Essential Politics: How Biden’s potentially classified documents differ from Trump’s


Just before last year’s midterm election, President Biden’s personal lawyers discovered potentially classified documents in one of his personal offices and quickly handed the documents back to U.S. officials. But the revelation this week has enraged Republicans, many of whom cited the news as evidence that former President Trump’s retention of classified documents was not a serious offense.

But why did either president have potentially classified records? What are the differences between the two cases?

Hello, I’m Erin B. Logan. I’m a reporter with the L.A. Times. Today, we are going to talk about classified records, special counsels and the likely Biden-Trump 2024 rematch.

Why did Biden have the documents?

In November, Biden’s personal lawyers discovered roughly 10 classified documents in his vice-presidential office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a Washington-based think tank. Biden’s attorneys found the documents while they were “packing files housed in a locked closet to prepare to vacate office space,” Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, told CBS News, which first reported the story. The outlet reported that the files, which seem to be from the Obama administration, were in a folder inside a box of unclassified documents.

The White House counsel’s office told the National Archives about the documents the day they were discovered and delivered them to the archives the next day, Sauber told CBS. The National Archives told the Justice Department about the discovery, according to CBS.

Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland has asked U.S. Atty. for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch, who was nominated by Trump, to review the files, the Associated Press reported.

According to CNN, the documents were American briefing and intelligence memos about countries, including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom. Most of the documents in the box were about private family matters, the outlet reported.

How are Republicans reacting?

Trump has been under investigation for months by the Justice Department, which in August sent FBI agents to his Florida residence to remove 15 boxes — about 300 documents — after Trump refused to hand over all the classified documents he took when leaving office.

Trump quickly capitalized on the news. On Truth Social, Trump wrote: “When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House? These documents were definitely not declassified.”

Trump’s and Biden’s cases are different, however. Trump had hundreds of records while Biden had only a handful. Additionally, Biden’s lawyers immediately handed over the records, while Trump for months resisted requests and a subpoena to return the files. He did hand over a few boxes early on but refused to return them all.

Trump has maintained that he declassified the documents he took before he left office.

In a Tuesday news conference in Mexico, Biden said he was “surprised” that his lawyers found the documents. “After I was briefed about the discovery, I was surprised to learn that there are any government records that were taken to that office,” Biden said.

Democrats are taking to his defense.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) in a statement applauded Biden and Garland for their “professionalism.”

“Unlike [Trump], who allegedly obstructed efforts to recover hundreds of classified documents, the handful of classified documents reportedly found at the Biden Center were immediately sent to the National Archives and President Biden is allowing the Justice Department to operate free of political interference,” he said.

Still, many Republicans are incensed.

Ohio GOP Rep. Mike Turner, incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, reportedly asked the director of national intelligence for a “damage assessment,” saying that the documents put Biden in “potential violation of laws protecting national security, including the Espionage Act and Presidential Records Act.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana reportedly chided Biden.

“So, if then-Vice President Biden took classified documents with him and held them for years and criticized Trump during that same time that he had those classified documents, and only after it was uncovered, did he turn them back,” he said. “I wonder why the president asking the same questions of him as vice president taking classified documents that they were asking President Trump.”

Check out “The Times” podcast for essential news and more

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re seeking a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse set of reporters from the award-winning L.A. Times newsroom, delivers the most interesting stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

The latest from Kevin McCarthy’s battle for speaker

—McCarthy had sought the speaker’s gavel for years, Times writers Jeffrey Fleishman and Melanie Mason reported. Every wrinkle and twist of his career — from a young California assemblyman to minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives — telegraphed his ambition. Some found him earnest, others calculating and duplicitous. But few believed the man from Bakersfield with the firefighter father and the high school sweetheart wife would be denied. McCarthy’s powers of persuasion, his stock-in-trade congeniality, were not enough for him to prevail in the first 14 rounds of voting — revealing as much about the highly charged nature of American politics as it did about his willingness to compromise principles and bend to concessions forced by the party’s small but potent band of disrupters and election deniers.

—McCarthy passed his first test late Monday as Republicans approved their rules package for governing House operations, typically a routine step on Day One that stretched into the second week of the new majority, the Associated Press reported. It was approved 220 to 213 on a party-line vote with one Republican opposed. It’s the start of a new era, with House Republicans lurching from one standoff to the next, that shows the challenges McCarthy has in leading a rebellious majority as well as the limits of Biden’s remaining agenda on Capitol Hill.

