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On Biden’s classified docs, a stubborn bottom line hasn’t budged

The discovery of classified materials at President Biden's home in Delaware doesn't change the fact that the story doesn't mirror Donald Trump's scandal.


UPDATE (Jan. 12, 2024, 1:31 p.m. ET): Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed a special counsel to oversee investigations into Obama-era classified documents found at locations associated with President Joe Biden.

It was earlier this week when the public learned that a small number of Obama-era documents with classified markings were found at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in November. By all appearances, then-Vice President Joe Biden inadvertently took some materials with him upon leaving office six years ago, and the documents have now been returned to the proper authorities.

After the discovery, the Democrat’s team began searching for any additional classified materials that might be in other locations he used, and as NBC News reported, some more documents were uncovered.

Aides to President Joe Biden have discovered at least one additional batch of classified documents in a location separate from the Washington office he used after leaving the Obama administration, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The White House counsel’s office added additional clarity this morning, explaining that “a small number” of Obama-era records with classified markings were found at Biden’s residence in Delaware. They were then immediately turned over to the Justice Department.

At this point, it’s worth pausing to acknowledge the difference between legitimate questions and blisteringly dumb questions. Asking about the timing of the disclosures seems entirely fair. Asking how the materials were handled and how they arrived at these locations in the first place is hardly unreasonable.

Asking why the FBI hasn’t conducted a raid on the incumbent president’s properties — a question posed by House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, among many other GOP voices — is not a smart question.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but the basic contours of the story haven’t changed. Biden’s team found some materials, then they returned the materials. By all accounts, the National Archives didn’t even know these documents were missing, and NARA officials hadn’t asked for their return.

If Donald Trump weren’t facing a criminal investigation over his alleged mishandling of classified materials, it’s difficult to believe the revelations about Biden would literally be front-page, above-the-fold news.

But as we’ve discussed, the Biden and Trump stories are wildly different in every way that matters. Trump took hundreds of classified materials to his glorified country club. He ignored requests to return them. He failed to comply with a federal subpoena. He lied repeatedly. He returned some documents, but held on to others, all while refusing to cooperate in good faith. He even proposed a possible trade in which he’d consider giving the documents back, but only if officials gave him something else in return.

According to a Justice Department court filing, there’s even evidence that classified documents held at Mar-a-Lago were “likely concealed and removed” before the FBI search to retrieve them.

Based on everything we know, none of this applies to Biden. That remains the bottom line, and it hasn’t budged.