Legal and political strategy in letting the FBI search Biden’s house


US President Joe Biden’s decision to allow the FBI to search his home in Delaware last week is causing him to face new negative attention and embarrassment following previous findings of classified documents. at that house and an old office. But it is a political and legal calculation that aides hope will pay off in the long run as he prepares to run for re-election.

The remarkable, nearly 13-hour search by FBI agents of the incumbent president’s Wilmington home is the latest political black spot for Biden, who has promised to restore ownership to the office. room after the tumultuous tenure of his predecessor Donald Trump.

But with his actions, Biden is doing more than just obeying the federal investigators tasked with reviewing the discovery of the records. The president is trying to show that, unlike Trump, he never intended to withhold classified documents — a key distinction that experts say reduces the risk of criminal liability.

White House spokesman Ian Sams said Monday that Biden’s personal attorneys have invited the FBI to conduct a search. “This was a voluntary initiative by the president’s personal attorneys to the DOJ to gain access to the house,” he said, adding that it reflects Biden’s “seriousness” on the matter. this.

Mary McCord, a former senior national security official with the US Department of Justice, said, “If I were an attorney and I represented the president of the United States and I wanted to show, ‘I’m fully cooperative and I care about being transparent to the American public and I really take that seriously,’ I think this is the advice I would give as well.”

That doesn’t mean she approves of his handling of the documents.

“I think it’s wrong for him to have those documents there,” she said. “It shows flaws at the end of the administration,” as Biden was completing his term as vice president under Barack Obama.

Biden’s personal attorneys first discovered the classified documents on November 2, a week before the midterm elections, when they were cleaning out the office Biden used at the Penn Biden Center in Washington. Since that initial finding, Biden’s team has adopted a consistent approach to the investigation, even if they haven’t been completely transparent to the public.

The White House cited the “risk” of sharing “incomplete” information potentially interfering with the investigation as justification for not releasing more information to the public.

They did not acknowledge the first find before the election, although they promptly informed the National Archives, returned the documents the day after they were found, and coordinated searches and searches. follow up with the Department of Justice.

Nor did they obstruct staff interviews, including Kathy Chung, Biden’s executive assistant when he was vice president, who helped oversee the packing of boxes sent to the Penn Biden Center.

She feels responsible but is “absolutely” oblivious to the fact that classified documents are being packed, according to a person familiar with her thinking. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Biden himself has said that he was surprised that the documents were in his possession. Last Thursday, frustrated at all points, he told reporters: “Not there.”

It all fits into one theme: Biden and his aides insist the mishandling of the document was unintentional. As far as Biden’s legal exposure is concerned, the question of intent is crucial: Federal law doesn’t allow anyone to store classified material in an unauthorized location, but that’s only a possible crime. can be prosecuted when someone is found to “intentionally” delete material from an appropriate place.

However, welcoming the FBI search could backfire depending on what else can be found. Last week, agents obtained another batch of items marked with classification, along with some handwritten Biden notes and documents from his vice-presidential and senatorial tenures.

It is in addition to documents already filed by Biden’s attorneys. Agents may also choose to search the Penn Biden Center and Biden’s other home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, as the investigation continues. Sams declined to say whether Biden had registered additional searches, referring the matter to the DOJ, which has asked the White House not to make the searches public in advance.

Democrats as well as Republicans have criticized Biden’s handling of the matter. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the president should be “embarrassed by the situation.”

Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va added: “I think he should regret a lot. Even Biden’s own attorneys called it a “mistake”.

Meanwhile, Republicans have sought to use their newly acquired power in the House, where they regained their majority this month, to investigate Biden’s handling of the documents and hope. would take advantage of the investigation, even if it said it investigated documents withheld by Trump was not a priority.

House Oversight Chairman James Comer, R-Ky. in requesting diaries of visitors to Biden’s residence.

In response to Comer’s request for copies of documents taken from Biden’s home, the White House attorney’s office on Monday said it no longer owns them. It said the White House would “support legitimate surveillance interests,” while “respecting the separation of powers and constitutional and statutory obligations of the executive branch in general and the White House in particular.” .”

“This is not ‘legitimate’ transparency from President Biden, who has claimed he will have the most transparent administration in history,” said Jessica Collins, a spokeswoman for the Oversight Committee.

Trump and some of his supporters have frankly stated that Biden is guilty of mishandling classified documents worse than Democrats accusing Trump of harshly. The former president will no doubt insist on that accusation as he campaigns to take back the White House.

The investigation into Trump also focuses on classified documents that were delivered to a home. In that case, however, the Justice Department issued a subpoena for the return of documents Trump had refused to return, then obtained a warrant and seized more than 100 documents during a full search. drama in August at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. . Federal agents are investigating possible violations of three federal laws, including laws governing the collection, transmission, or loss of defense information under the Espionage Act.

In 2016, when the FBI recommended criminal prosecution against Hillary Clinton over classified emails she sent and received through a private server while she was secretary of state, then-FBI Director James Comey said: The Justice Department is choosing which cases to go to trial. past century — have been looking for evidence of criminal intent, signs of disloyalty to the United States, large amounts of classified documents or any attempt to obstruct justice.

It is unclear whether agents in the Biden investigation have progressed beyond the question of intent. The White House did not answer key questions, including how classified information from his time as vice president got into his Delaware home. But Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to head the investigation due to the sensitive political issues surrounding it.

Garland stated on Monday, in response to a question: “We don’t have different rules for Democrats or Republicans. … We apply facts by law in case-by-case in a neutral and non-partisan manner. That’s what we’ve always done and that’s what we’re doing on the issues you’re talking about.”

A key test of the limits of Biden’s strategy revolves around the question of whether the president would agree to be interviewed by federal investigators if asked. White House officials have so far declined to say whether he did so or on what terms.

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