Biden's '68 days of silence' on the documents farce
Category: News & PoliticsVia: 1stwarrior • one week ago • 242 comments
President Joe Biden and a small team of trusted advisers, including his sister Valerie, plotted to keep the discovery of classified documents a secret, betting that they could quietly handle the problem without it becoming public knowledge, a bombshell new report claimed on Friday.
For 68 days they succeeded. Then it blew up in their faces.
Biden and six of his closest advisers, all of whom were aware of the initial discovery of classified documents at the president's D.C. think tank on Nov. 2 - gambled they could keep the matter a secret and deal with the Justice Department privately .
They chose to keep silent and try to convince the DoJ it was a simple mistake, unlike Donald Trump's refusal to return the classified material - at the National Archives' request - kept at his Mar-a-Lago estate, The New York Times reported.
But their plans backfired when CBS News reported on the existence of the Biden documents on January 9th, leading to a chain reaction that developed into a full-blown crisis for the White House where Biden's reputation took a hit, Republicans accused him of hypocrisy, and even Democrats questioned the administration's judgement in the matter.
Both their attempts to control the story and to handle the Justice Department failed: Attorney General Merrick Garland ultimately appointed a special counsel to look into the matter as he did for the Trump classified documents' case.
Biden, himself, has taken a personal hit, with his refusal to disclose the discovery immediately to the public - especially when it was revealed the initial discovery was made six days before the 2022 midterm election.
The president grew defensive on the matter when asked about it in California on Thursday, berating the media for not asking him about the efforts the federal government was making to help the flood-damaged state.
'What, quite frankly, bugs me is that we have serious problem here we're talking about - we're talking about what's going on and the American people don't quite understand why you don't ask me questions about that,' he said.
He then read from a prepared statement, where he said he had 'no regrets' and 'there's no there there.'
'As we found we found a handful of documents were failed -filed - for the wrong place. We immediately turn them over to the archives of the Justice Department. We're fully cooperating looking forward to getting this resolved quickly,' he said.
'I think you're gonna find there's nothing there. I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. It's exactly what we're doing. There's no there there.'
The initial discussions on how to deal with the discovery were tightly held by a core group of Biden loyalists led by the husband and wife team of Bob Bauer, who is Biden's personal attorney, and Anita Dunn, who serves as a senior adviser in the White House.
Also in the discussions were Biden's sister Valerie Biden Owens; White House senior adviser Mike Donilon; White House counsel Stuart Delery; and White House lawyer Richard Sauber.
But taking the public beating has been White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who is grilled in her daily press briefings with questions about why the discovery wasn't publicly disclosed, the validity of the information she is giving to the public, and what else is being kept hidden.
Jean-Pierre has admitted she and her press team learned about the documents' existence when CBS News asked about it for their story - which was two months after the initial discovery.
She's also made a series of misstatements - including saying six times the search for more documents was completed, only for five more to be found - that are compounding the public relations problems for the White House.
All of this - the lack of disclosures, the misstatements, and Biden's testiness - has contributed to the impression the White House has not been forthcoming and that their strategy on this has been a mistake.
Even some Democrats are questioning the wisdom of the White House's decision making on the matter.
'I definitely think that we want to get answers from the White House,' said Democratic Rep. Katie Porter.
Complicating the matter is the discovery of documents in Biden's garage in Wilmington, Delaware, home.
That December 20th discovery wasn't made public until five days after the discovery of the think tank documents was revealed - leading to questions about why it wasn't disclosed when the White House confirmed the initial tranche of classified information.
The White House has repeatedly insisted it is cooperating with the Justice Department and following all legal procedures properly. The administration argues it was transparent with the federal government - immediately informing the National Archives of the materials - even if it didn't disclose it to the general public.
Officials have not answered questions on why the discovery was kept a secret from the American people for so long.
In total, there have been four discoveries of classified materials: at the Penn-Biden Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C.; in Biden's garage at his Wilmington, Del., home; one document discovered in his 'personal library' in the same home and then four more documents found in his home.
All date back to Biden's time as vice president under Barack Obama but the White House won't answer as to what topics the materials cover.
Administration officials had plenty of opportunities to disclose each discovery.
But it was Garland who gave a timeline for when each discovery was made and when it was revealed to the Justice Department, demonstrating the long gap between when Biden's team knew about the documents and when they publicly admitted to their existence.
In the wake of the scandal, Biden's approval rating is getting back toward the lowest numbers of his presidency - despite coming off a strong performance by Democrats in the midterm election and the growing economy.
A Reuters-Ipsos poll - conducted amid the fallout of the documents scandal - found only 40 percent of Americans approved of Biden's performance as president.
Politically, in addition to hurting Biden's reputation, the White House handling of the matter has also taken the issue off the table for the 2024 presidential campaign.
Biden personally criticized Trump for holding onto classified documents from his time in office.
'How that could possibly happen? How anyone could be that irresponsible? And I thought what data was in there that would maybe compromise sources and methods?' he said to CBS' 60 Minutes at the time. 'And it just – totally irresponsible.'
Now the White House is trying to compare their handling of the situation to Trump's, hoping they come out as having taken the high road.
It was Anita Dunn, a longtime Democratic operative and adviser to Biden who founded the powerful Democratic firm SKDKnickerbocker, who pushed that strategy, The New York Times reported.
She and other officials are betting that the public views Biden and Trump differently, banking on Biden's long reputation as a public servant to ultimately come out in their favor.
Aides also say they are wary of speaking about the case publicly as they don't want to be seen as trying to influence the Justice Department.
Bob Bauer, Biden's personal attorney, argued public disclosures were limited in an effort not to influence the investigation.
'The President’s personal attorneys have attempted to balance the importance of public transparency where appropriate with the established norms and limitations necessary to protect the investigation’s integrity. These considerations require avoiding the public release of detail relevant to the investigation while it is ongoing,' he said in a statement this weekend.
He also added that 'regular ongoing public disclosures also pose the risk that, as further information develops, answers provided on this periodic basis may be incomplete.'
Ultimately Biden's aides hope their cooperation with the Justice Department and trying to avoid the public appearance of influencing the investigation will pay off in their favor in the long run.
Only time will tell if that bet has paid off.