—McCarthy won his 15th bid to become speaker of the House, but only at great cost, Times writers Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu and Jon Healey reported. To win the votes he needed to secure the gavel, McCarthy had to agree to a series of House rule changes that weakened the power of his post. On Monday night, the House approved those rules, which will govern how the chamber runs until the next election. He agreed to make it easy for his fellow Republicans to fire him, to appoint far-right members to important and influential committees, make tax increases and new spending easier to block and guarantee a vote on congressional term limits.

Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

The view from the White House

—In the first visit to Mexico by a U.S. leader in almost a decade, Biden met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday to discuss trade, the drug war and record levels of illicit immigration in a wide-ranging conversation that was mostly cordial but at one point turned testy as the Mexican leader demanded his U.S. counterpart do more to help the region, Times writers Patrick J. McDonnell and Kate Linthicum reported. The two countries are under pressure to work together on issues including drug smuggling and immigration even though they have sometimes starkly divergent views on those and other topics, including foreign policy, energy and climate change. Biden and the leftist Mexican leader on Tuesday met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, bringing together the leaders of the three nations that represent about a third of global economic output.

—Rep. Katie Porter, a Democratic star known for her incisive questioning of corporate leaders and use of a whiteboard to distill complex concepts in congressional hearings, announced Tuesday that she is running for the U.S. Senate, Times writers Seema Mehta and Nolan D. McCaskill reported. The Irvine attorney is running for the seat widely expected to be vacated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The trailblazing San Francisco politician, 89, was first elected to the Senate in 1992, but has faced questions in recent years about her mental fitness for office and has stepped back from some official duties. She has said she does not plan to step down before her term ends but has not announced whether she will run for reelection in 2024. Her current term ends in early 2025. Porter’s willingness to publicly confront party leaders was an example of the determination that made Porter the surprise national standout of California’s 2018 House freshman class — and even early on stoked speculation of a future run for the U.S. Senate.

—The Biden administration announced a major shift to its immigration strategy Thursday, expanding the use of a Trump-era policy that gives border agents the power to quickly turn back migrants at the border while also creating new ways for people from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti to apply for legal entry into the U.S., Times writers Hamed Aleaziz and Courtney Subramanian reported. A record number of migrants have descended on the southwest border this year, stretching border cities’ resources and placing political pressure on the administration. Border agents made more than 2 million arrests during the yearlong period that ended Sept. 30, according to Customs and Border Protection data, and Republicans have argued that those numbers prove that Biden is weak on border security.

The view from California

—Facing a projected a $22.5-billion budget deficit in the upcoming fiscal year, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced plans to reduce investments in the state’s move to zero-emission vehicles, make cuts to other climate change programs and delay funding for 20,000 new child-care slots as California transitions from a time of economic surplus to shortage, Times writers Taryn Luna, Mackenzie Mays, Hannah Wiley and Laurel Rosenhall reported. The governor’s administration blamed high inflation, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates and volatility in the stock market as the major forces causing state revenues to drop well below projections from last summer when he anticipated a $100-billion surplus in the current budget year.

—Last month, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass declared the homelessness crisis a citywide state of emergency, one as calamitous as any earthquake or hurricane, Times writer Rebecca Ellis reported. Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson asked his staff to draft a similar declaration hours after he was sworn in. Now it’s L.A. County’s turn. The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a motion Tuesday from Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Kathryn Barger declaring a countywide state of emergency on homelessness, aiming to dramatically speed up the time it takes to provide services to the tens of thousands of people sleeping on the streets.

—State Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), who was instrumental in passing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature mental health care legislation last year, has been appointed to lead the Senate’s influential health committee — a change that promises a more urgent focus on expanding mental health services and moving homeless people into housing and treatment, Times writer Rachel Bluth reported. It was a win for Newsom, who proposed the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Act, or CARE Court, as a potent new tool to address the tens of thousands of people in California living homeless or at risk of incarceration because of untreated mental illness and addiction. The measure faced staunch opposition from disability and civil liberties groups worried about stripping people’s right to make decisions for themselves.

—Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Monday that, if appointed for a second term as the city’s top cop, he would serve for two or three years before turning the department over to a new chief ahead of the 2028 Olympic Games, Times writer Libor Jany reported. In an interview with the Times, Moore said he wanted more time to finish the job he started when he took over the department in 2018, echoing a letter he sent to the Los Angeles Police Commission late last month formally requesting reappointment. He expressed a desire to continue reforms on use of force and diversity but said he wanted to avoid a “haphazard” transition in the build-up to the Olympics, which would start soon after a full second term would expire.

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and send pictures of your adorable furbabies to me at

Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.