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 BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans debate life under COVID-19 risks Biden set to make risky economic argument against Trump Hillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel MORE sexually assaulted her in the Senate 27 years ago, a charge Biden has vehemently denied.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: New documents show EPA rolled back mileage standards despite staff, WH concerns | Land management bureau grants 75 royalty rate cuts for oil and gas | EPA employees allege leadership interference with science in watchdog survey EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 Markey says EPA administrator should apologize to minorities for coronavirus response MORE (D-Mass.), who is in the midst of a tough primary race against Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyMental health crisis puts everyone on the front lines The Hill's Campaign Report: Flynn 'unmasking' enters 2020 debate Candidates shift to volunteering as pandemic halts campaigning 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 MerkleyOregon GOP Senate nominee contradicts own campaign by saying she stands with QAnon Oregon GOP Senate nominee posts video in support of QAnon conspiracy theory We need just recovery for the coronavirus and climate crises 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 KaineBipartisan senators introduce bill to make changes to the Paycheck Protection Program Overnight Defense: National Guard chief negative in third coronavirus test | Pentagon IG probing Navy's coronavirus response | Democrats blast use of Russia deterrence funds on border wall Overnight Defense: Navy secretary nominee: Service in 'rough waters' after 'failure of leadership'| Senate fails to override Trump's Iran war powers veto| Top Armed Services Republican expects to address Pentagon border wall funds in defense policy bill 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 WarrenPentagon charts its own course on COVID-19, risking Trump's ire Warren to host high-dollar fundraiser for Biden It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process 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 ShaheenThis week: Surveillance fight sets early test for House's proxy voting Open Skies withdrawal throws nuclear treaty into question GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill 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 KavanaughThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff Juan Williams: Justice Thomas seizes his moment in the Trump era MORE faced assault allegations during his confirmation hearings.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day Congress headed toward unemployment showdown Senate to try to pass fix for Paycheck Protection Program Thursday 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 TrumpMulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus Former CBS News president: Most major cable news outlets 'unrelentingly liberal' in 'fear and loathing' of Trump An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19 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 CornynBottom line Five questions about the next COVID-19 relief package Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting 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 GrahamWhy do Americans worry about North Korea? Senate confirms Ratcliffe to be Trump's spy chief Abrams announces endorsements in 7 Senate races 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.