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Doltish Ways: Biden’s Documents Problem

Through the course of his political life, the current US president has often been injudicious. He has stumbled, bungled and miscalculated. His electoral victory was fortuitous, aided by a number of factors, not least the conduct of his opponent and the murderous gift of a global pandemic. Along with his fellow Democrats, he has made the issue of Donald Trump a matter of pathology rather than politics.

It is precisely that pathological approach that has come back to haunt his administration. While Trump continues to be characterised as the proto-authoritarian in waiting, squirreling off classified documents that should have been deposited in the national archives, Biden claimed to be above such behaviour.

His own Attorney General, Merrick Garland, has now appointed two prosecutors as special counsels responsible for investigating how Biden and Trump handled classified documents, with the latter also facing an investigation on his role in the January 6 storming of the Capitol. Former federal prosecutor in Maryland Robert K. Hur has been tasked with dealing with Biden and any relevant staff in their alleged mishandling of classified material. Veteran Department of Justice investigator Jack Smith is conducting two criminal investigations into the conduct of Trump.

Biden’s imbroglio centres on what happened to official documents after the conclusion of his Vice-Presidency during the Obama administration, though the problem is promising to be wider than that. The circumstance of their uncovering is significant and bruising for a president extolling the merits of transparency.

Last November, one of Biden’s personal attorneys, Pat Moore, uncovered relevant documents in the private office and home of Biden. These were then turned over to the National Archives. The timing was relevant: the discovery took place less than a week before the midterm elections. The following month, another tranche of classified documents were found in Biden’s garage in his Wilmington home. In January, a third set of documents were found at the Delaware home.

On January 20, the Justice Department made what it claimed to be thorough combing of the president’s Wilmington home. The search revealed a number of additional classified documents, some dating from Biden’s time as Senator, and more during his vice-presidential tenure. According to Bob Bauer, the president’s personal attorney, the seizure of six items involved “documents with classification markings and surrounding materials.” Handwritten notes from the vice-presidential period were also taken.

Such revelations have thrown the administration off its stroke. For one thing, the White House initially made no mention of the garage discovery. A few days later, the tune was tinkered and adjusted. There was little mention about what additional things would come out this month.

Neil Eggleston, White House counsel in the final two and half years of Obama’s presidency, is keen to diminish the significance of such discoveries. Speaking to the New Yorker, he claimed there was no reason to think that a crime had been committed. “It appears that, as the Vice-President’s office was being dismantled [at the end of the Obama presidency], some classified information got commingled with other material, and as soon as it was located it was turned over to the National Archives.”

Eggleston does, at the very least, admit that the White House could have handled matters “differently” and not just assume that the National Archives had the responsibility to alert the Justice Department. But he does much to leave room open for the fool’s defence, which is hardly admirable for the US Commander-in-chief.

Biden’s spin doctors are breaking into a sweat in pushing the already devastated and withered line that the president is not only cooperative, but transparent. That this whole search took place with his permission showed eagerness and willingness to resolve the matter, unlike the recalcitrant Trump, who made the FBI seek a court-approved search of Mar-a-Lago. “In the interest of moving the process forward as expeditiously as possible, we offered to provide prompt access to his home,” explained Baur.

Biden, for his part, is trying to play the role of receptive statesman, keen to follow advice and good counsel, thereby showing how one leads less from the front than from the cushioned middle. “I have no regrets in following what the lawyers have told me what they want me to do – it’s exactly what we’re doing.” With such un-presidential words, he was also confident that there was “nothing there” in terms of what documents had been found.

Only the most fervent of Trump supporters would claim that the doddery Biden would have actively sought to funnel and conceal classified documents, though the question will never go away. But from the throne of judgment, the current president has shown himself to be fallible and prone to habitual error.

As a result, the opposing Republican Party, which has been publicly cannibalising itself over such matters as the election of the House speaker, is receiving drip-feed sustenance. For one, they can argue that the Democrats can hardly make the purer-than-pure case about their own executive handling of classified documents. “It makes Biden look like a giant hypocrite,” opines Republican strategist and former spokesman for President George W. Bush, Alex Conant. “Clearly Trump’s handling of classified materials was a lingering problem that Republicans had not had a good answer for until this week.”

