A side-by-side look at Trump, Biden classified documents

While approximately 300 documents have been recovered from the former president since he left office in January 2021, it is unclear how many classified materials have been obtained from the office and home of the US president. This combination of photos depicts former president Donald Trump and president Joe Biden. — AP file Former President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden are depicted in this collection of images. — By AP, published AP file: Sat, Jan. 14, 2023, 10:42 p.m. The discovery of classified materials at think tank offices used by President Joe Biden and at his Delaware home has raised questions about how the circumstances compare to the seizure of hundreds of classified documents from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home of Mar-a-Lago last year.

On Thursday, special counsel was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the situation.


An examination of the similarities and differences that exist between the two circumstances:

What number of classified documents are we discussing?

BIDEN: The precise number of classified materials taken from Biden’s home and office is unknown. “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered on Nov. 2, 2022, in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Centre for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a think tank in Washington, as Biden’s personal attorneys were clearing out the offices, according to Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president.

Advertisement From shortly before he launched his 2020 presidential campaign to shortly after he left the vice presidency in 2017, Biden maintained an office at the Penn Centre. It continued to function independently of the Biden administration, despite being associated with the University of Pennsylvania.

A “small number” of documents with classified markings had been discovered in a storage space in Biden’s garage near Wilmington, Delaware, according to Sauber on Thursday. One document was also found in Biden’s home’s personal library. According to Sauber’s statement on Saturday, six pages of classified documents were turned over to officials from the Justice Department earlier in the week following a search of Biden’s residence.

TRUMP: Since Trump left office in January 2021, approximately 300 documents with classification markings, some of which were at the top secret level, have been recovered from him.

The National Archives and Records Administration found 15 boxes of documents in January 2022 and informed officials at the Justice Department that they contained “a lot” of classified information. In August, approximately 33 boxes and containers containing 11,000 documents were taken from Mar-a-Lago by FBI agents. Of these, approximately 100 had classification markings and were located in an office and storage room.

What speed of turnaround were the classified documents?

BIDEN: According to Sauber, Biden’s personal attorneys immediately notified the White House counsel’s office, which in turn notified NARA, which took custody of the documents the following day.

In a statement, Sauber said, “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 records of the Obama-Biden Administration are appropriately in the possession of the Archives.”

This week, Sauber said that a part of that cooperation included Biden’s own lawyers looking into other places where records might have been sent after Biden left the vice presidency in 2017. Biden told reporters at the White House on Thursday that the search ended Wednesday night, but he didn’t say when the second set of documents were found.

But on Saturday, Sauber said that on Thursday, he went to Biden’s house near Wilmington and got six pages of classified documents.

He traveled there after Biden’s personal lawyers discovered a single page of a classified document in a room near the garage the previous evening. After finding the document, the president’s personal attorneys, who do not currently hold any active security clearances, halted their search.

The additional classified pages were subsequently discovered by Sauber, who does have a security clearance.

After the documents were discovered at Biden’s residence, according to Sauber, the Justice Department lawyers took custody of the records.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre evaded questions on Wednesday regarding the West Wing’s handling of the discovery and Biden’s handling of classified information. She cited Biden’s personal attorneys’ prompt notification of the National Archives as evidence that the White House was committed to handling the situation “correctly.”

TRUMP: In December 2021, nearly a year after Trump left office, a representative for the president informed NARA that presidential records had been discovered at Mar-a-Lago. In January, 15 boxes of records with some classified information were moved from Mar-Lago to NARA.

A few months later, FBI and Justice Department investigators went to Mar-a-Lago to learn more about the classified materials that were brought to Florida. Additionally, a subpoena was served on some documents believed to be at the estate by federal officials.

33 boxes were recovered from Mar-a-Lago by FBI agents conducting a search in August 2022. After Trump’s lawyers sworn that all government records had been returned, the search was conducted.

Could one of the presidents face charges related to the documents’ discovery?

BIDEN: Even though classified materials were found, there is no evidence that Biden was aware of their existence before they were turned over.

Additionally, the administration claims that the records were handed over quickly and without any intention of concealment. This is significant because, in the past, the Justice Department has considered whether to file criminal charges based on willfulness, or an intention to mishandle government secrets.

However, the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department has come to the conclusion that a president is immune from prosecution while in office, even if the Justice Department were to determine that the case could be prosecuted based on the evidence. In his decision not to conclude whether Trump should face charges as part of his investigation into coordination between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, former special counsel Robert Mueller cited that guidance.

A special counsel to conduct an investigation was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday. The investigation will be led by Robert Hur, the Maryland U.S. attorney who was previously appointed by Trump. He will succeed John Lausch, the top Chicago prosecutor for the Justice Department, who last week recommended that a special counsel be appointed.

TRUMP: The prolonged struggle to retrieve the documents may expose the former president for obstruction. Additionally, he would not be protected from prosecution like a sitting president because he is no longer in office.

Jack Smith, a veteran war crimes prosecutor with experience in public corruption investigations, was appointed in November to lead investigations into Trump’s retention of classified documents and key aspects of a separate investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

What had the presidents to say about the documents’ discovery?

BIDEN: Biden stated that he was “surprised to learn” that documents had been discovered at his think tank when he was responding to questions from journalists on Tuesday at the North American Leaders Summit in Mexico. He stated that while he takes classified documents “very seriously,” he had no idea what they contained.

He stated that his team acted appropriately by handing over the documents quickly.

Biden stated, “They did what they should have done.” The Archives were immediately contacted.

Biden told White House reporters on Thursday that he is “cooperating fully and completely” with a Justice Department investigation into the storage of classified information and government records.

Biden would have been able to declassify some documents if he had been vice president, but he hasn’t said whether he did so for the ones found in his offices at the think tank or at his home in Delaware.

Biden stated on CBS’ “60 Minutes” in September that the “irresponsible” discovery of top-secret documents at Mar-a-Lago raised concerns that sensitive data had been compromised.

TRUMP: Even though he hasn’t shown that he was able to declassify documents when he was president, Trump has claimed at times that he did so with regard to the documents he brought with him. In September, he stated in an interview with Fox News that a president can declassify information “even by thinking about it.”

The search at Mar-a-Lago was described by the former president as an “unannounced raid,” “not necessary or appropriate,” and “dark times for our Nation.”

On his social media site, Trump commented on Biden on Monday, asking, “When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, maybe even the White House?”

What political consequences will the discovery of the documents have?
Biden’s advertisement: Republicans and others, who are already asserting that politics is the basis for the investigations into the former president, may feel even more skeptical following the disclosure of Biden’s documents.

In a new, GOP-controlled Congress, where Republicans have pledged to conduct extensive investigations of Biden’s administration, there could also be implications.

California Republican Kevin McCarthy, the new House Speaker, stated, “I think Congress has to investigate this,” in response to the most recent news. He continued, “We don’t think there needs to be a special prosecutor,” in opposition to a number of his party colleagues.

Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has requested that intelligence agencies carry out a “damage assessment” of documents that could be classified.

TRUMP: The search at Mar-a-Lago was immediately interpreted by Trump and his supporters as a partisan attack by Democrats who had long wanted to remove him from office.

Trump referred to the investigations against him during his 2024 campaign launch in November at the same club that agents had searched months earlier, portraying himself as “a victim” of careless prosecutors and the “festering, rot, and corruption of Washington.”

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