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Biden classified documents: what to know after a second batch was found

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Joe Biden’s aides have found more potentially classified documents in a second location, after discovering others in November, a development that’s adding fuel to a political fire for the president as the new year dawns with Republicans now in charge of one of the chambers of Congress.

With memories of classified information found at former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence spurring comparisons of the two cases, here’s a brief look at some questions and answers about classified documents and presidents.

What happens to classified documents when presidents leave office?

Under the Presidential Records Act, documents of the president, vice president and other staff must be given to the National Archives when a term is over.

On Monday, the White House confirmed that Biden’s personal attorneys discovered classified materials at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement on Nov. 2, and turned them over to the National Archives the following day. Biden kept an office at the center, operated by the University of Pennsylvania, at the end of the Obama administration, in which Biden was vice president, in 2017. And Biden said Thursday that documents had been found at his Wilmington, Del., home.

What are Biden and the White House saying?

“We are fully cooperating with the National Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in possession of the Archives,” said Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, in a Thursday statement.

Speaking to reporters after inflation data were released Thursday morning, Biden said the documents at his Delaware home were in a locked garage. “It’s not like they’re sitting out on the street.”

Biden echoed Sauber’s statement and said he was confident the matter would be resolved.

Since when can’t presidents keep their documents?

Congress passed the Presidential Records Act back in 1978, expanding rules that had formerly been applied only to President Richard Nixon.

Nixon, as NPR explained last summer, wanted to take his records with him after he resigned — but Congress passed a law that made all of his materials public property.

Is it illegal to take and keep classified documents?

Yes — with fines or imprisonment, or both, the penalty.

What’s the difference between the Biden and Trump cases?

Many, including the number of documents discovered. In Trump’s case the numbers ran well into the hundreds, while in Biden’s the known batches are smaller.

One key difference is how the former president responded. As the New York Times recounts, Trump delayed for months responding to repeated requests from the National Archives and failed to fully comply with a subpoena. Biden, meanwhile, reported the initial issue to the National Archives on the day it was discovered.

Republicans, who now control the House of Representatives, are asking why Biden’s home wasn’t raided or a special counsel hasn’t been appointed. Bradley Moss, a national-security lawyer, answered such concerns from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan in a tweet Thursday, noting that Biden is cooperating.

Credit: marketwatch.com

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