It’s a family affair.
How many classified documents? More than has been reported.
Here’s the key quote from Biden’s attorney:
DOJ had full access to the President’s home, including personally handwritten notes, files, papers, binders, memorabilia, to-do lists, schedules and reminders going back decades. DOJ took possession of materials it deemed within the scope of its inquiry, including six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials, some of which were from the President’s service in the Senate and some of which were from his tenure as Vice President. DOJ also took for further review personally handwritten notes from the vice-presidential years.
There’s a phrase in there that deserves your undivided attention: “DOJ took possession of materials it deemed within the scope of its inquiry, including six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials.”
Read that slowly and carefully, then read it again. The DOJ took materials that included “six items consisting of documents with classified markings and surrounding materials.” Those aren’t six classified documents – they’re six items with classified documents and “surrounding materials.”
What type of “item” has classified documents? Here’s a guess: boxes or folders. This leaves the potential that the DOJ seized hundreds, if not thousands, of pages from Biden. It also leaves us with more questions that deserve answers, such as:
- The DOJ took possession of materials that included “six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials.” From my reading, this means that the DOJ took other documents not included in the statement. What else did they take?
- How many of those pages were marked classified?
- From where did Biden take the classified documents during his time in the Senate?
- What are the subject matters of the documents, and what are their levels of classification?
- Where is the DOJ’s damage assessment?
- And what, exactly, is the meaning of “surrounding materials”?
As an aside, and to the importance of dissecting words and phrases, that statement reminds us of the most – if not the most – egregious examples of “lawyer speak,” which came from President Bill Clinton’s personal lawyer, David Kendall, in February 1999. During that time, Juanita Broaddrick had accused Bill Clinton of raping her in 1978. After those allegations were made public, Kendall issued this statement:
“Any allegation that the President assaulted Mrs Broaddrick more than twenty years ago is absolutely false. Beyond that, we’re not going to go.”
As the late Christopher Hitchens observed, that statement was no denial and deserved further analysis because of what it didn’t say:
“Of course the statement is open to Clintonian paring. Any allegation? Oh, you mean this allegation? In 1978 the President was Jimmy Carter, who certainly didn’t ‘assault’ any woman that year. And in 1978, Juanita was Mrs. Hickey. So – did Bill Clinton rape Mrs. Hickey that year? That question, under White House rules of evidence, has not even been posed yet.”
Back to the yesterday’s statement from Biden’s personal lawyer. Based on his representations, the DOJ and Biden’s team engaged in negotiations over the necessity of a search of Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home. This took taken place after Biden’s lawyers previously found classified documents in his home, which occurred on or about December 20, 2022. The DOJ/Biden agreement “was negotiated by John R. Lausch, a federal prosecutor picked to lead the initial inquiry last year.” (Special Counsel Robert Hur hasn’t officially taken over and thus wasn’t involved.) Team Biden really wanted to get ahead of things.
We can also assume that Biden’s lawyers hoped their own search of Biden’s home would convince the DOJ that a search of his home was not necessary. Or, at the very minimum, that the DOJ would view them as cooperative and opt against a search warrant, agreeing to a search negotiated by the parties. Either way, Biden was able to avoid the issuance of a search warrant, despite the obvious inadequacies of his team’s prior search.
As those DOJ/Biden negotiations went on, we can’t help but notice that Biden returned to the scene of the crime. The DOJ’s one month delay in searching Biden’s home – they were notified of the classified documents on December 20, 2022 – demonstrates their lack of urgency. They could have moved quick but they chose not to. To that we offer another question, this one more rhetorical: what does the delay say about how this investigation will end?
One has to assume Biden’s Delaware vacation home should be next on the Special Counsel’s list. Should, not is. After all, the thoroughness of the previous search by Biden’s personal attorneys of his Wilmington, Delaware home was seriously lacking, given yesterdays findings by the DOJ. Certainly Special Counsel Hur will want to make sure Biden has no other classified documents. Right?
Another area that needs further development has to do with the representations made by Biden’s lawyers to the DOJ. What did they say about the thoroughness of their searches? We assume they said something about this, as the DOJ made the decision not to have FBI agents monitor the searches. In other words, did Biden’s lawyers make any statements that are now dubious or outright false?
We’ve discussed pragmatics and how that could impact this investigation. We’ve asked whether Special Counsel Hur, an ally of Chris Wray and Rod Rosenstein, wants to take down President Biden for taking these materials years ago. Underlying that point is that in the grand scheme of things, Biden’s actions with classified documents aren’t the biggest problems we have to worry about.
