Political strategy in allowing FBI to search Biden’s home
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Joe Biden’s decision allowing the FBI to search his home in Delaware last week is laying him open to fresh negative attention and embarrassment following the earlier discoveries of classified documents at that home and a former office. But it’s a legal and political calculation that aides hope will pay off in the long run as he prepares to seek reelection.
The remarkable, nearly 13-hour search by FBI agents of the sitting president’s Wilmington home is the latest political black eye for Biden, who promised to restore propriety to the office after the tumultuous tenure of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
But with his actions, Biden is doing more than simply complying with federal investigators assigned to look into the discovery of the records. The president is aiming to show that, unlike Trump, he never intended to retain classified materials - a key distinction that experts say diminishes the risks of criminal liability.
White House spokesman Ian Sams said Monday that Biden’s own attorneys invited the FBI to conduct the search. “This was a voluntary proactive offer by the president’s personal lawyers to DOJ to have access to the home,” he said, adding that it reflected “how seriously” Biden is taking the issue.
Mary McCord, a former senior Justice Department national security official, said, “If I was a lawyer and I represented the president of the United States and I wanted to show, ‘I am being fully cooperative, and I do care to be projecting transparency to the American public, and I do take this seriously,’ I think this is the advice I would give as well.”
That’s not to say she approves of his handling of the documents. “I think it’s wrong that he had those documents there,” she said. “It shows lapses at the end of the administration,” when Biden was completing his time as vice president under Barack Obama.
Biden’s personal attorneys first discovered classified materials on Nov. 2, a week before the midterm elections, as they were clearing out an office Biden had used at the Penn Biden Center in Washington. Since that initial discovery, Biden’s team has adopted an accommodating approach to the investigation.
The White House has cited the “risk” of sharing information “that’s not complete” potentially interfering with the probe to justify not revealing more information to the public.
They didn’t acknowledge the first discovery before the elections, though they swiftly notified the National Archives, returned the documents the day after they were found and coordinated subsequent searches and discoveries with the Department of Justice.
They also are not standing in the way of interviews of staff, including Kathy Chung, Biden’s executive assistant when he was vice president, who helped oversee the packing of boxes that were taken to the Penn Biden Center.