President Biden has confirmed reports that several classified documents were found at an office that he used before winning the White House.
The revelation about the documents, which were uncovered last fall but only made public this week, has given Republicans fresh political ammunition as they seek to portray Biden as incompetent, corrupt or worse.
On the face of it, the story should benefit the GOP and former President Donald Trump.
Trump is facing a criminal probe for taking top secret documents to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after being ousted from power.
What happened with the Biden documents?
The White House says “a small number of documents with classified markings” from the Obama-Biden administration were found on Nov. 2.
The discovery was made by the president’s personal lawyers as they packed files at a Washington office where papers from Biden’s vice presidency were kept and Biden sometimes worked.
The White House notified the National Archives that day and officials picked up the documents the next day.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has ordered Chicago U.S. Attorney John Lausch, a holdover from the Trump administration, to investigate whether any crimes were committed.
Is this similar to the Trump documents scandal?
Both cases involve classified documents being where they shouldn’t have been.
But that’s about it.
Trump took thousands of government documents, including more than 100 that were top secret, when he left the White House.
Trump has falsely claimed the documents belonged to him and refused to give them back when asked.
A federal judge authorized a search of Mar-a-Lago only after prosecutors convinced him there was probable cause that a crime was committed.
By contrast, Biden’s case concerns fewer than a dozen classified documents that the White House says were stored by mistake at the shuttered center in a locked closet.
Biden has not used the office since before returning to the White House in 2021.
Why are we hearing about this now?
Good question. The White House spoke out about the find only after news organizations reported it.
The documents were found six days before the midterm elections, raising questions about whether the Biden administration wanted to keep it under wraps until the votes were cast.
On Wednesday, NBC reported that another small batch of documents was found in an office in Washington that Biden used after his vice presidential term.
What is Trump saying?
Trump wasted no time jumping on the news as supposed evidence that he has been treated unfairly.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” he wrote on his social media platform.
He also spread false claims about the documents, like that they are somehow tied to presidential son Hunter Biden and that China has gained access to them.
How about the new Congress?
Republican lawmakers, who won control of the House in the midterms, are also demanding answers as part of their plans for sprawling investigations into everything from COVID-19 to Hunter Biden’s laptop.
House Republicans say a newly created committee on the “weaponization” of law enforcement will seek to find out if Trump was targeted for harsher treatment than Biden.
In the Senate, which is still controlled by Democrats, leaders of the Intelligence Committee from both parties say they want a briefing on any potential damage that has been done to national security.
What do Biden and Democrats say?
Biden says he was surprised to learn that the documents were at the office and is eager to cooperate with law enforcement to get to the bottom of what happened and who might be responsible.
Democratic allies say they see no wrongdoing but support further investigation. They say both cases point to the need for more scrutiny of sensitive documents during transitions of power.
What will happen next?
That’s up to the feds.
Lausch has completed an initial review. He has reportedly recommended to Garland whether Biden or anyone else should face charges in the new case, a possibility that most legal eagles say is extremely remote unless more information surfaces.