With each new discovery and unveiling, President Biden is also being shown to be a monumental, unreliable dolt. His commitment to, in the words of his special counsel Richard Sauber, “handling this responsibly because he takes this seriously” is proving increasingly risible.

 

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8 comments

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  1. Phil Pryor

    USA politics, social order, general levels of awareness and education are arid, saharan, empty, risible, pathetic. And, the filthy workings of old Merde Dog are in there, lowering, staining, besmirching, poxing and perverting. Exceptionalism? More like evacuation of the bull’s botty…

  2. leefe

    “Classified documents”‘ covers an incredibly wide range of material.
    Then there is the fact that all these documents, when found, were handed to the relevant authorities.

    Equating this with Trump’s removal of papers including nuclear codes and subsequent refusal to surrender such documents is, at best, disingenuous.

    There is no doubt there there appears to be a carelessness amongst US politiicians and bureaucrats about the handling of important papers, but the two cases arre hardly the same.

  3. Fred

    Dr Kampmark: You lucky b… Clearly you have never been snowed under to the point where everything you have deal with is entirely reactive, vis. it’s raining sh.t. Meetings bloody meetings and something important gets misfiled down in the stack of paperwork. I bow to your corporate and political perfection. For the rest of us in the “real-life” glasshouse, there’s no value in throwing stones about a few misfiled documents. On the other hand, there is the Trump perspective which surely is criminal.

  4. Roswell

    I’m surprised that Garland is investigating Biden over this, as it surely wasn’t criminal intent. But intent or not, I suppose laws are laws and he has a job to do.

    With regards to Trump, however, Garland’s done bugger all in his two years on the job.

  5. Clakka

    The offices of folks in such lofty positions will be the recipients of reams of documents on a daily basis. Staff will be sworn to undertake their work in accordance with statutes and regulations applying to them and their masters. They will no doubt consolidate such documents for the digestion, utilisation and response of their masters. Equally they will be responsible for filing them in accordance with the statutes and regulations.

    Whilst It is likely that the office-holders (Biden & Trump) retain the point-to-point responsibility and liability, it seems ludicrous to suggest that they monitor or direct the filings by their staff. But for the well reported misbehaviour and feckless disregard of Trump, viz him personally shredding important (classified) documents, which frequently included his (crazy and disparaging) mark-ups. It is well recorded he was told (to no affect) on numerous occasions of the illegality of such behaviour. Officials had to reconstruct the shreddings to ensure regulatory compliance.

    There is a vast difference between staff’s incorrect or inadvertent misfilings, for the purpose of the office-holder’s personal records, and the apparent deliberate accumulation of the vast trove of important classified information squirrelled by Trump.

    It has been reported this morning that classified documents have been found in personal records at the premises of ex-VP Mike Pence. Seems like the big trawl is on. Are they going to trawl through all the premises of everyone of the 535 members of Congress in operation over the last, say 20 years? You could guarantee there will be classified docs scattered far and wide. What a debacle.

    Such is politics and political admin American style – a sanctimonious dysfunctional debacle within a leaking den of opportunistic thieves – no wonder they’re going down the gurgler.

    Can they fix it before it eats itself and all within its imperium? Perfection being a myth, I doubt it, not whilst they farnarkel with the tired and inappropriate writs of the founding fathers.

  6. paul walter

    I am still in a state of shock. What a stupid thing to do when he would know better than anyone the flaws. On the same level of stupidity as ROBOdebt.

  7. leefe

    And now it turns out that Pence also has classified documents at home.

    The question becomes more a matter of who doesn’t than of who does.

  8. Terence Mills

    It’s also a question of what is a classified document : there are instances of the VP’s activity diary being classified on or prior to the day but surely it cannot be classified years later.

    In all cases (and this is giving Trump some latitude) the sorting of documents at the end of a term in office is done by staffers and in many cases they may not consider a lunch menu as a classified document.

    This is all a storm in a tea-cup – and that’s top secret.

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