President Joe Biden has faced steep controversy in recent weeks following the discovery of classified documents in his previous office during his time as vice president. The comparisons to the raid of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence by Biden’s own justice department have already run abound with little resistance.
I’ll get into the differences in a moment, but it should be noted how detrimental the similarities and timing are.
The clear comparison between the two events is that both had classified documents, stored in former offices and homes, that Trump and Biden were no longer authorized to possess. These documents were supposed to be handed back to the National Archives but weren’t. Both of these actions serve as evidence of clear, dangerous negligence and should be investigated to the fullest extent necessary.
In terms of timing, the public perceptions are far from good. The Jan. 6 Committee has recommended criminal charges against Trump. The State of New York is investigating charges of fraud through the Trump Organization. Georgia is investigating Trump for his election meddling scheme. The Justice Department is conducting two separate investigations of Trump surrounding his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and the accrual of thousands of classified and unclassified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
The Justice Department’s investigation into Mar-a-Lago is the most damning case against Trump at this point in time, as it displays a reckless disregard for national security that could potentially bar him from future campaigns for public office. But Biden’s investigation into a similar instance could decrease public favor of the Justice Department’s investigation and the credibility of its findings.
With all this being said, Biden has failed miserably to identify the clear differences. News media can only do so much in the way of curbing disingenuous comparisons. The Biden administration has also done very little to convince the public when pressed on the subject.
In one press conference, Biden was asked why classified documents were in the garage of his home in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden curtly replied, “My Corvette is in a locked garage, OK? So it’s not like they’re sitting out in the street.” It’d be one thing if we were talking about a child’s bike, but we’re talking about possible national security risks here. You can’t just brush such negligence aside.
The only quote most news sites have promoted in his defense is that Biden simply had no idea the documents were in his possession. For such an unpopular administration, and with public trust in federal institutions at an all-time low, such a statement is weak and will largely go ignored.
In the absence of a strong and unequivocally clear response from Biden, the differences between the two discoveries must be highlighted. While both actions were clearly reckless, Trump’s case is far worse, encompassing active circumvention by a person steeped in controversy and seeking to run for president on an anti-establishment wave.
Firstly, the amount of documents discovered is very different. In the Mar-a-Lago raid, over 11,000 documents were found, with hundreds of them being marked with some level of secrecy. In addition to this, many folders were found that were marked as classified but were empty.
For comparison, Biden’s discoveries are nearing a mere 20 documents in total. The difference between the two findings is enormous, to say the least.
Secondly, the documents procured from the investigation of Biden have been completely voluntary. Biden’s personal attorney was the first to find classified documents and promptly handed them over to the White House and the National Archives, insisting that he and his team would look for more.
The Trump case was quite the opposite in terms of openness and cooperation with the National Archives. The National Archives had been requesting documents from Trump since he left office in 2021. While the outgoing administration did hand over some documents throughout the next year, with some documents torn and taped together, many more were knowingly withheld.
Investigations continued the following year as the National Archives believed Trump hid other documents at Mar-a-Lago. Groups of lawyers from the National Archives were sent with a list of documents to look for. Correspondence with Trump’s legal team was ongoing. Multiple subpoenas were commissioned against Trump that he ignored.
There was a clear effort by Trump to hold onto the documents, even having aides move the boxes of documents around the estate from different storage areas.
With Biden however, the same cannot be said. Through every step of the process, Biden has been fairly cooperative. He has invited investigators to his home and office to search, immediately reported his own team’s findings and has complied with every request thus far by the White House and the National Archives.
Biden must clear the air, recognize his negligence and establish the very clear differences between the cases. The recklessness of Trump’s case cannot be overshadowed by Biden’s own scandal. Trump knowingly violated national security, actively destroyed classified documents and attempted to circumvent federal prosecution. His active harm to the stability of the country cannot be ignored during this crucial period.