House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer on Sunday slammed President Joe Biden and his team for their handling of classified documents, announcing on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he is requesting additional information about the situation.
“We would never have known about the possession of the classified documents were it not for investigative reporting by CBS that somehow got a leak to determine that this had happened prior to the election,” the Kentucky Republican told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “So the administration hasn’t been transparent about what’s going on with President Biden’s possession of classified documents. And we just want equal treatment here with respect to how both former President (Donald) Trump and current President Biden are being treated with the document issue.”
In a letter addressed to White house chief of staff Ron Klain, Comer is asking for more documents and communications related to the searches of Biden’s homes and other locations by the president’s aides for classified documents, as well as the visitor log of the president’s Wilmington, Delaware, home from January 20, 2021 to present.
The letter comes after Biden’s aides found five additional pages of classified material at his personal residence in Wilmington on Thursday, the same day a special counsel was appointed to investigate the matter. The White House revealed the discovery on Saturday.
“It is troubling that classified documents have been improperly stored at the home of President Biden for at least six years, raising questions about who may have reviewed or had access to classified information,” Comer wrote in the letter. “As Chief of Staff, you are head of the Executive Office of the President and bear responsibility to be transparent with the American people on these important issues related to the White House’s handling of this matter.”
Tapper asked Comer on Sunday if he cared more about the mishandling of classified documents when it relates to Democrats – a reference to the GOP response to Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago residence was searched by the FBI last summer after repeated attempts to retrieve classified documents.
“Absolutely not,” Comer responded. “Look, we still don’t know what type of documents President Trump had.”
“My concern is how there’s such a discrepancy in how former President Trump was treated by raiding Mar-a-Lago, by getting the security cameras, by taking pictures of documents on the floor. … That’s not equal treatment, and we’re very concerned and there’s a lack of trust here at the Department of Justice by House Republicans. That’s the outrage.”
A separate special counsel is conducting multiple investigations of Trump’s actions, ranging from his effort to overturn the 2020 election to his handling of classified data and stonewalling that led the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago.
Asked by Tapper on Sunday if he was accusing Biden or anyone on his team of breaking the law, Comer said, “We don’t know exactly yet whether they broke the law or not.”
“I will accuse the Biden administration of not being transparent. Why didn’t we hear about this on November 2, when the first batch of classified documents were discovered?” he added. “Joe Biden used as his closing argument during the midterm elections that Republicans were a threat to democracy. And he cited the fact that President Trump mishandled the documents.”
In September, Biden said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that Trump’s treatment of documents was “totally irresponsible.”
Responding to a question about an image of classified documents spread across the floor at Mar-a-Lago, Biden said his reaction was: “How that could possibly happen. How one – anyone could be that irresponsible.
In a separate interview Sunday on “State of the Union,” Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, Comer’s Democratic counterpart on the House Oversight Committee, was asked about the chairman’s remarks.
Raskin told Tapper that “every American has an interest in seeing that classified documents are properly handled by whoever’s president and by any administration.”
He echoed Comer’s calls for “equal treatment” but argued that the Biden White House’s handling of the discovery of classified documents represented “a very different posture than what we saw with Donald Trump.”
“It’s a bit disturbing to me that people who are saying there was no problem with what Donald Trump did, which was to defiantly reject any cooperation in turning over hundreds of classified documents, are upset about President Biden’s voluntary and rapid turnover of a handful of documents that they found,” he said.
“I think it’s good that this is in the hands of special counsels on both sides and the special counsels are both trustworthy lawyers who I think will get to the bottom of it,” Raskin said.
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the assistant Democratic leader, told MSNBC on Sunday he would like to see the White House cooperate with House Republicans’ investigation into Biden, but only insofar as House Republicans investigate Trump.
He said that “to be talking about investigating these issues involving Joe Biden and ignoring all that went on with Donald Trump is laughable.”
“I think that everybody can see the stark differences between what Joe Biden is being looked at for and what Donald Trump was being investigated for,” the South Carolina Democrat said, later adding, “There’s nothing analogous about these two incidents.”
Clyburn said it was “appropriate” for Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint a special counsel.
“What we need to do, though, is have these investigations get to the bottom of it, and let’s go forward. There’s no criminality here that I can see,” he said.
CNN previously reported that the classified material found in Biden’s private office included some top secret files with the “sensitive compartmentalized information” designation, which is used for highly sensitive information obtained from intelligence sources. Those documents included US intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom, according to a source familiar with the matter.
On Saturday, Biden’s personal attorney sought to explain why he and other members of the president’s team haven’t been fully forthcoming about the discoveries of classified documents or records.
“The President’s personal attorneys have attempted to balance the importance of public transparency where appropriate with the established norms and limitations necessary to protect the investigation’s integrity,” Bob Bauer said in a statement. “These considerations require avoiding the public release of detail relevant to the investigation while it is ongoing.”
This story and headline have been updated.
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