President Joe Biden is getting more and more pressure to talk about the secret documents found at his home in Delaware and a former office he used in Washington.
The Justice Department has recruited an independent lawyer, or special counsel, to investigate whether these materials were mishandled.
Concerning the files, there are still more questions than answers. Here are some of the mysteries we still need to understand.
What’s the catch?
Mr. Biden has stated that he has yet to learn what is in the discovered papers.
And it’s easier to say how dangerous this is once we know more about what they include. However, some details have begun to emerge.
According to CNN and the New York Times, the first ten secret documents comprised briefing materials on various countries from Mr. Biden’s vice president, including Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
According to CNN, these documents were mixed up with other non-classified paperwork, including information about the president’s son, Beau Biden, who died in 2015.
It further stated that some of the documents were classified as top secret, the highest degree of security.
The second group of documents needs to be more well-known. Mr. Biden’s counsel issued a statement on Thursday stating that the files were “Obama-Biden Administration records,” implying that they, too, stretched back to his eight years as vice president.
The White House later stated that any remaining classified materials had been found.
Who was given access?
The General Services Administration, a large bureaucracy that handles the core operations of the federal government, is in charge of the White House power transition. This mammoth task entails welcoming the new president and vice-president and removing the departing ones – and their paperwork.
In the seven years since Mr. Biden’s resignation as vice president, someone may have handled these files, but this is still being investigated.
The only hints we have are the locations where they were discovered.
Mr. Biden’s lawyers found the first set of files in what the White House said was a locked closet in the president’s office at the Washington think tank Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
The second tranche was discovered later in Mr. Biden’s garage in Wilmington, Delaware. In an adjacent room, a single-page manuscript was located.
Investigators will undoubtedly want to know who had access to these locations and how safely the files were kept.
Republicans in Congress have sought to see visitor records for Mr. Biden’s properties, claiming that the discovery of the data at one of his homes poses a national security concern.
What caused the delay?
The White House claims that Mr. Biden’s lawyers discovered classified information on November 2, barely one week before the midterm elections. The administration immediately reported the discovery to the National Archives, which recovered the records on November 3 and forwarded the matter to the Justice Department.
The found records were not made public or recognized by the White House until CBS News reported on them this month, prompting claims that they were purposefully kept hidden ahead of the midterm elections.
“He was well aware of what had occurred prior to [the] election and interviews. This is why Americans do not trust their government “Kevin McCarthy, Republican House Speaker, stated.
Meanwhile, the White House has disputed a deliberate delay in going public.
Mr. Biden stated that he was “surprised” that sensitive materials were discovered in his former office. It could be more apparent when he found out about their existence.
Keeping such a discovery hidden, though, is “standard,” according to David Weinstein, a formal federal prosecutor in Florida.
“It is not your business as a target or witness of an inquiry to tell what happened; it is up to the individuals investigating it to decide what to speak and when to say it,” he explained.
What could the consequences be?
If the president or any of his associates suffer legal repercussions, it is too early to say.
We know that the newly appointed Special Counsel Robert Hur will investigate “the possible illegal removal and retention of secret documents,” a crime under U.S. law.
According to Mr. Weinstein, a few factors make criminal prosecution unlikely.
To begin, a prosecutor would have to prove purpose – that the data were intentionally stolen and stored by Mr. Biden or his team – to bring charges. Second, he stated, is the Justice Department’s long-standing policy of not prosecuting a sitting president.
“It’s a bigger political dilemma for Mr. Biden than it is for the criminal allegations,” Mr. Weinstein added.