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Documents Here, There and ... Everywhere?

Another day, another batch of classified documents found in one of the offices Joe Biden had between his stints as vice president and president. The new batch's existence was first reported by NBC News.

Very little is, as yet, publicly known about the new group of documents. It's even a little fuzzy exactly where they were found, though it appears to be another workspace related to Biden's relationship with Penn. The number of documents in the new cache appears to be about 10, but a precise number has not been announced. The contents of the documents is also unknown, though there do not appear to be any SCI documents in the new cache, as opposed to in the first cache. It's also not clear when they were found, or when they were turned over to the federal government.

We are certainly not insiders when it comes to the handling of classified information. But it sure seems like the federal government has a bit of a classified-document-tracking problem. In Donald Trump's case, the National Archives knew enough to realize that things were missing, and to ask for their return. But it would seem nobody knows exactly what's missing, because if they did, they would know whether or not Trump had returned everything. In Biden's case, the missing documents have been missing for at least 6 years without anyone noticing, and they would have remained missing if Biden's legal team hadn't found them and turned them over.

And that brings us to a point worth noting. This whole situation reflects badly on Biden. Maybe he was personally responsible for the misplaced documents. Maybe it was one of his staffers. Either way, though, the buck stops with the boss. At the same time, the situation also reflects well on Biden, in one important way. The easiest way to make this go away would have been to toss the documents in the fire, Mark Meadows-style. After 6+ years, the National Archives and the rest of the federal government surely would have been none the wiser. But Team Biden did what was required by the law and by ethics. Their (foreseeable) reward for that, of course, was to end up with a scandal on their hands.

On that point, and as we pointed out on Tuesday, there is a clear legal difference between what Biden did and what Trump did. The former surrendered the classified documents as soon as their existence came to light. The latter did not, told what appear to be lies about the situation, had people sign perjurious documents about the situation, and continues to obfuscate. In a court of law, Biden would be in the clear whereas Trump would be in serious danger.

On the other hand, politically, it's getting harder and harder to separate Biden's actions from Trump's. Nuance is not, on the whole, a strong point of the print, online and television media, particularly the right-wing variant. Already, there have been numerous calls for AG Merrick Garland to appoint a special counsel to look into Biden's document handling. Certainly, doing that would allow Garland to claim that he's being fair to everyone, regardless of who is in which party, and regardless of who is and is not his boss. However, Jack Smith is not only looking into document-related behavior by Trump that might well be illegal, he's also looking into the 1/6 insurrection. So, appointing a special counsel to look into Biden would imply an equivalence between Biden's actions and Trump's actions that doesn't actually exist. It's another tough call for the AG, who surely must be wishing by now that his Supreme Court appointment had gone through. Hell, just staying on the D.C. Court of Appeals would have been easier than the mess he has now.

The White House has not, as yet, offered any comment on the new trove of documents. They won't be able to hide forever, though, particularly as more information about them comes to light. Maybe they will wait until tomorrow to talk about the matter, in hopes that the story is partly swallowed by the weekend news black hole.

Meanwhile, that's two days in a row where our lead headline was based on a Beatles song. Will we stretch it to three tomorrow? Even we don't know yet, since we don't know what the big news is. You'll have to make sure to read tomorrow's posting to see if we can work it out. (Z)

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