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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

USA: Secret documents: Explosive find puts Biden in trouble

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The discovery of top-secret documents in Trump’s estate was a political sensation – the ex-president could have made himself liable to prosecution. Now it is becoming public that Joe Biden was also sloppy.

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The discovery of secret government documents in private offices puts US President Joe Biden in need of explanation. The documents were discovered in November shortly before the important midterm elections and came from Biden’s time as US Vice President, the White House said. The Justice Department is investigating the case.

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The find is particularly explosive for the Democrats because it is reminiscent of another case: In the summer, the federal police FBI confiscated secret government documents from ex-President Donald Trump. The case caused a scandal. For the Republican who wants to move back into the White House, this new development is now a godsend.

The discovery

Biden was Vice President under then-President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017. He then used office space in the Penn Biden Center in the US capital Washington. The center is part of the University of Pennsylvania – Biden helped build the center. According to the White House, the documents were found on November 2 while cleaning out Biden’s office. They were discovered in a locked cabinet by Biden’s personal lawyers.

The documents were immediately handed over to the National Archives, emphasized Richard Sauber, special adviser to Biden. They were not the subject of an earlier request from the archive. The timing of the find is particularly tricky for Biden. If it had become known a week before the important midterm elections on November 8th that Biden was also not so specific about handling secret documents, it might have harmed the Democrats in the election. The CBS broadcaster reported on the case on Monday, and the White House immediately confirmed the report.

The documents

Many questions about the documents are unanswered. According to reports, there are almost a dozen secret documents, some with the highest level of secrecy. According to the US broadcaster CNN, these are papers from the US secret service and briefing materials on topics such as Ukraine, Iran or Great Britain. Biden should not have known that the documents were stored in the closet. In the United States, government documents generally need to be archived and preserved for posterity. It is not surprising that the White House insists that it found and handed over the documents itself. The aim should be to present this case as completely different from Trump’s dispute over the confiscated secret documents from his time in office.

Biden abroad

The explosive news torpedoed Biden’s first trip abroad in the new year. The US President is about 3000 kilometers away in Mexico City when the first report on the documents makes the rounds at home in Washington. Biden stands smiling in the courtyard of the National Palace in the Mexican capital on Monday at a formal welcoming ceremony. Biden is in Mexico for two days – actually to do something in the fight against illegal migration and the smuggling of deadly drugs into the United States. Both are issues that put him under pressure domestically. But now, at his meetings in the Mexican capital, he is primarily confronted with questions about how carefully he handles secret government documents.

At an appointment with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday evening (local time), Biden was initially stoically silent when asked by reporters, as was the case in the morning (local time) during a bilateral meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. However, that is unlikely to last for long, mainly because of the vehemence with which he and his Democratic party colleagues condemned Trump’s behavior.

Trump is attacking

“When will the FBI raid Joe Biden’s many homes, maybe even the White House?” Trump responded immediately to the find. Investigations against Trump have been ongoing for months because of the taking of secret government documents to his private estate after leaving the White House. Trump could have made himself liable to prosecution. The FBI searched the Florida property in August and confiscated various classified documents, some with the highest level of secrecy.

Trump keeps dismissing the whole thing as a “political witch hunt”. In September, adversary Biden insisted on describing Trump’s behavior as “irresponsible” in an interview. He wondered what information was contained in the documents that could compromise sources, he said. Now the US President himself is under pressure. The prosecution deals with the find in the Penn Biden Center – exit open.

The differences

Although Biden’s and Trump’s case are very similar at first glance, there are key differences. Unlike Biden, Trump’s case was preceded by a dispute with the National Archives. It tried for months to get papers from Trump’s tenure. Trump’s lawyers finally handed over documents. But the officials rightly suspected that Trump or his team continued to withhold documents, which is not allowed. The number of documents also differs significantly. According to the FBI, among the thousands of documents seized from Trump, more than 100 are marked as documents. A special investigator is investigating whether Trump’s behavior has obstructed authorities.

Source: Stern

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