Biden vs. classified documents Classified Trump documents: what’s the difference?

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The discovery of classified documents among President Joe Biden’s vice-presidential papers in a Washington office has sparked howls from some Republicans who say an unfair double standard is being applied to Donald Trump’s stash of classified documents, but the circumstances of the findings are very different. .

The uproar began Monday after the White House confirmed a CBS News report that a “small number of documents” with classified markings that appeared to be from the Obama administration had been found in a Biden-linked think tank.

The documents were discovered in a locked cabinet by Biden’s lawyers as they prepared to vacate office space at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, said in a statement.

The University of Pennsylvania leased a suite of offices for the center in February 2018, including an office for Biden’s personal use when he was in Washington.

Some Republicans in Congress, and Trump, questioned why the FBI was not obtaining search warrants to see if Biden had more documents.

«When is the FBI going to raid Joe Biden’s many homes, maybe even the White House?» Trump posted on his Truth Social account.

While much is still unknown about the Biden documents, there are key differences between the two cases, as well as some similarities.

How the documents were discovered

The National Archives, which is supposed to receive all presidential records when a president or vice president leaves office, contacted Trump officials shortly after he left office in 2021 to inform them that the agency believed some documents were missing and that the Archives needed them.

After several months of back and forth, Trump sent 15 boxes of documents from his Mar-a-Lago property to the archives in January of last year. Court documents show that officials found classified documents in 14 of the 15 boxes, including 25 that were marked top secret. In total, there were 184 documents marked as classified in the boxes.

They would meet later.

In Biden’s case, Sauber said the National Archives was unaware of the missing documents and had not made any request to Biden to return them. He said the White House attorney’s office notified Archives the day the records were found, and officials there picked them up the next day.

It is unclear how many vice presidential records and classified documents were found in the office. Sauber said only that Biden’s personal lawyers were packing up files when they found «what appear to be Obama-Biden Administration records, including a small number of documents with classified marks.» He did not describe the level of classification of the documents.

Two sources familiar with the matter said fewer than a dozen classified documents were found in the office.

Justice Department Investigation

In both cases, the Archives reported the discovery of classified documents to the Department of Justice.

When the Archives informed Trump’s people early last year that it was turning the documents over to the intelligence community for review for any potential harm to national security, Trump’s team objected, calling for a temporary delay. The Archives granted Trump’s first request but denied the second, court documents show.

The FBI later obtained information that Trump had more government documents and issued a subpoena for their return. In June, Trump’s lawyers delivered a package that included 38 classified documents, including 17 marked top secret. Trump’s lawyers showed the agents the storage room where the documents had been kept, but refused to allow them to search the boxes still inside, according to court documents. They also gave investigators a statement that «a diligent search was conducted» and that «all responsive documents had been turned over,» government court documents show.

The FBI then learned that Trump had not fully complied with the subpoena and still had more classified documents. They obtained a search warrant for his Mar-a-Lago property in August and found more than 100 documents marked confidential, secret and top secret in the storage room and in Trump’s office.

Trump later sought to delay the feds’ investigation by asking a special master to review the documents and demanded their return, claiming they had been declassified and were his personal property.

Another document search conducted later in the year at the behest of Trump’s lawyers turned up two more documents with classified marks at a Florida storage facility used by Trump near Mar-a-Lago, NBC reported last month. Those documents were turned over to the FBI, the sources said.

In the Biden case, Sauber said that since the documents were found on November 2, «the president’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that all Obama Administration records- Biden are duly in possession.» of the Archives.”

US Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked John R. Lausch, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and a Trump-appointed holdover, to review how the classified material ended up in the Penn Biden Center, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News. Monday.

Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House counsel’s office, said: “This is an ongoing process that is being reviewed by the Department of Justice, so we will be limited in what we can say at this time. But we are committed to doing this the right way, and will provide more details when and as appropriate.»

What did the presidents know and when did they know it?

It’s unclear when exactly Trump became aware that the Archives had demanded the return of the documents, but he certainly knew before the 15 boxes of documents were shipped from Mar-a-Lago last January. He also interacted with FBI officials who went to retrieve the documents his team turned over in June.

His claims that he had declassified the documents before leaving the White House and had considered them his personal property also indicate that he was aware of at least some of the documents that were removed from the start.

As for Biden, a source familiar with the matter said he only became aware that classified documents had been stored in his old office when his lawyers told him they had been discovered.

The president told reporters on Tuesday that he was «shocked» to discover there were government records in the office, adding that he did not know «what is in the documents.»

«We are fully cooperating,» he said.

by the numbers

In all, federal investigators recovered more than 300 documents bearing Trump classification marks. The exact number of classified documents found in Biden’s office is unknown. Sauber described it as a «small number,» while sources told NBC it was fewer than a dozen.

Security questions

The federal government has strict regulations for the storage and handling of classified records. It appears that Trump did not meet those standards, that he had documents in a storage facility in West Palm Beach, in a locked storage room in a busy area at his Florida resort, and in his office, or by Biden. , which he kept in a locked cupboard.

The FBI had raised concerns with Trump’s lawyers about how the documents were being stored at a Mar-a-Lago in a E-mail in June.

«Mar-a-Lago does not include an authorized secure location for the storage of classified information. As such, it appears that from the time that classified documents [REDACTED] were removed from the secure White House facility and moved to Mar-a-Lago on or about January 20, 2021, they were not properly handled or stored in an appropriate location,” the email said. “Accordingly, we request that the room in Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be protected and that all boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) will be kept in that room in their current state until further notice.»

Trump has described that request as one to put a additional lock at the door of the storage room, which said it was done.

legal exposure

Special counsel Jack Smith is now leading the FBI’s criminal investigation into the handling of Trump’s documents, as well as an investigation into his role in the January 6 insurrection. A document attached to the August search warrant that has since been made public showed that investigators were seeking evidence of three crimes related to the mishandling of confidential government records.

There is no indication at this time that the Biden investigation has evolved into a criminal investigation.

NBC News legal analyst Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor, said there are «several distinguishing factors» between the two cases.

McQuade posted on Twitter that the Justice Department prosecutes the mishandling of classified documents when an aggravating factor is present. «Those factors are obstruction of justice, storage in a manner that risks exposure, willful violation, and disloyalty to the United States,» she said. tweeted.

«In the case of Mar-a-Lago, all but the last factor appear to be present. In the case of the Biden documents, there is no indication that any of the factors are met, but it was referred to investigation by the Chicago federal prosecutor, a Trump appointee, seems prudent.»

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