Now Pence … Who Next?
President Trump’s desire to remove and retain White House records has exposed a major national security problem. In fact, we have two problems – one personal and one institutional.
So far, we have three national leaders who have improperly and illegally removed documents from the government’s possession –some classified. And the classified range overall levels of classification. Both Trump and Biden had documents classified at the gravest level of secrecy.
Trump clearly knew he took documents – claiming he had a right to do so – how and why President Biden and Vice President Pence came into the possession of documents has yet to be seen. They both claimed to be unaware of those documents in their files and have voluntarily returned them.
The Trump case stands apart from Biden and Pence in that he never claimed the removal was an accident in the haste of leaving office. The details of the Trump case are playing out in real time in a highly charged public feud between him and the Department of justice. That will undoubtedly be settled in the courts.
The Biden/Pence situation is different but just as troublesome. If we believe them, it is no big deal. They have no personal culpability in the taking and retaining of essentially purloined government property — that is if you believe them.
That does not absolve them from being the primary reason the documents are in their personal files. The significant question is how the documents got commingled with their personal files in the White House in the first place – before the move. How, when, and why were they removed from the official SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Files) location? Who retrieved them? Why were they never returned?
Since the documents improperly removed were already in the personal files of Biden and Pence, Biden and Pence must have requested them and used them at some time for some purpose. Were they viewed by unauthorized people in the White House? And who had access after they were removed?
The levels of personal culpability may differ. Trump took them intentionally and wanted to keep them. He has said as much. Biden took them over at least a 14-year period – and had some in Senate files.
How and why he got those are completely different issues. It seems to suggest that when he said, “I take classified documents seriously,” the sentence was one word too long. So far – and it is early – Pence seems to have the strongest case for inadvertent removal – but that does not absolve him from having classified documents, and all the questions that it raises.
The Trump/Biden/Pence cases raise much larger issues. How many more documents are improperly in the private files of past presidents and vice presidents … Cabinet members … White House staffers? I tend to believe that there are literally thousands of them – and that we are merely seeing the tip of the iceberg. Government produces nothing more than documents.
The investigation of Trump, Biden, and Pence is not just to determine their culpability, but to discover all the unauthorized individuals who handled the classified documents– and who could have had access to them — relative to the importance and classification of each document.
And then, what to do about the evidence. Will any of the three be subjected to civil or criminal prosecution? Trump is already under criminal investigation. Though television pundits are quick to absolve Biden and Pence, we cannot know that at this time. At this point, however, Biden and Pence seem to be in the least trouble in terms of criminality. And Biden could not be prosecuted until he is no longer President.
As the problem widens, it may be more difficult for Attorney General Garland to prosecute anyone. He faces the prospect of prosecuting a lot of powerful individuals – and using prosecutorial discretion to drop all the cases. What will Garland do if other presidents, vice presidents, Cabinet members, and staffers start hemorrhaging official government documents by the thousands – classified or otherwise?
All this strongly suggests that the United States classification process needs to be investigated and reformed. That means bureaucratic regulations and acts of Congress – maybe even a constitutional amendment. In the meantime, government documents will be an evergreen topic in the national media for most of the 2024 presidential election season.
A deeper dive into the general subject of secret classification – partially based on my days at the White House — will come in a subsequent commentary.
So, there ‘tis.
I think all your questions are spot on Larry and just need to be equally applied across-the-board. Bidens claims of a nothing burger pretty much went out of the window as more and more documents were found, top-secret documents were found, and we know Hunter Biden‘s ties and penchant for easy money..
With regards to Skiff level documents, it looks like Biden had a half dozen or less, some of which may have just been a few pages from the document.
Trump had over 60 of these.
Most certainly who could’ve had possible access is the most important question. In Biden‘s case, obviously want to know about Hunter. In trumps case, even though they were in a locked room, they were right next to public access in the pool area. Trumps membership list no doubt includes some pretty unsavory characters. At least if he follows his normal, modus operandi.
Hopefully, everyone else down to junior staffer is looking in their drawers to see what they have. Perhaps we should have a document giveback day, where they can turn them in without criminal penalties. .
All good questions Larry, as you highlight. the important thing is that all three of these fellows are treated the same way, asked the same questions, and are treated the same after the dust clears
Before Clinton’s and Obama get rid of their classified documents, go in and raid them to see what all they have!
Pat, are you suggesting we go to the level of Secretary of State, better known as the entire cabinet?
Or do you think it was rigged, and Hilary was the rightful President in 2016?
What can I say, it’s Hilaryious either way.
Hilary probably did not have any as they were all on her lap top were anyone in the world with tech knowledge could possible access them.
This is the equivalent of leaving them in your mail box on the street.
Trump had his locked up. Biden just left them in the garage as if they were old shoes.
