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Trump, Biden? Am I the only one with no classified documents.

This sucks. I'm always in the dark. You think it's easy putting out this rag every day with no inside information! Well do you!

Biden’s Classified Document Stash

A sauce for the gander moment that makes charging Trump much harder.

By The Editorial Board, WSJ

Jan. 10, 2023 6:53 pm ET


Whatever gods are scripting America’s political drama these days, they sure do have a sense of humor. On Monday CBS broke the news that, days before the midterm elections, “roughly 10” documents with classification markings were found among Joe Biden’s vice presidential files in a private office he once used. A federal prosecutor is investigating, and the FBI is involved.

Not even George Santos could make up this plot twist. The documents discovered in Mr. Biden’s possession include “intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom,” CNN reports.

Citing a single anonymous source, CNN says Mr. Biden “didn’t know the documents were there.” His personal lawyers found the classified material while packing files in a locked closet at an office that Mr. Biden used beginning in 2017. After the discovery, the National Archives was notified the same day, and the papers were handed over the following morning. Some of the documents were designated as “sensitive compartmented information,” which means they were classified above Top Secret.

News analysts are cautioning that this apparent mishandling of material is different from Mr. Trump’s retention of hundreds of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home, which ultimately triggered an extraordinary FBI search last year. That’s true as far as it goes. Mr. Biden’s office had many fewer documents, and he wasn’t wrangling with the National Archives for months over his right to keep them.

On the other hand, Mr. Biden as Vice President had no authority to declassify documents on his own, unlike the President. He also isn’t covered by the Presidential Records Act provision that gives former Presidents access to documents from their presidential years in cooperation with the National Archives. Mr. Biden had no authority to hold such classified documents at all in a private office.

None of this is to say that Mr. Biden should be prosecuted, despite the Justice Department investigation. But it is a sauce for the gander political moment, and it certainly does bear on whether Justice can fairly prosecute Mr. Trump for similar mishandling.

Mr. Biden was notably unforgiving about Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago files last year. “When you saw the photograph of the top secret documents laid out on the floor at Mar-a-Lago, what did you think to yourself?” Mr. Biden was asked on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

“How anyone could be that irresponsible,” Mr. Biden replied. “And I thought: What data was in there that may compromise sources and methods?” The same question applies to Mr. Biden’s documents.

Special Counsel Jack Smith is investigating Mr. Trump’s handling of the Mar-a-Lago documents, which was at least reckless. But consider the political context in which Mr. Smith must now make a prosecutorial decision. Hillary Clinton’s private server exposed classified material, but the FBI absolved her in 2016. Now we learn Mr. Biden’s private office contained classified material that someone mishandled.

Is Mr. Smith, who answers to Mr. Biden through Attorney General Merrick Garland, really going to indict Mr. Trump for mishandling documents while Mr. Biden is absolved? Legal nuances aside, the underlying offense is far too close for safe political comfort. Barring new evidence in the Mar-a-Lago case, half the country would conclude the sitting President is prosecuting his chief political competitor for an offense that he also committed.

Mr. Garland did himself no political favors by failing to disclose this news as soon as he found out. The leak so many weeks later, with its made-to-order Biden explanations, sounds a little too tidy. All the more reason to settle the Mar-a-Lago case short of prosecution, and let Mr. Trump’s political future be decided by the voters.

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