That’s something Republicans should remember. Hit Biden hard on this issue, but keep in mind that the documents he took while in the Senate won’t affect our lives. His spending does. His storage of classified materials in his garage doesn’t impact working families. But Biden’s immigration and inflationary policies do. Americans are in economic pain and all signs point to a coming recession (if not a current recession). And that will be the priority of the American voter.
With that being said, these latest developments certainly undercut Biden’s anticipated defense that the documents were moved to his home and Penn Biden Center office (a place funded by millions of Chinese dollars) without his knowledge. It’s essential that Republicans put pressure on the newly-appointed Special Counsel to get Biden’s testimony under oath. Written questions and answers aren’t good enough.
Republicans must also be mindful that the DOJ and FBI have previously protected Hunter Biden, undermining reporting as “misinformation”, closing avenues of investigation, arguing against charging Hunter for violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, and suggesting potential Hunter Biden charges wouldn’t be appropriate before the 2022 midterms. The beneficiary of those FBI/DOJ acts was Joe Biden. How many of these same officials were working or overseeing the Biden classified documents case? Get their communications. Get them under oath. Get the full story.
Finally, here’s our updated timeline of the Biden classified materials story:
November 2, 2022: Biden’s lawyers discover “classified documents in what the White House has described as a locked closet for an office Mr. Biden had used at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a think tank in Washington.” The attorneys report this to the White House Counsel’s office, who notifies the National Archives.
November 3, 2022: According to Richard Sauber, Special Counsel to President Biden, the National Archives takes possession of the classified materials on November 3, 2022.
November 4, 2022: The National Archives contacts a DOJ prosecutor, notifying him that the White House had informed “the Archives that documents bearing classification markings were identified at the office of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, located in Washington, D.C. That office was not authorized for storage of classified documents. The prosecutor was also advised that those documents had been secured in an Archives facility.” (Remarks from AG Garland, January 12, 2023.)
November 9, 2022: the FBI starts an initial assessment “to understand whether classified information had been mishandled in violation of federal law.” (Remarks from AG Garland, January 12, 2023.)
November 10, 2022: The DOJ informs “Biden’s legal team that it had begun a preliminary inquiry into what happened.”
November 14, 2022: AG Garland assigns US Attorney John Lausch “to conduct an initial investigation to inform my decision whether to appoint a Special Counsel.” (Remarks from AG Garland, January 12, 2023.)
Mid-November, 2022: As reported by The Washington Post, DOJ NSD Official writes a letter to Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, asking for other locations which might have stored materials and asking they refrain from reviewing other relevant documents.
December 20, 2022: “President Biden’s personal counsel informed Mr. Lausch that additional documents bearing classification markings were identified in the garage of the President’s private residence in Wilmington, Delaware.” (Remarks from AG Garland, January 12, 2023.)
Sometime on or after December 20, 2022: The FBI goes to Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware residence and secures the classified documents. (Remarks from AG Garland, January 12, 2023: “The FBI went to the location and secured those documents.”)
January 4, 2023: Biden’s executive assistant, Kathy Chung, was interviewed by Lausch’s investigative team. She maintains she had “no connection” to the records sent to Biden’s home.
January 5, 2023: Lausch briefs AG Garland on the “results of his initial investigation” and recommends appointing a Special Counsel. (Remarks from AG Garland, January 12, 2023.)
January 5 – January 11, 2023: The DOJ identifies Robert Hur for appointment as Special Counsel. (Remarks from AG Garland, January 12, 2023.)
January 9, 2023: CBS News reports on classified documents found at the Penn Biden Center.
January 10, 2023: Biden says he’s “surprised” classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center.
January 11, 2023: Biden’s personal attorneys continue their search at Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home. On this day, or soon thereafter, they searched Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where they reportedly found no classified records.
January 11, 2023: NBC News reports on “at least one additional batch of classified documents” found at another location.
January 12, 2023: Biden’s personal counsel calls Lausch, informing him they found additional classified documents. (Remarks from AG Garland, January 12, 2023.)
Sometime during this time frame – November 2, 2022 through the present – the DOJ decided not have FBI agents monitor searches.
January 12, 2023: Biden’s personal counsel Richard Sauber releases the statement on the documents found at Biden’s residence.
January 12, 2023: Attorney General Garland appoints Robert Hur as Special Counsel.
December 20, 2022 – January 20, 2023: Biden’s lawyers negotiate the search terms of Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home with Chicago US Attorney John Lausch.
January 20, 2023: The FBI conducts a 13-hour search of Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home. According to a statement from the DOJ: “The F.B.I. on Friday executed a planned, consensual search of the president’s residence in Wilmington.”
January 21, 2023: Biden’s lawyers issue statement on the search of Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home.