What to Know in Washington: Democrats Fault Biden Over Documents
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President Joe Biden hoped to put the mishandling of sensitive government files behind him. Instead, the emergence of another batch of classified material now has his own party upset at him.
Rather than close ranks, Democratic allies responded with exasperation and growing concern to news over the weekend that FBI agents had recovered more secret documents from Biden’s home in Delaware. It’s the second such discovery since his lawyers declared the search had concluded.
Biden should be “embarrassed by the situation,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Durbin said the crisis meant Biden no longer held the moral high ground on an issue that had hurt Donald Trump, the former president and Biden’s 2024 rival. An FBI search last year of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence revealed he had taken boxes of classified material with him to Florida.
At this point, the optics for Biden are not just embarrassing. The president is defending himself from Republican attacks and a special counsel probe, which Trump is also facing. The newest disclosure intensified questions about the initial search for classified documents and Biden’s office and homes.
The differences between his case and that of Trump remain. Trump refused to hand the material over, while Biden voluntarily disclosed the matter and documents were secured in national archives facilities. That nuance though will increasingly be lost on a broader electorate surprised as to why new Biden files keep turning up.
Americans are still separating Biden’s conduct from Trump, but most think the matter deserves scrutiny. An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday showed that 77% said Trump handled classified documents inappropriately while 64% said the same about Biden.
As Durbin puts it, “when that information is found, it diminishes the stature of any person who is in possession of it, because it’s not supposed to happen. Whether it was the fault of a staffer or attorney, it makes no difference.”
This latest batch will give more ammunition to Republicans eager to take attention away from their own dysfunction and launching a congressional probe into Biden’s possession of classified materials, on top of other inquiries into his administration and family.
An FBI search of a sitting president’s home clearly escalated the stakes for Biden, coming after the president and White House officials repeatedly denied there was intentional wrongdoing and downplayed the legal and political magnitude of the situation.
The nearly 13-hour search of Biden’s home heightened comparisons to the FBI’s hunt for classified material last summer at Mar-a-Lago. In Florida, the FBI was executing a search warrant after months of refusals by Trump to turn over the documents; In Delaware, it was consensual.
Biden “should have a lot of regrets” and acknowledge his handling of classified documents was “irresponsible” and “a mistake,” centrist Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (W.Va.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Read the latest from Jordan Fabian and Jennifer Jacobs.
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