Some Democrats say charges against Biden merit independent investigation

Some Democrats say charges against Biden merit independent investigation
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A few Senate Democrats are saying there needs to be more investigation of former aide Tara Reade’s accusation that Joe BidenJoe BidenCan Republicans handle the aftermath of Donald Trump? Biden seeks to supplant Trump in Georgia Trump's Mount Rushmore stunt will backfire MORE sexually assaulted her in the Senate 27 years ago, a charge Biden has vehemently denied.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyGOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday The Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary MORE (D-Mass.), who is in the midst of a tough primary race against Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Celebrities fundraise for Markey ahead of Massachusetts Senate primary MORE III (D-Mass.), said Monday that there needs to be an “independent” investigation.

“We need an investigation that has independence that will then ensure that the facts are established,” Markey said on his way to a late afternoon confirmation vote in the Capitol.

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“It should be independent,” he added.

Markey said he hadn’t yet thought about who should conduct the investigation but said Biden himself “has called for it, and I think he’s right to do it.”

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed flight Manchin draws line against repealing legislative filibuster The Hill's 12:30 Report: Supreme Court ruling marks big win for abortion rights groups MORE (D-Ore.) also called for an independent review of the charges.

“I think it’s important to have appropriate independent scrutiny brought to bear to help inform all of us about the situation,” he said. Like Markey, he hasn’t give much thought about who should conduct the probe.

“It’s a good question ... because we’re not in a situation where there’s a member of the Senate or a member of the administration” facing charges, Merkley noted.

Reade in mid-March claimed that Biden pushed her against a wall and assaulted her in 1993.

Biden declared that “it never, never happened” during an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday, his first media interview on the subject.

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The former vice president, who served in the Senate from 1973 to 2009, last week asked Secretary of the Senate Julie Adams to make public any record that might exist of a complaint Reade said she filed. Adams replied on Monday that Senate rules and current law prohibit her from making public any information related to a workplace complaint or harassment claim.

In a statement released Monday morning, the secretary of the Senate said that “strict confidentiality requirements” in the law allow for “no discretion to disclose any such information” requested by Biden related to Reade’s accusations.  

The statement cited a review by the Senate legal counsel of the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, two laws that govern the records of the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices.

Another Democrat, Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators aim to limit Trump's ability to remove troops from Germany Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats MORE (Va.), on Monday said the rules must be changed to allow the complaint, if it exists, to be reviewed.

“I want to get all the Senate records and see if there was ever a complaint filed,” Kaine said. “I think that’s the first question: Was there ever a complaint filed?”

“If there was, who would have it? We’ve got to get it at some point,” he added.

Kaine said if the law bars the disclosure of Reade’s complaint, “it should be changed.”

“I think the American public needs to know was a complaint ever filed,” he said. “I’m certainly going to figure out a way, talking to colleagues, to try to make that happen.

“The vice president wants it out there,” he noted.

Asked about bringing in the FBI, Kaine said, “Let’s start with a stated fact: ‘I filed a complaint against the senator.’ Let’s find out if that’s true. That’s the single most probative fact that we can get at right now,” he said.

Several Democrats last week offered support for Biden without suggesting the need for a further investigation.

On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low MORE (D-Mass.) demurred when asked about the need for an additional investigation.

“I think what the vice president has said is convincing, and I support him,” Warren told reporters Monday.

Asked specifically about the need for additional investigation, Warren repeated, “What he said is convincing.”

Democratic senators note that The New York Times and other media outlets investigated Reade’s claims and failed to find any Senate co-worker who would corroborate her story.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenWatchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' probe report The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans MORE (D-N.H.) said “it has been investigated by both The Washington Post and New York Times.”

Shaheen said that “it’s appropriate” to make the record of Reade’s complaint public “if it exists” and Reade is “willing to have it released.”

Many Democrats don’t see a need for the FBI or other law enforcement agencies to investigate the allegation, something they and a few moderate GOP senators insisted on when Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMcGrath fends off Booker to win Kentucky Senate primary Trump's mark on federal courts could last decades Supreme Court rules US requirements on overseas NGOs do not violate free speech MORE faced assault allegations during his confirmation hearings.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinHillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown Democrats, voting rights groups pressure Senate to approve mail-in voting resources MORE (Ill.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, pointed out that Biden denied the charge and asked for the Senate’s personnel records to be opened to shed further light on the matter.

“I don’t know what the next step would be beyond that,” he said.

Asked about the FBI investigating the alleged incident, Durbin said, “I don’t know when the FBI has a responsibility to step in.”

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He acknowledged that “it’s a hard call.”

Durbin pointed out the FBI hasn’t investigated sexual assault charges level against President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE by various women, such as E. Jean Carroll, a former advice columnist for Elle magazine who says the president sexually assaulted her in a dressing room 20 years ago.

Trump’s other accusers include a woman who attended a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago nearly 20 years ago and a participant in the 2006 Miss Universe pageant.

Republicans on Monday accused their Democratic colleagues of applying a double standard for Biden after raising ferocious opposition to Kavanaugh in the last Congress.

“What is so appalling is the double standard and the way Democrats have by and large been silent about the allegations,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday New legislation required to secure US semiconductor leadership MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary panel who participated in Kavanaugh’s bitter confirmation hearings.

“I still remember where they thought due process was a joke that didn’t apply to Brett Kavanaugh, but somehow they think now that due process should be applied to Joe Biden,” he added.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse The Hill's Campaign Report: The political heavyweights in Tuesday's primary fights MORE (R-S.C.) said he would support changing the Senate rules or the law to allow Reade’s complaint to be made public if it exists.

“In this kind of case, I would,” he said.