Biden's documents drama might not be ending anytime soon

Chris Strohm, Ryan Teague Beckwith, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

President Joe Biden’s expectations for a quick resolution of a probe into his mishandling of classified documents have been dashed, as a steady drip of new developments has tied it into political knots.

Although it appears to be a relatively straightforward investigation, the case has become politically entangled with separate questions about the mishandling of classified material by former President Donald Trump and now former Vice President Mike Pence.

“There is a difference between legally entangled and politically entangled,” said Kel McClanahan, executive director of the nonprofit public interest law firm National Security Counselors. “If you take the politics out of it, the two are completely separate cases.”

The situation has raised questions inside and outside the Justice Department about whether Attorney General Merrick Garland or senior officials should coordinate the investigations to give the public greater confidence about how they’re being handled, according to current and former government officials.

That could be seen as interfering in the probes by two special counsels and goes against the department’s usual practice, some of the people said. There’s no indication that Justice Department leaders are discussing those options.

The cases are on very different timelines, which complicates any resolution. FBI agents retrieved classified documents from Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in August, while a special counsel wasn’t appointed to look into Biden until mid-January. But Trump and his lawyers have adopted an antagonistic approach that has caused his investigation to drag on, while Biden’s team has sought to speed things up.


Failing to coordinate the cases could end up hurting them, if it leaves the public with the impression that they weren’t treated equally, especially as Biden is expected to run for reelection and Trump remains the only announced GOP candidate for 2024.

Some national security experts say investigators should just press on and let the chips fall.

“If it so happens they both are wrapping up at the same time then I think there would be discussions about making public statements at the same time,” said Mary McCord, former acting head of the Justice Department’s national security division who is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center. “But I wouldn’t expect the department to hold one up or accelerate the other based on timing.”

Biden told reporters earlier this month he anticipated the documents probe would wrap up soon. Since then, the president’s team has discovered more classified documents in his home — a fourth batch was found Friday, from not only Biden’s vice presidency but also his years in the Senate, which ended in 2009.


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