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National Archives Must Consult With DOJ Before Turning Biden Document Info Over To Congress

January 19, 2023
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Rep. James Comer

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In response to the discovery of classified documents at President Biden's former office at the Penn Biden Center and in two separate locations at his Wilmington, Delaware residence between November and December, House Oversight Committee Chairman, Rep. James Comer (R-KY) sent a request to the National Archives last week asking for:

  • All documents retrieved from President Biden's personal office at the Penn Biden Center
  • All internal documents and communications regarding the documents retrieved from President Biden's personal office at the Penn Biden Center
  • A list of all people who had access to President Biden's personal office at the Penn Biden Center
  • All documents and communications related to the handling of the classified material by President Biden's personal lawyers - including but not limited to their security clearance status
  • All documents and communications between or among the White House and the Department of Justice or NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] regarding the documents retrieved from President Biden's personal office at the Penn Biden Center

Comer finally received a response to his request Tuesday evening, but it was not the response he was hoping for. According to the letter sent by the National Archive, NARA has to consult with the Justice Department before it can share any information regarding the classified documents with Congress.

Archivist Debra Steidel Wall wrote in the letter, "DOJ has advised it will need to consult with the newly appointed Office of Special Counsel (SCO) in DOJ, to assess whether information can be released without interfering with the SCO's investigation."

Despite former President Donald Trump properly storing classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate and Biden improperly storing classified materials in an office closet and a garage at his Wilmington residence, Wall responded to accusations from Republicans that the National Archives are treating Biden differently than how they treated Trump when documents were found at Mar-a-Lago.

Wall wrote, "Our action and responses with respect to both of these matters have been entirely consistent and without any political bias."

"NARA receives only the Presidential and Vice Presidential records that the departing administration provides us; we are never able to know whether we have 'all' such records," Wall added.

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Wall also stated that the National Archives "played absolutely no role in the FBI's August 2022" raid of Mar-a-Lago.

The letter from Wall refusing to hand over documents to Congress comes after the DOJ also decided not to have the FBI oversee the Biden administration's search for additional classified materials. Instead, the DOJ thought it would be better to have White House aides and Biden's personal attorneys, who do not have the proper security clearance, search Biden's Wilmington residence for additional classified documents.

Despite Wall's claims, it is difficult to dispute that the DOJ and National Archives have not treated Trump and Biden equally in their handling of the classified document scandals each have been involved in. Trump's residence was publically raided and rifled through by the FBI, while Biden's residence was privately and quietly rummaged through by personal attorneys and trusted aides.

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Author

Jen Snow

Jen Snow is a former paralegal turned freelance writer who has a passion for foreign affairs. When not writing, she can be found curled up with her dog and a good book or outside playing in the Florida sun.
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