Good Friday Morning! Especially to my Georgia Bulldog readers. As Josh Pate described it, Georgia smeared the walls with TCU’s blood. It was a regular “Sarah McLaughlin Special,” and we’ll remember TCU fondly in the arms of an angel. And with that, the college football season is over. We have the NFL off-season to keep us company, which is nice. But the end of college football is always a sad time.
Speaking of sad, there’s only one CI column this week because I’ve been fighting off a case of COVID-19. After writing last week’s newsletter, in which I felt mildly under the weather, that night I hit the full impact of the Rona. I’m on the mend now, but it’s no fun. All I can say is Praise God for vaccines, Mucinex, and ibuprofen. The electric Netti pot probably worked too, but I don’t know how much I credit waterboarding for healing properties.
I’m also in the middle of a month-long social media fast. That made recovering from COVID even more boring. In any event, this week, I’m diving into the Biden classified documents scandal. I’m aiming to cover what we know, don’t know, and where things are headed. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
Please subscribe, rate, and review my podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play — the reviews help listeners, and readers like you find me in the algorithms. Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter and become a subscriber at The Dispatch, where I’m a contributor.
[01/13/2023] Press rushes to protect Biden over his classified documents – Conservative Institute
The Biden classified documents could follow him to 2024.
Reading this developing story on Biden and the classified documents is difficult at this stage. Several threads are getting reported but also overlooked. That’s because there are two things about this story: 1) the story itself on its own facts. And 2) the comparison of this story against the backdrop of the DOJ performing a no-knock raid on Donald Trump.
That second part is the one everyone wants to talk about because we need more facts to establish what Biden did and why. And also, whenever an awful story about Democrats comes out, the press will talk about the Republican reaction versus the Democratic misdeeds. Noah Rothman termed it the “Republicans pounce” trope in 2015:
When political reporters are compelled by necessity to report on subjects that cast liberals in a negative light, nothing is more welcome than a reaction quote from a Republican. If a Democrat or a progressive interest group finds itself in the dock, the press can always count on Republicans to rescue liberals from due opprobrium by virtue of their very existence. The story is never the story; for political reporters and editors alike, the Republican reaction to the story is the preferred prism through which to view events Democrats find… discomforting.
To any competent editor, a political party capitalizing on the problems of its opposition is a dog-bites-man story. If that narrative construction distracts from Democratic scandals or failures of governance, however, it’s excusable. It is no longer possible to suspend disbelief; once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, but the course of an entire two-term presidency is enemy action.
When Republicans pounce, you can be sure that the press will cover the leap and not their target.
Case in point, MSNBC ran with this hilarious headline on their website: “Why a special counsel in the Biden case could be a major blow to the GOP.”
When Special Counsels investigated Trump and the Republicans, it was bad for the right. When a Special Counsel investigates Biden and the Democrats, it’s also bad for Republicans. Heads, I win; tails, you lose.
I hit on this irony and the deluge of “explainers” in my CI column. I won’t go back over it here. But we’re in this spot because we know that Biden had classified documents in his personal possession but little else. Much like the Trump years, the arrival of a special counsel investigation means we’re left to speculate on the particulars until factual information comes out.
As I said at the top, it’s hard to figure out where this story is going. It could end up a nothing-burger, or we could see this spark a multi-year investigation of Biden. With Republicans in charge of the House, you’d expect an investigation push.
Aside from the files, Republicans in the House have already indicated they want visitor logs from the President. The BBC reports:
Other Republicans demanded the president release a log of all the people who had visited Mr Biden’s Delaware home. James Comer, a Kentucky congressman and chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told Fox News: “We need to know who all has had access to the president.”
Colorado Republican Ken Buck wrote a letter to the White House on Thursday calling on Mr Biden to “release all visitor logs.” Elise Stefanik, the number three House Republican and New York congresswoman, said that the visitor logs were “a clear matter of national security.”
I’d expect the White House to delay and push back on any Republican demands. If nothing else, the Biden classified document files will give Republicans another thread to pull on with their investigative powers.
Again, though, there are some weird threads getting overlooked. John Podhoretz pointed this out on the Commentary Podcast this week. One of the sets of documents was in a manilla folder marked “personal.” The BBC summarized what we know here:
The documents relate to his time as vice-president, his lawyer has said, but their level of classification or why they were there is unclear.
Citing a source familiar with the matter, CNN reports that the 10 classified files include US intelligence memos and briefing materials covering topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom.
They were found at a private office he used from 2017 to 2020 as it was being cleared out by one of his lawyers, in a manila folder that was labelled “personal,” according to CNN.
A source familiar with the matter has told the BBC’s US partner CBS News that the batch did not contain nuclear secrets.
One working theory advanced by the Biden side is that these are all files from Biden’s last days as Vice President. CNN is running stories headlined, “Biden’s whirlwind final days as vice president had aides scrambling to close his White House office.”
They point to the last-second travel by Biden, where he was in Ukraine in the very last days of his Vice Presidency. There’s undoubtedly truth there. Biden was traveling and working in the final days of the Obama administration. But a “personal” folder undercuts the notion that these were all general briefings needed by a VP in the ordinary course of his job.
Republicans in the House will be very interested in knowing what’s in that folder and who designated it “personal.” Classified documents can’t simply be taken, even if they do relate to something personal to the Vice President. And you can bet House Republicans will believe there’s a connection to Hunter Biden, or something nefarious with Ukraine, given that’s where Biden was at the time.
