‘Unforced errors’: White House faces new crisis


Since lawyers for President Joe Biden first discovered classified-marked documents in his private Washington, D.C., office in early November, the handful of aides in the know have followed one rule: Don’t say anything publicly that could jeopardize the investigation.

68 days, it doesn’t make sense. When the saga burst into the public eye last week, the White House remained exceptionally selective about what it shared — prompting a plethora of questions and criticism about how much it revealed and when.

Biden himself was annoyed at how much he was able to reveal publicly, telling reporters twice last week that he wanted to say more.

“I’m going to have an opportunity to speak about all of this, God willing, very soon,” he said Thursday, hours after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation.

RELATED: What we know about classified Biden documents: A timeline of events

Behind the scenes, sources say, Biden has grown increasingly frustrated with how the story has unfolded, especially the way his administration has handled the story beyond the positive.

People close to the White House say there is currently a quiet resignation mood among Biden aides — a “this is it” mentality — as they also wait to hear whether there will be more misplaced classified documents in the coming days.

On Monday, following yet another weekend revelation of misplaced classified documents found at Biden’s Wilmington home last week — and his personal lawyer’s defense — there was only one item on the president’s public agenda: on the National Action Network Deliver a speech in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. sky.

Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader whose pastor founded the group, told CNN on Monday that Biden appeared “optimistic” when the two spoke privately between events. Sharpton said Biden made no mention of the classified documents incident that engulfed the White House last week.

When Biden privately mentioned House Republicans to Sharpton, he did not offer their commitment to investigate classified documents: “As Congress shifts, he says, legislation will become more difficult. But he said he would try to work with Republicans collaborate and engage with them,” including on the issue of voting rights, Sharpton said.

Biden’s decision to avoid raising the topic in public or in conversations with allies fits with his team’s mission to avoid compromising the investigation and making things worse.

The president’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, who has been working on the documents, has determined that releasing details of the investigation publicly could interfere with the ongoing investigation, now headed by special counsel Robert Hur.

In his first public statement on the case, Ball said Biden’s personal attorneys “attempted, where appropriate, to balance the importance of public transparency with the established norms and constraints necessary to protect the integrity of the investigation.”

“These considerations call for refraining from publicly releasing details related to the investigation while it is ongoing,” he wrote.

A small group of White House advisers with knowledge of the case over the past two months — and Biden himself — have been strictly following that guideline, arguing that releasing more information could harm the investigation.

Yet even some of the president’s closest allies have wondered aloud why the White House waited so long before releasing the misplaced classified documents first discovered in early November. They also wondered why, when the White House counsel’s office publicly confirmed for the first time last week that a trove of classified documents had been found in Biden’s office, it failed to mention the discovery in December of last year at Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, office. More classified documents, home.

Former Democratic Senator Doug Jones, a close Biden ally and a top contender to be his attorney general, told CNN that in his view, the White House has been under “very Forced error” hindrance.

Jones said he believed Biden’s lawyers handled the situation “absolutely properly” by notifying the National Archives as soon as they stumbled upon the first batch of classified documents. But when Biden’s special adviser, Richard Sauber, issued his first public statement last week confirming the finding, Jones said the White House made a serious error in judgment.

“Once you make a statement, once you have the facts, you have to be full and complete. They’re not complete,” Jones said. “They talked about the first [batch of documents] but not the second [batch] Although they know about it. ”

In his next conversation with top West Wing aides — whenever — Jones said he would express to them: “‘My God, come on you all. You have to do better when this happens. That’s exactly what I’m going to say.”

Over the weekend, Democratic senators. Debbie Stabenow said the discovery of classified documents was “definitely embarrassing” for Biden.

“Obviously, this is one of those moments where they wish it hadn’t happened,” Stabenow said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” though she acknowledged that Biden’s lawyers were apparently working to “correct” the situation.

If misplaced classified documents present a new crisis for Biden, the legal sensitivities surrounding the issue have prevented the White House from deploying tools from its usual political playbook.

White House officials have been extra cautious when asked about classified documents over the past week, pointing to ongoing Justice Department reviews — and the special counsel investigation as of Thursday — as reasons for not being able to share any information on the matter.

There have been no written talking points widely disseminated to Democratic allies, including members of Congress, advising them how best to publicly defend the White House. Such a move is not unusual for other political woes, but was viewed as fundamentally inappropriate given the seriousness of the Justice Department investigation.

Last week, after the first revelations about documents from Biden’s private office emerged, the White House called a call with top allies to explain the investigation, hoping to quell growing criticism and skepticism about the findings. During the call, a White House official described the documents as “fewer than a dozen,” none of which were “particularly sensitive” and “of little interest to the intelligence community,” two of the people familiar with the matter said.

Just a day later, news broke that more documents had been found at a second location, bringing the total number of classified documents to about 20 — exposing the difficulty of White House aides managing the story without a full picture of its scope.

White House aides have made clear in conversations with allies that two angles are worth highlighting: the White House’s commitment to fully cooperate with ongoing investigations, and the significant gap between Biden’s classification, according to a Democratic leadership aide on Capitol Hill. difference. Documents discovered so far and a trove of classified documents found at former President Donald Trump’s club in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

Biden aides acknowledged that the coming weeks and months will be challenging as they confront the work of a special counsel while still trying to push Biden’s agenda ahead of an announcement that he is seeking re-elected.

There will almost certainly be questions about which aides have been subpoenaed to testify before the special counsel, and who, if any, will bear responsibility for the misplaced documents.

Some of the president’s allies say Hur’s appointment could help Biden in the long run because it draws clear comparisons to Trump — who is himself under investigation by a special counsel over his handling of classified documents. investigation. Biden aides believe the findings of the two special counsels will reveal stark differences between the two cases. One ally likened it to a situation of “short-term pain, long-term gain.”

For his part, Biden hasn’t addressed the document issue since last week, when he showed some anger over why classified material was stored next to his 1967 Stingray Corvette.

“By the way, my Corvette is in a locked garage, okay, so it’s not like it’s parked on the street,” he said.

Biden returned to his Wilmington home over the weekend with one of his top advisers, Steve Ricketti, who served as Biden’s chief of staff when he was vice president. TU Center for senior positions.

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