You can tell from that statement who takes the handling of classified documents more serious.
Apparently the complete Biden family could care less about anything important to anyone else, including their own information.
Diary’s, Lap Top, Classified Documents. As far as I can tell, they are an American walking hazard.
Darren, wanna buy a bridge?
Hillary was SoS; my point is are you being selective given her email issues OR do you want to investigate the entire cabinet for all Presidents? Might as well at this point.
Trump’s 300+ classified top secret documents, including the nuclear one, were in his basement storage by a high traffic hallway leading to the pool; they were also in his office in plain view and in a federal storage facility, not a top secret one. They have the security footage from Mar A Largo and people are seen coming and going from the storage with boxes of things…… These 300 were part of 11,000 documents housed in 50 large boxes. For a man who does not read.
“Last month, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reported that a Russian-speaking immigrant from Ukraine was able to mingle with the former president’s family and friends at Mar-a-Lago, posing as Anna de Rothschild, presenting herself as being an heiress of the banking dynasty.”
Found at Mar A Largo: “Yujing Zhang, was in possession of four mobile phones, a laptop, an external hard drive, and a thumb drive later found to carry malware. In her hotel room, investigators found nine USB drives, five SIM cards and a “signal detector” device for spotting hidden microphones or cameras. She was found guilty of unlawfully entering a restricted building and making false statements to a federal officer, and deported to China in 2021.”
Cheap Trump hires a lot from pools of foreigns: “In 2021, the Trump Organization sought 87 foreign workers for positions at Mar-a-Lago, with wages starting at $11.96 an hour.” Any competent spy agency would put plants there.
I can go on, but saying Trump’s were more secure than Biden’s is laughable. As Larry notes, treat all equally, ask the right questions, and let’s get to the bottom. But I will guarantee that between the three of them, Trump will be at the top of list for most risk.
Biden has a handful of top secret out of a couple dozen documents, some of which may be pages and not full documents. The first batch, and most of, the top secret were under lock an key at his office. At home, I am sure the garage is locked, his corvette is there.
I am sorry; where’s the hazard and who put us at more risk?
Frank and Larry, I agree with both of you! Just another trifecta of joy and harmony!
I do think Frank is a little closer to the point on handling of these documents. Larry says, “All this strongly suggests that the United States classification process needs to be investigated and reformed.” I do agree that the process could use an inspection. I have worked with documents up to red documents where we do all work in a SCIF. We were not allowed to leave with anything but our bodies and the clothes on our back because these documents are so sensitive to national security. But I digress. What seems to be the case is the unequal way the process is being implemented. For people like me it is strictly implemented because there are real business losses and contract cancellations if a contractor is caught in violation of the process. This does not appear to be the case with our highest levels of officials. It appears much like a good ole boy system for them while the rest of us peons get fines, fired from employment, and jail terms.
I would suggest that an interim step gets implemented whereas when a high level official leaves office, anything being removed should be sent to a secure location to be inspected by the proper authorities to ensure nothing classified exists in all of the boxes. Once the material is certified that all security regulations have been met for all boxes, then the boxes can be approved for movement to their final locations. Interestingly, similar rules already exist in the process which includes inventory of classified materials and signature of those persons on file that are cleared for the levels of classification.
But watch! It won’t happen because such a requirement would handcuff the very violators that are responsible to make the regulations!
Again, it is a joy fest being in agreement with both of you! Job well done mates!
HOW IN HE CAN ANYONE TRUST EITHER SIDE IF THE ISLE ?
FACT : BIDEN IS TRYING TO MAKE IT SO NONCITIZENS CAN VOTE WHILE PRETENDING TO VE SOME KIND OF GREAT HUMANITARRIAN WHILE HE RUSKS OUR NATIONAL SECURITY AT THE SOUTHERN BORDER BY ALLOWING A MILLION POVERTY STRICKEN PEOPLE WITH NO LEGAL MEANS TO SUPPORT THEMSELVES TO COME HERE DURING A RECORD BREAKING HOMELESS CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC “FOR THE POTENTIAL VOTES”; SOLELY FIR THE VOTES ! ! !
FACT: THE ITHER SUDE IF THE ISLE ACTUALLY ATTACKED THE VERY COUNTRY THEY TOOK A OATH TO PROTECT “TO STAY IN POWER” SOLELY TO STAY IN POWER !! !
GETTING CAUGHT WITH THESE DOCUMENTS IS UNECCEOTABLE !
THE PUPPETS THAT AGREE WITH THEIR NONSENSE ARE NO BETTER !
WE ALL DESERVE MUCH BETTER AND DIFFERENT ! VITE VETTER / DIFFERENT !!!
Dude, did someone take your binky? 1) stop using all caps, it means you are yelling. 2) Take a spelling class.