Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday January 14, 2023
How the Trump, Biden classified documents cases compare
The revelation that classified materials were discovered at think tank offices formerly used by President Joe Biden, as well as at the president’s Delaware home, has prompted questions on how the circumstances compare with the seizure last year of hundreds of documents marked as classified from Mar-a-Lago, the Florida residence of former President Donald Trump.
A side-by-side look at the similarities and differences between the two situations:
How many classified documents are we talking about?
BIDEN: It’s unclear precisely how many classified materials have been obtained from Biden’s office and home. Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, said Monday that “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered on Nov. 2, 2022, in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a think tank in Washington, as Biden’s personal attorneys were clearing out the offices.
Biden kept an office at the Penn Center after he left the vice presidency in 2017 until shortly before he launched his 2020 presidential campaign. It was affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and continued to operate independently of the Biden administration.
On Thursday, Sauber said a second batch of documents with classified markings — a “small number,” he said — had been found in a storage space in Biden’s garage in Wilmington, Delaware, with one document being located in Biden’s personal library in his home.
TRUMP: Roughly 300 documents with classification markings — including some at the top secret level — have been recovered from Trump since he left office in January 2021.
In January 2022, the National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of documents, telling Justice Department officials they contained “a lot” of classified material. In August, FBI agents took about 33 boxes and containers of 11,000 documents from Mar-a-Lago, including roughly 100 with classification markings found in a storage room and an office.
How quickly were the classified documents turned over?
BIDEN: After the materials were discovered at the think tank, Biden’s personal attorneys immediately alerted the White House counsel’s office, which notified NARA, which took custody of the documents the next day, Sauber said.
“Since that discovery, the President’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives,” Sauber said in a statement.
Part of that cooperation, Sauber said this week, included Biden’s personal lawyers examining other locations where records might have been shipped after Biden left the vice presidency in 2017. That search concluded Wednesday night, Biden told reporters at the White House on Thursday, though he did not say when the second batch of documents was found.
Sauber said the Justice Department was “immediately notified” after the documents were found at Biden’s home and that department lawyers took custody of the records.
The revelation that additional classified documents were uncovered by Biden’s attorneys came hours after White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dodged questions about Biden’s handling of classified information and the West Wing’s management of the discovery. She said the White House was committed to handling the matter in the “right way,” pointing to Biden’s personal attorneys’ immediate notification of the National Archives.
TRUMP: A Trump representative told NARA in December 2021 that presidential records had been found at Mar-a-Lago, nearly a year after Trump left office. Fifteen boxes of records containing some classified material were transferred from Mar-Lago to NARA in January.
A few months later, investigators from the Justice Department and FBI visited Mar-a-Lago to get more information about classified materials taken to Florida. Federal officials also served a subpoena for some documents believed to be at the estate.
In August 2022, FBI agents conducting a search retrieved 33 boxes from Mar-a-Lago. The search came after lawyers for Trump provided a sworn certification that all government records had been returned. (Continued: PBS)