“Not helpful at all” – the document affair becomes ballast for Biden

Washington US President Joe Biden actually wanted to celebrate a success on Thursday. The White House made a short speech about the falling inflation figures, in which Biden raved about the state of the US economy: “We Americans can do anything,” he said. But the latest twists in the secret documents affair overshadow his presidency.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland has hired a special counsel to investigate the finding of government documents in Biden’s home from his time as US Vice President. This is a delicate and unusual process for a President in office.

The documents affair was “not helpful at all” for Biden’s presidency, Biden biographer Chris Whipple told the Handelsblatt. Next week, the journalist will publish the first major book on Biden’s tenure so far.

Whipple emphasized that one cannot compare the Biden case with the masses of secret documents discovered by ex-President Donald Trump. “Nevertheless, the process is a political problem.” US government officials are required to turn over confidential and classified records to the National Archives after leaving the job.

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Only on Monday did it become known that the Penn Biden Center think tank in the capital Washington had kept secret documents from Biden’s time as US Vice President. Biden stressed that he knew nothing about it and was “surprised” by the finds. Employees eventually searched other locations for government documents – and came across another tranche in Biden’s private home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Merrick Garland

The US Attorney General appointed an independent special prosecutor.

(Photo: AP)

According to Whipple, “an innocent mistake, a mishap” is conceivable. The documents could have been “accidentally” kept by employees “to use for Biden’s memoirs or whatever.” But recent developments would at least challenge that narrative. “When you find classified documents in someone’s garage, it becomes harder to believe that person didn’t know about it,” Whipple said.

“My Corvette is in a locked garage, okay?”

At the moment, the President is appearing self-confident. The second batch of documents had been kept in Biden’s garage, one paper was stored in his personal library. “Secret materials next to your Corvette? What were you thinking?” Fox News journalist Peter Doocey asked the president Thursday. Biden is known for his love of cars, including owning a Chevrolet Corvette, a sports car.

Biden paused for a moment. “Soon,” he declared, he would “speak about all of this in detail.” Then he said, “My Corvette’s in a locked garage, okay? So it’s not like she’s parking out on the street.” His team did “the right thing” and immediately informed the National Archives and the Ministry of Justice. Biden’s statement was repeated in the US media on Thursday.

The found documents have a political taste. Because the documents in the think tank were discovered in early November 2022, just six days before the important congressional elections. Biden’s lawyers only admitted the discovery this week after US media reported on it. The new Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, accused Biden of a cover-up. “He knew about this incident as he walked into Election Day. He knew about it and said nothing. This is exactly what causes America not to trust its government.”

>> Read here: US inflation falls to its lowest level since autumn 2021 – hope for a somewhat more relaxed interest rate policy

In fact, only fragmentary information about the process is made public. So far, it is unclear who could have had access to the documents. Many of Biden’s confidants were involved in the work of the Penn Biden Center. The center’s inaugural event in 2018 was attended by Amy Gutmann, who was President of the University of Pennsylvania at the time. Gutmann is now the US Ambassador to Germany.

According to the Washington Post, the classified documents at the think tank were apparently mixed with other personal documents, including planning papers for the funeral of Beau Biden, his son who died in 2015.

Biden is considering running again

The affair could keep Biden busy for a while, because the work of the newly appointed special counsel Robert Hur is likely to take months. During the Trump presidency, Hur served as a US Attorney in Maryland, prosecuting dozens of cases of financial fraud and corruption during his career. Biden is considering running for the 2024 presidential election and says he wants to announce a decision in February.

In the case of Trump’s documents affair, investigators are examining possible charges of obstruction of justice or destruction of files and possible misuse of government secrets. No such allegation has been made in the Biden case. Trump had resisted authorities’ requests to return the entire stash of classified documents. FBI agents seized 33 boxes of classified government papers in a raid at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in August.

Robert Hur

The lawyer was appointed special counsel in the case of the Biden affair.

(Photo: dpa)

Republicans are now accusing Biden and Democrats of using double standards. McCarthy criticized why the authorities did not publish photos of the search – in contrast to the raid on Trump. In the House of Representatives, the Republicans with their new majority want to push Biden ahead of them with a multitude of investigations. The document affair should soon be one of them.

The US Senate also wants to deal with it. “We need to know if national security has been compromised and if the documents could have ended up in the hands of foreign adversaries,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted. But Biden’s party is also pushing for clarification. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for more information from the White House.

Memories of Hillary Clinton are awakened

According to Biden biographer Chris Whipple, the “reluctant communication” from those around Biden is an additional problem. “I think the White House should have been more transparent from the start and not dodged every question,” he said.

The handling of sensitive government material has been the subject of heated political debates since 2016 at the latest. At that time, in the middle of the election campaign, the Justice Department launched an investigation into Hillary Clinton, who, when Secretary of State, had used a private email server for government communications. A little later, Donald Trump won the election.

Biden was optimistic on Thursday that he would survive the crisis. “We’ll see how this all plays out,” he said. “I am confident.”

More: Secret documents put Biden in trouble

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