On January 9, 2023, a story broke that classified documents were discovered at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a “think tank” located in Washington, D.C. The White House acknowledged the discovery, and President Joe Biden indicated that he was “surprised” when he learned of the finding. However, neither Biden nor the White House mentioned until January 12 that other classified records had been found in Biden’s Delaware home.
What do we know at this point about the situation with Biden’s classified document fiasco? According to John G. Malcolm and Cully Stimson at The Daily Signal, we know is that all the revealed information has been come from people who close to President Biden and has been selectively filtered through the media trying to protect Biden.
We know that some documents were supposedly found “unexpectedly” in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center, while others were found in the Biden garage and library in Delaware. It has also been reported that the “University of Pennsylvania has received more than $30 million in donations from anonymous Chinese donors” shortly after the Penn Biden Center opened in 2017.
What Is the Dateline for the Disclosure?
Malcolm and Stimson provided the following dateline for the discovery.
On Nov. 4, the National Archives Office of Inspector General notified the Department of Justice of the discovery. The FBI commenced an investigation five days later, and the day after that, the Justice Department notified Biden’s lawyers that it is looking into the matter.
On Nov. 14, John Lausch, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and an appointee of former President Donald Trump, was tasked by Attorney General Merrick Garland with conducting a preliminary investigation.
On Dec. 20, Biden’s lawyers informed Lausch that they had found a “small number” of additional classified documents in a storage space in the garage of Biden’s private home in Wilmington, Delaware, where he keeps his 1967 Corvette Stingray. According to Bauer, the Justice Department took possession of those documents the next day.
On Jan. 5, Lausch briefed Garland about his preliminary conclusions and recommended the appointment of a special counsel.
On Jan. 9, … the story broke about the discovery of classified documents at the Penn Biden Center…. The White House acknowledged the discovery and added an additional page with classified information [had been discovered in storage room.]
The same day, [Attorney General] Garland appointed Robert Hur … as a special counsel to lead the investigation into the matter.
On Jan. 14, the White House issued a statement that yet another five pages of classified information had been discovered in a storage room….
What Is Classified Material?
Among the classified documents are some that are labeled “Top Secret,” and some “include briefing documents and intelligence reports involving Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom. Malcolm and Stimson wrote, “Assuming that all of that is true, there are still a lot of answered questions. Not only should the special counsel delve into these questions, but Congress should as well.”
The authors noted that those “questions fall into three broad categories: timing, access, and damage assessment.” They then proceeded to suggest several dozen questions that could be asked in the three broad categories as well as a fourth - “other issues.” Malcolm and Stimson also defined the different types of classified material.
Each level is supposed to convey the level of harm that could reasonably be expected to occur if the information is disclosed without authorization, as follows: “Confidential” (“damage to national security”), “Secret” (“serious damage to the national security”), “Top Secret” (“exceptionally grave damage to the national security”), and “SCI” (“Sensitive Compartmented Information” describes classified information that is derived from or relates to sensitive intelligence sources, methods, or analytical processes).
Additionally, some “Top Secret” information is additionally categorized as “Special Access Programs,” a category that limits access to a small group of top military and intelligence officials.
Classified information can reveal intelligence gathering sources and methods, human assets who cooperate with us in other countries, sensitive technological capabilities or plans that we do not want our enemies to know. In addition, classified information may contain the names of other nations that are cooperating with us but do not want the world to know.
The authors indicated that there are “Various federal laws, including the Espionage Act, make it a criminal offense to remove, divulge, or destroy classified information either intentionally or “through the exercise of gross negligence.” Numerous former military personnel and federal employees have been imprisoned for removing classified material from their bases. Penalties can be as much as ten years in prison plus hefty fines, or death if convicted of espionage.
Retired Army General and former CIA Director David Petraeus and former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger pled guilty to charges of unlawfully taking classified documents. However, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was given a pass by then-FBI Director James Comey.
Biden has handled the whole situation “poorly” in the words of the authors. However, he may face serious political damage, but I do not believe that he will face criminal charges.
What Should Congress Do?
The authors encouraged Congress to “conduct vigorous oversight hearings” and “do its level best to unearth exactly what happened, how it happened, why it happened, and if there should be any consequences.” They added that “Congress should, at the very least, review how classified documents were handled at the end of the Obama-Biden administration in order to minimize the risks to our national security in the future.”
None of us know what all this means at this point. Both our current POTUS and the former POTUS are being investigated for mishandling classified material. Some people believe that the only reason that Garland appointed a special counsel for Biden’s case is simply to avoid the look of a double standard after raiding Trump’s home and appointing a special counsel for Turmp. Although the cases of Joe Biden and Donald Trump are different in some respects, they also have many similarities. However, if Trump is indicted and Biden is not, many more people “will believe that there is a double standard of justice at the Justice Department and the FBI.”