Ohio Representative Mike Turner, the leading Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has requested that the U.S. intelligence community perform a “damage assessment” of potentially classified documents found in the Washington office space of Joe Biden’s former institute, the Penn Biden Center, The Associated Press (AP) reports.
Rep. Turner said that Biden’s holding of the documents mean he was in “potential violation of laws protecting national security, including the Espionage Act and Presidential Records Act,” in a request sent Tuesday to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.
Turner’s request came a day after the White House confirmed that the Department of Justice was reviewing “a small number of documents with classified markings.”
The documents were discovered as Biden’s personal attorneys were clearing out the offices of the Penn Biden Center, where the president kept an office after he left the vice presidency in 2017 until shortly before he launched his presidential campaign in 2019.
Turner made his request the day after the White House announced that the Department of Justice was looking into “a small number of documents with classified markings.”
“Those entrusted with access to classified information have a duty and an obligation to protect it,” Turner told Haines in a letter. “This issue demands a full and thorough review.”
The documents were found Nov 2, 2022, in a locked closet in the office, according to Richard Sauber, a special counsel to the president, and the attorneys immediately alerted the White House Counsel’s office.
The White House in turn notified the National Archives and Records Administration, which took custody of the documents the following day.
Biden had called former President Donald Trump’s decision to keep hundreds of such records at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida, “irresponsible.”
President Trump on Monday weighed in, taking to his social media platform, Truth Social, to ask, “When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said Monday that the American people deserved to know about the classified documents sooner.
“They knew about this a week before the election, maybe the American people should have known that,” Jordan said to reporters. “They certainly knew about the raid on Mar-a-Lago 91 days before this election, but nice if on November 2, the country would have known that there were classified documents at the Biden Center.”
Jordan is among House Republicans pushing for the creation of a “select subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal government” within the Judiciary Committee, AP notes.
The Espionage Act of 1917 makes it illegal for anyone who has information related to national defense to use it “to the injury of the United States” or “to the advantage of any foreign nation.” Under the Espionage Act, it is also illegal for anyone who lawfully has possession of information related to national security to provide it or attempt to provide it to those not permitted to obtain it, a publication from The Hill explains. These individuals also cannot “willfully” retain and fail to deliver documents or other materials on demand to an officer of the United States who is allowed to receive them. Anyone convicted of violating the law could face a fine or up to 10 years in prison.
The following text from Congress.gov gives details regarding the Presidential Records Act, which is legislation mandating that after leaving the White House, presidents, their immediate staff, or anyone whose job it is to assist or advise the president, must keep and give over specified documents:
Presidential Records Act - States that the United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of all Presidential records. Requires the President to assure that the performance of official Presidential duties is adequately documented and that documentary materials be appropriately maintained. Permits the President to dispose only of such records which have no administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value if the President obtains the views, in writing, of the Archivist of the United States concerning the proposed disposal schedule of such records and the Archivists states that he does not intend to take action under the provisions of this Act. Permits the President, if the Archivist states an intention to take action, to dispose of such records if copies of the disposal schedule are submitted to the appropriate committees of Congress at least 60 days of continuous session of Congress in advance of the proposed disposal date. Requires the Archivist to assume custody, control, and preservation of and access to the records of a President upon the conclusion of the President's term of office; making such records available to the public as rapidly and completely as possible. Requires the Archivist to place such records in a Presidential archival depository or another facility operated by the United States. Authorizes the Archivist to designate, after consultation with the President, a director for each depository or facility. Permits restrictions on access to Presidential records for up to 12 years if such documents have been validly classified as secret, relate to a Federal appointment, certain trade secrets or other commercial information obtained under privileged circumstances, consist of confidential communications requesting or submitting advice between the President and his advisors between advisers, or contain personal information, disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Establishes limits on the duration of the restriction of disclosure of Presidential records. Subjects Presidential records to subpena or other judicial process for the purposes of any civil or criminal investigation or proceeding. States that such records shall be available to an incumbent President and to either House of Congress. Makes the records of a former President available to such former President or the designated representative of such former President.