Senate

Some Democrats say charges against Biden merit independent investigation

Getty Images

A few Senate Democrats are saying there needs to be more investigation of former aide Tara Reade’s accusation that Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in the Senate 27 years ago, a charge Biden has vehemently denied.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who is in the midst of a tough primary race against Rep. Joe Kennedy 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.

“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 Merkley (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.

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 Kaine (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 Warren (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 Shaheen (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 Kavanaugh faced assault allegations during his confirmation hearings.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (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.”

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

Durbin pointed out the FBI hasn’t investigated sexual assault charges level against President Trump 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 Cornyn (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 Graham (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. 

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Dick Durbin Donald Trump Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren Jeanne Shaheen Jeff Merkley Joe Biden Joe Kennedy John Cornyn Lindsey Graham Tim Kaine
See all Hill.TV See all Video