About 20 classified documents from President Joe Biden’s vice presidency in the Obama administration were uncovered between November 2022 and January 2023 by the president’s lawyers in his former workplace at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., as well as in his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Joe Biden episode with Secret Documents

Biden’s legal team found the first batch of top-secret documents on November 2, 2022, in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center. They immediately reported them to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which recovered them the following day. Informational memoranda and intelligence materials regarding the UK, Iran, and Ukraine were included in the secret documents. In cooperation with the Justice Department (DOJ), Biden’s lawyers found a second set of papers at Biden’s house on December 20. Then, on January 9 and January 12, 2023, they found several other pieces. On January 21, Biden’s attorney reported that the Justice Department had found six items in his home that had classification markings during a consensual search the day before, some of which dated back to his time in the Senate. Investigators also took some of Biden’s handwritten notes from his time serving as vice president. Robert Hur was assigned as special counsel to look into the “potential illegal removal and retention of classified documents or other records” by Attorney General Merrick Garland on January 12. The House Judiciary Committee launched a second investigation into the materials the following day.

Background of the case

According to CNN, the process of returning Biden’s records to NARA started many weeks before his vice presidential term came to an end. Still, it was made more challenging because Biden continued using his vice presidential offices and acquiring more classified records. According to CNN, most of the packing of Biden’s possessions and papers was carried out by lower-level staff members, citing “former aides and others with direct knowledge of the process.” Despite this, the staff had “clear Presidential Records Act guidelines” and took those guidelines seriously. Kathy Chung, then-executive Biden’s assistant, was one of the staff members who helped with the packing. She was reportedly questioned about investigating the secret documents discovered in Biden’s private offices. The records that were “not deemed covered by the record requirements to send to the National Archives” were initially kept at a GSA-run temporary storage location close to the White House before being transferred to the Penn Biden Center.

Classified Documents Discovery in Biden’s Private Office

The classified documents were discovered by Biden’s lawyers in a locked closet in the future president’s private Washington office while he was a visiting lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. The records were turned over to the National Archives the morning after they were discovered when the White House Counsel’s office received a notification. According to a source familiar with the situation who spoke to CNN, Biden was unaware the documents were in the office until his lawyers alerted him to their presence. He still needs to learn about the information’s content. Federal officeholders must turn over official and classified records upon leaving government employment, as required by law. In contrast to Trump, Biden has not attempted to claim ownership of the documents, impede their transfer, or make ludicrous claims that he had previously declassified them based on unreported private thinking. Smith is looking into Trump to determine if he may have violated the Espionage Act by hoarding classified information and for potential obstruction of justice.

Which factors are similar between the two cases?

It was improper for Trump or Biden to possess any sensitive information. The documents from each administration are meant to be transferred to the legal custody of the U.S. National Archives during a presidential transition period. Removal or retention of classified material is prohibited if done knowingly or willfully. If sensitive information falls into the wrong hands, improper storage and protection could endanger national security.

Biden has stated that he was shocked to hear that he had secret information. While his lawyers have failed to reiterate that claim in court filings, Trump has claimed on social media that he declassified the information without offering any supporting documentation. The classified documents in question were created when Biden served as Vice President under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017 and under President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2021.

In the United States, improper management of correctly classified, vitally important material is viewed as a concern, as is overclassification. Once the information has been correctly classified, it must be managed according to the classification’s rules, which may include locks, guards, or electronic surveillance countermeasures. For instance, Top Secret material cannot be accessed or discussed outside a secure information facility (SCIF). A SCIF can be a room inside a facility, like the Hart Senate Office Building, where the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence meets, or the building itself, like most of the CIA’s headquarters. The present emphasis on classified materials could provide a chance to reassess the classification process and guarantee that material that requires classification is classified. The current focus on classified materials could allow reassessing the classification procedure and ensure that material that needs to be sorted is handled correctly. While I don’t intend to draw any comparisons between Trump’s behavior and that of Biden or to defend either president’s acts, these incidents can be attributed to an entirely flawed classification system.