Republicans decry ‘double standard’ in handling of Biden classified documents case
Republicans see a double standard when it comes to how President Biden’s handling of classified documents is being treated compared to how a similar controversy has played out regarding former President Trump.
Months after Democrats panned Trump relentlessly for his handling of classified documents, Republicans are returning serve after what the White House says was a “small number” of Obama-Biden era files were found at the president’s office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania. More were found days later in the garage of his Wilmington, Del., home, and a third set was found at his home on Thursday.
Republicans are griping both about how investigators obtained the documents and how the discovery was — or in their view, wasn’t — publicized.
“Where’s the raid of Biden’s garage?” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) tweeted at the FBI, referring to the August raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Fla.
“Now, we learn that Biden kept additional classified materials at his home in Delaware in his GARAGE. Yet there was no raid. No ransacking of Biden’s home. Nothing,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said on Twitter.
There are differences in Biden and Trump’s situations, to be sure. The sheer number of documents Trump kept — more than 300 — is significantly higher than what was found in Biden’s possession. And Trump showed little indication that he was willing to turn them over to the FBI and the National Archives, which led to the raid at his Florida home.
Those distinctions, however, did little to assuage top Republicans.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) labeled the situation as “another faux pas by the Biden administration” by “treating law differently based upon your political beliefs.”
“Treats one President Trump one way but treats President Biden a whole different way,” McCarthy told reporters on Thursday. “That’s why we had to provide a new entity from our Church-style [committee] to look after the weaponization of what’s gone on that you want an equal playing of the law to all Americans.”
Republicans this week zeroed in on the different ways the classified documents were retrieved.
The White House counsel’s office said Biden’s lawyers discovered the materials and notified the Archives, which then took possession of the papers. In Trump’s case, the FBI conducted the raid on his residence after federal officials tried to recover documents they believed were at the South Florida club.
Nonetheless, Republicans are calling for an official search — the same treatment Trump received.
“More classified documents Biden took from the Obama White House have been found at Biden’s Delaware house next to his Corvette. Biden assures the public it’s OK because his garage is locked… So, when’s the FBI raid?” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wrote on Twitter Thursday.
McCarthy also pointed out the fact that officials have not released any photos of the documents recovered from Biden’s office and home. The Justice Department included a photo of materials retrieved from Trump’s residence in a court filing that was made public.
“You watched them leak photos of sitting out files of President Trump. Where’s the photos of President Biden’s documents? Where are those photos at?” McCarthy said on Thursday.
One Republican demand did come to fruition on Thursday, when Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped Robert Hur to serve as a special counsel to investigate Biden’s handling of the documents. The development came hours after the White House confirmed a second batch of classified papers had been discovered.
Garland in November tapped another special counsel, Jack Smith, to investigate Trump.
The news, however, is a double-edged sword for Republicans who had been hoping to see the papers and are vowing their own investigations. Hur’s appointment means it is unlikely that lawmakers will be able to obtain much information about the documents, with the probe into Trump’s handling of classified information serving as a likely precursor.
The Justice Department has rebuffed entreaties from the Senate Intelligence Committee to examine about 300 classified documents — including some labeled “top secret” — that Trump previously had in his possession at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
“[Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines] must provide the Senate Intel Committee all classified documents which were discovered in the garage of President Biden’s home in Delaware & an assessment of the risk to national security if those classified documents were to be exposed in public or foreign adversary,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, tweeted on Thursday.
But scrutiny of Biden’s handling of classified documents is unlikely to stop there.
McCarthy on Wednesday said Congress should investigate the situation, noting that the matter could go before several committees — including the newly minted Select Committee on the Weaponization of Federal Government, which has vowed to probe federal law enforcement agencies.
“The issue with weaponization, with that select subcommittee, is the double standard,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who will chair the panel, told reporters on Thursday. “The different treatment that we now see, it’s not supposed to be that way, it’s supposed to be equal treatment, equal application of the law, I don’t know that we’ve seen that.”
On Friday, Jordan launched an investigation under the auspices of the Judiciary Committee, which he also chairs.
“We are conducting oversight of the Justice Department’s actions with respect to former Vice President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents, including the apparently unauthorized possession of classified material at a Washington, D.C. private office and in the garage of his Wilmington, Delaware residence,” Jordan and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) wrote in a letter to Garland.
House Republicans heading other committees are also spearheading probes into the documents.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) sent letters to the National Archives and the White House Counsel’s office on Tuesday requesting documents and communications relating to the classified materials, as well as information about the documents themselves and who may have had access to them.
On Thursday, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, sent letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Haines requesting a classified briefing about the classified documents in Biden’s files. Earlier in the week, he asked Haines to conduct a damage assessment based on the files.
Emily Brooks contributed.