Below is my column in the New York Post on one possible explanation for the distribution and division of classified documents in a former office, a garage, and the library of President Joe Biden. If evidence links the President’s work in his book to any of these documents, his “inadvertent defense” will be shattered and deepen the danger of the ongoing criminal investigation. There are many who are hoping that Biden with “Promise me” that he was not reckless enough to work of any of these documents on Ukraine, China, and other issues from this time as Vice President.
Here is the column:
“How that could possibly happen, how anyone could be that irresponsible,” President Biden, struggling to find words to express his revulsion at the very idea of moving classified material to Mar-a-Lago in a “60 Minutes” interview.
“And I thought what data was in there that may compromise sources and methods.”
So how does Biden explain the roughly dozen documents found sitting in a closet at a private office supplied by the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement? For the moment, he is not saying anything at all. It is easy to understand why.
According to reports, the clearly marked classified documents include those at the highly classified “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information” (TS/SCI) level. The documents reportedly include material related to Iran, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
When the documents on such subjects were found at Mar-a-Lago, media experts immediately opined that Donald Trump may have sold material or was endangering national security for a book or vanity.
For two days, Biden has refused to answer questions from reporters as his allies in the media struggle for a spin out of this scandal.
His silence is hardly surprising. Biden has always been better at expressing revulsion than responsibility. Time and again, he has literally rushed before cameras to denounce others, often without basis, for alleged crimes. He has not waited for investigations, let alone trials.
For instance, when mounted agents were falsely accused of whipping migrants in Texas, the president was there. Even though the whipping story was clearly refuted by the available videotape, Biden rode the wave of media outrage, declaring: “It was horrible what — to see, as you saw — to see people treated like they did: horses nearly running them over and people being strapped. It’s outrageous. I promise you, those people will pay.”
This week, the president appeared on the southern border and held a photo op with border agents. Yet he has never had the decency to apologize to the agents who were cleared of all whipping allegations. Instead, his administration is still seeking to punish them on other grounds.
Biden may have to take responsibility for this debacle, but he faces a potential criminal charge. While Attorney General Merrick Garland has again refused to appoint a special counsel, any acknowledgment of Biden’s knowledge or interaction with the documents could have serious legal ramifications. These documents may have been relevant to his last book.
The book, “Promise Me, Dad,” released in November 2017, was marketed as his insider view of America’s relations with countries like Iran and Ukraine: “As vice president, Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq.”
If he worked off these documents, it is impossible to deny the violation — or his hypocrisy in his comments on Mar-a-Lago.
He is now the subject of the same inquiries he raised with CBS’s Scott Pelley: “I thought what data was in there that may compromise sources and methods. By that, I mean, names of people helped or et cetera.”
The fact is past cases of the removal or mishandling of classified material have not resulted in major prosecutions. Yet many in the Democratic Party and the media have insisted on criminal charges in the Mar-a-Lago case, including barring Trump from office for even a misdemeanor conviction on unlawful possession.
Biden has previously weathered scandals, often by denying culpable intent. When accused of plagiarism, for instance, Biden insisted “if I had intended to cheat, would I have been so stupid?”
Many are likely to be asking the same question in the weeks ahead.
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.