Top Democrat gives 'failing grade' to Biden administration on classified documents

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, chided the Biden administration Wednesday for the lack of information being shared about classified documents that were found at the homes of current and former presidents.

"This is where the Biden administration gets an absolute failing grade," Warner said on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports." "Their position is outrageous."

Lawmakers have increasingly criticized administration officials' ignoring requests to be briefed about the classified documents.

Warner and other lawmakers have been asking to see which documents were found, a request that has been stonewalled.

"We have a constitutional responsibility to see those documents — the classified ones — make a judgment whether the intelligence community did appropriate protection, and if those documents were to fall into the wrong hands, what kind of mitigation we could take," Warner said. "And I am done with the lack of willingness for the administration to address this."

He added, "Their position does not pass the smell test."

Asked about Warner's remarks, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Wednesday's briefing that "we’re going to have disagreements with — you know, with elected officials that we work with, with our partners and friends. That happens all the time."

Before his comments Wednesday, Warner spoke with Lisa Monaco, a deputy attorney general, his office confirmed. It described the conversation as "frank but candid." The source in his office added that changes from their talk were expected.

Hundreds of pages of documents with classified markings were recovered from Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump's Florida home and private club in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump had refused to turn the documents over in response to a subpoena.

Months later, a handful of documents were found at an office President Joe Biden used before he was elected. Subsequent searches of his residences produced additional documents. Biden has complied with federal officials' requests to search for those documents.

In addition, a handful of records were found at the home of former Vice President Mike Pence, who also complied with a request to search after the Biden and Trump documents were discovered.

Warner, who said his demands are not partisan, suggested he could issue a subpoena to obtain the information.

"You know, if this was the Trump administration — and this is not a Democrat, Republican thing — every Democratic member of the intelligence community is outraged by this non-supportable position of the administration," Warner said. "I’m joining with my Republican colleagues and my colleagues, Democrat and Republican, in the House. This position cannot stand, and their dragging their feet is outrageous. We’ve got a job to do. And if we can’t get it through a negotiation process with them, we will use other tools."

A special counsel is investigating the documents found at Trump's home, in addition to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. A separate special counsel is investigating the documents found in Biden's possession.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a Senate hearing Tuesday that his office is working to make the information available to lawmakers.

"We do have to balance the concerns of ongoing criminal investigations, but we also well recognize the oversight responsibilities and obligations of the committee, and we intend to work out an arrangement that will accommodate those interests," Garland said. "We’ve been working with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence towards that. And we’ve been making quite a bit of progress recently. And we expect to make further progress.”

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