The Biden side is also leaking about interviews by the Feds of former Obama/Biden officials. NBC News reports:
Multiple aides who worked for President Joe Biden in the final days of the Obama administration have been interviewed by federal law enforcement officials reviewing how classified documents ended up in his Delaware residence and a Washington office, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Kathy Chung, who was Biden’s executive assistant while he was vice president and helped pack up his vice presidential office in January 2017, is among those who have been interviewed, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing inquiry. Chung currently serves as deputy director of protocol for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
One of the sources familiar with the interviews that have already taken place said those whom law enforcement officials asked to be interviewed complied “quickly.”
“The people who were boxing [up the vice presidential office] had no idea that there was anything in there that shouldn’t leave the White House,” the source said. “There was no decision made to take certain documents that should have been presidential records or classified.”
The sources did not know whether all interviews of the aides were complete. It is possible that the newly named special counsel could interview them again. Some of the aides who were with Biden while he was vice president are now White House staff members.
These leaks are friendly to the Biden side because they suggest he did nothing wrong. They’re also pushing the theory that everything got swept up at the end of his Vice-Presidency gig, thrown in a box, and packed away.
Again, this is one of those threads that House Republicans will pull. Biden’s staff as Vice President isn’t a secret, and they could interview them all.
But the angle I know House Republicans will pull on is anything related to Hunter Biden. One of the flashpoints is where Biden stored the documents: his garage. Fox News reporter Peter Doocy had a flashpoint with Biden over it:
“Classified materials next to your Corvette? What were you thinking?” Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked Biden after he spoke about annual inflation edging lower to 6.5% in December.
“My Corvette is in a locked garage, OK? So it’s not like they’re sitting out on the street,” Biden replied, seeming to brush off the significance of the discovery.
“So it was in a locked garage?” Doocy persisted.
“Yes, as well as my Corvette,” Biden admitted.
“But as I said earlier this week, people know I take classified documents and classified material seriously,” the president insisted.
“I also said we’re cooperating fully and completely with the Justice Department’s review. As part of that process, my lawyers reviewed other places where documents might — from my time as vice president — were stored and they finished the review last night. They discovered a small number of documents with classified markings in storage areas and file cabinets in my home and my personal library.”
Why is the garage important? Fox News is currently running a story with this headline: “Emails suggest Hunter Biden had access to garage where president kept classified docs, Corvette.”
Fox leads with this:
Hunter Biden, who is under federal investigation for possible tax and foreign lobbying violations, listed his father’s Delaware address as his own residence, records show.
Emails reviewed and verified by Fox News Digital show the younger Biden listed his father’s Wilmington, Delaware, address as his own permanent residence for his credit card and Apple account in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Is this smoke? Is it fire? Is it nothing?
I don’t know. But I can tell you House Republicans will want to find out. And they’ll want all the evidence reviewed by the special counsel in this case. All the people, the documents themselves, and anything else dug up. Because no one in their right mind believes classified documents are safe at the home address listed by Hunter Biden.
Fox News won’t be the only right-leaning organization incentivized to research and dig into these stories. The entire conservative media landscape will hop on this investigative train. The mainstream press can ignore it, of course. But it’ll be hard to avoid a special counsel investigation of a sitting president.
Finally, a friend of mine already raised the specter of a conspiracy theory here. We had a text conversation where the theory is this: we’re getting another story from Democrats to help them push Biden out of the White House ahead of 2024.
I’ve written twice about Democrats trying to position themselves for a post-Biden White House:
- Democrats and press make Biden’s age an issue for 2024
- The generational change in Democratic House leadership
- Biden’s attempts to change the 2024 primaries
I do agree there is a tug-of-war in the Democratic Party over its future. Biden’s age and competence are openly discussed in Democratic circles. Those issues will only grow as 2024 nears. Realistically, if Democrats want to hold a primary, they’ll need Biden to make a decision by the spring or summer of this year.
Is this story a way to force Biden out? Again, that’s impossible to tell. But if it grows into an issue over the year, Democrats could ask him to step aside (as they could for any reason). Further, even if Democrats did use this to get Biden to step aside, it’s not like there’s any clear successor to him.
The 2020 Democratic Primaries were a mess, with no clear non-Biden option. Kamala Harris will have the sheen of a Vice President to fall back on and could likely take states like South Carolina with that. Pete Buttigieg is the worst Transporation Secretary in US History. He’s not out of the running, but he has less to run on this time than before. Elizabeth Warren is perceived as a top-tier candidate until she opens her mouth.
All that to say, I get the reasoning of the conspiracy theory: force Biden out. What I don’t get is “why?” or “to what ends?” It’s hard to see what gets achieved when no one has a clear shot at overtaking Biden.
This is clear: the story of the classified documents isn’t likely to go away any time soon, absent some clear, narrative-destroying evidence that ends the story for everyone. Biden’s classified documents will likely follow him into the 2024 November elections, with whatever House Republicans can add via investigations.
As for how this compares to Donald Trump and his classified documents: it’s too early to tell. We need more facts on Biden to make serious comparisons at this stage. I think all the pieces doing that, especially the “fact-checking” ones, are too early and over their skis. Wait until we get more info.
Links of the week
Hunter Biden Accessed Garage Where Dad Kept His Corvette (And Classified Material) – Philip Wegmann, RealClearPolitics
Don’t buy Biden’s ‘surprise’ — classified documents were moved at least twice – Jonathan Turley, NYPost
Biden already admitted guilt — he’s just betting Garland doesn’t prosecute him, or Trump – Andrew C. McCarthy, NYPost
Banning gas stoves, and going electric only, is part of left’s agenda – Stephen L. Miller, NYPost
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!