon): Garland holds a press conference and announces the appointment of Hur as special counsel.

The appointment of a Special Counsel should help placate the Republicans who have been calling for one (though it appears that hiring one may have been in the planning before the news of the discoveries broke ) but maybe the bigger bomb they’re trying to throw is that the documents were known about a few days before the 2020 election was held, but the discoveries weren’t announced at that time. This, they contend, might have changed the outcome of the election. Personally, I doubt it would have made much difference. By the time of the elections, all that was knowns was that some small number of documents had been found and had been secured. Compared to the swiftly growing scandal over the trump situation with hundreds of missing documents, an FBI searches, and unreliable statements from trump’s lawyers, it likely would not have changed many minds.

Despite the disappointing news of both the discovery of the documents and the delays in announcing that they had been found, it should be remembered that there are very significant differences between trump’s situation and Biden’s. As the article notes:

The new timeline does not indicate that Biden’s attorneys failed to cooperate or that they failed to turn over all the classified records after discovering them, actions that can increase the chances of being prosecuted. They only raise questions about how long that process took, and why.

One of Trump’s attorneys, by contrast, signed a written statement indicating that the former president had returned all classified material from a storage area at Mar-a-Lago when in fact, he had not. That statement is part of an ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Jack Smith not only for mishandling classified information but for obstructing justice and for his actions on January 6, 2021. Other facets of Trump’s response to the Mar-a-Lago search include denigrating the FBI, questioning the Justice Department’s authority, and implying that violence would follow if he were indicted.

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