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On Biden documents, Republicans break new ground in hypocrisy

Republicans who scrambled to defend Donald Trump's documents scandal suddenly have an entirely different set of standards about classified materials.


After the FBI executed a court-approved search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner requested a classified briefing on the controversy. After learning that President Joe Biden returned Obama-era materials with classified markings, the Virginia Democrat did the exact same thing. NBC News reported:

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner, D-Va., is calling for his committee to receive a briefing on the classified documents discovered in an office used by President Joe Biden.

“Our system of classification exists in order to protect our most important national security secrets, and we expect to be briefed on what happened both at Mar-a-Lago and at the Biden office as part of our constitutional oversight obligations,” Warner said in a statement. He added that the Biden case is “certainly different from a months-long effort to retain material actively being sought by the government,” referring to the Trump scandal.

It’s reassuring to see Warner’s even-handedness. He and the president are of the same party, but the Intelligence Committee chair nevertheless acknowledged the importance of the classification system and requested a briefing to better understand the seriousness of the situation. That’s exactly what he did after learning about what happened in August at the former president’s glorified country club.

Others on Capitol Hill haven’t been quite as consistent.

“What I’ve seen, that the National Archives was concerned about Trump having in his possession, didn’t amount to a hill of beans,” House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer said last summer. The Kentucky Republican added soon after that, as far as the congressman was concerned, the former president didn’t “intend to take anything that he wasn’t supposed to take.”

Asked after the election if his oversight panel might examine the controversy at all, Comer replied that the matter “will not be a priority.”

This week, despite the dramatic differences between the Trump and Biden stories, the Republican-led Oversight Committee launched an investigation into the Biden matter, despite the fact that the Trump scandal is vastly more serious.

In a letter to the White House counsel’s office, Comer wrote that his panel is “concerned” about Biden having “mishandled” materials six years ago. Comer apparently has no comparable “concerns” about Trump taking far more documents, refusing to give the sensitive materials back, and allegedly obstructing the retrieval process.

He’s hardly alone. Republican Rep. Mike Turner scrambled to defend Trump last summer, characterizing the scandal as a “bookkeeping issue.” This week, the same Ohio congressman — the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee — called for an “immediate review and damage assessment” of the Biden matter.

How do the GOP chairmen explain the wildly different standards? To date, they haven’t bothered to address the hypocrisy.