Archives says it must consult with DOJ before sharing information related to Biden documents
The National Archives on Tuesday told House Republicans that it must first consult with the Department of Justice (DOJ) before sharing information related to the recent discovery of classified documents from President Biden’s time as vice president.
The Archives has to determine whether sharing the details with lawmakers would compromise the DOJ’s criminal probe into the matter, wrote acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall in a letter to House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.).
Comer has promised that his committee will investigate Biden and his family’s finances, including long-held GOP concerns about the president’s son Hunter Biden, as well as the classified documents found in his previous office.
The Kentucky lawmaker wrote to the Archives last week requesting all documents and communications between the Archives, the White House, the DOJ and Biden’s legal team related to the documents found at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington.
“Our desire to provide you with as much information as we can … must also be balanced with the need to protect Executive branch equities, particularly as they relate to ongoing criminal law enforcement investigations by DOJ,” Wall wrote in the response letter.
“DOJ has advised it will need to consult with the newly appointed Office of Special Counsel (SCO) in DOJ, to assess whether information can be released without interfering with the SCO’s investigation.”
Since Comer’s letter, additional documents have been discovered from Biden’s time as vice president. Around 20 classified documents have been found in all.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed special counsel Robert Hur to investigate the discovery of classified documents. Another special counsel, Jack Smith, was appointed after an FBI search last summer uncovered hundreds of classified documents at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
Republicans have been riled up by the discovery of Biden’s classified documents and called Democrats hypocritical for not exhibiting the same outrage they showed over Trump’s document dilemma. They have also accused the Archives and other government agencies of bias in their responses to the two scandals.
Wall responded to those GOP concerns in her letter, specifically homing in on Comer’s allegations that the Archives conducted “its work with a political bias” by publicly addressing Trump’s violations of the Presidential Records Act and not doing the same for Biden.
Wall said the Archives treats all communications with the DOJ and with former and current presidents as “presumptively confidential” and said neither president’s issue was publicly discussed by the Archives until each matter reached the public through the press.
“Only when those topics were subsequently reported publicly in the press (approximately nine months after communications began on the Trump matter, and two and a half months on the Biden matter), did NARA begin to respond to queries … and only then in a manner that would not harm the integrity of the DOJ’s investigations,” Wall said.
“Accordingly, our actions and responses with respect to both of these matters have been entirely consistent and without any political bias.”
Comer too has been accused of bias in conducting the Oversight probe into Biden’s document handling but showing little interest in investigating Trump.
“With respect to investigating President Trump, there have been so many investigations of President Trump. I don’t feel like we need to spend a whole lot of time investigating President Trump because the Democrats have done that for the past six years,” Comer said in a CNN interview over the weekend.
Wall in the letter to Comer emphasized that while the Archives is the repository for presidential materials and is charged with preserving them under the Presidential Records Act, the Archives does not keep track of records before they’re handed over for safekeeping.
“NARA receives only the Presidential and Vice Presidential records that the departing administration provides us; we are never able to know whether we have ‘all’ such records,” Wall said.
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