Amid the uproar over his handling of classified documents Joe Biden has persistently dodged questions whether he regretted not being forthcoming on the matter sooner. “We are fully cooperating, looking forward to getting this resolved quickly. I have no regrets,” was all that POTUS offered reporters on January 19.
President Joe Biden and a handful of close advisers deliberately concealed the discovery of the first batch of classified documents dating to his time as vice president on November 2, 2022, from the public for 68 days, according to a US report.
After the cache of sensitive papers was found hoarded in Biden’s former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement think tank in Washington just before the US midterm elections, the Biden team allegedly hoped they could dodge any political fallout. By handing over the documents quietly to officials at the National Archives and Records Administration, they hoped to sweep the incident under the rug and not have to come clean about it to the public.
A very narrow circle of people was initially involved in all discussions on the matter, according to sources cited by the outlet. Besides the 80-year-old president, the group purportedly included Bob Bauer, the president’s top personal lawyer, Anita Dunn, Biden’s senior adviser and Bauer’s wife, White House counsel Stuart Delery, and Richard Sauber, a White House lawyer overseeing response to investigations.
At no point did the “crack team” dealing with the potential mishandling of classified documents seriously consider “preemptively” going public with the damaging discoveries.
Gamble That Backfired
A careful strategy had been crafted by Biden’s inner circle from the moment when his lawyers stumbled upon classified documents when clearing out a former office of the Democrat at the Washington think tank with the University of Pennsylvania back in November. The files dating to Biden’s tenure as vice president under Barack Obama and reportedly including intelligence reports relating to Ukraine, Iran and the UK, dated between 2013 and 2016, 2022, were turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration.
As we now know from statements made by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who appointed former DoJ official Robert Hur as special counsel in the Biden documents case, the Archives alerted the Justice Department of the discovery made at the Penn Biden Center on November 4. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began an “assessment” of whether the sensitive documents had been “mishandled” five days later. On November 10, the president’s legal team made contact on the matter with their counterparts at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).
The Biden team reportedly justified their decision to avoid public disclosure by arguing that coming across classified documents after an individual had long left office was not unusual. Going public, they argued at the time, would only result in unwanted political scrutiny, the report stated. Instead, their goal, according to insiders, was to win the trust of Justice Department investigators. Hoping to deflect any unpleasant legal fallout, the Biden team was ostensibly eager to show that, unlike the case with Donald Trump and classified docs found at Mar-a-Lago, they were cooperating fully.
Weighing in on the fact that It took such a long time to finally carry out a search at Joe Biden’s homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach after the documents surfaced at the Penn Biden Center, the report implied that the “strategists” believed there was no urgency and nothing else marked “classified” would be found.
After US Attorney General Merrick Garland designated John Lausch, the US attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, to lead the probe into the discoveries in November 2022, the president’s advisers were in “regular contact” with the Justice Department, according to Bob Bauer. In mid-November, a senior Justice Department official was described as telling the Biden team they needed to search other locations where similar documents might be found.
Obviously, the hope that the discoveries would be limited to those at the think tank flew out the window when on December 20 more classified documents were unearthed in the garage of Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware. Furthermore, later, a third batch of docs bearing classified markings was discovered on January 11 at Joe Biden’s “personal library” at his residence in Wilmington.
Just how well the public relations strategy adhered to by the Biden team worked became evident after a US outlet reported on the November find on January 9, thus forcing their hand. Accordingly, Sauber made a statement, saying:
“The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives. Since that discovery, the president’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives.”
Thus, it was only on January 9, 2023, that the White House publicly acknowledged the discovery of the classified documents, adding that it was cooperating with investigators. Eventually, on January 12, AG Garland appointed Robert Hur, the former US attorney for the district of Maryland, as special counsel.
Amid the ensuing hue and cry, Joe Biden’s team has been accused of a cover-up by the Republicans, who condemned the president for being a hypocrite as he earlier slammed former US President Donald Trump for storing classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, has been fending off an avalanche of questions from reporters. Biden himself has deflected probing by the press, only saying:
“I have no regrets. I’m following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. That’s exactly what we’re doing. There’s no there, there.”
The outcome of the investigation by the special counsel into the potential mishandling of classified documents by Joe Biden may finally show whether his inner circle’s option to keep silent for so long paid off.