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It’s Time for the National Archives to Answer Some Questions

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

As House Republicans finalize the rosters for committees and announce initial hearings for the 118th Congress, it’s clear that the House GOP is gearing up for aggressive oversight of the Biden administration’s actions over its first two years — specifically the partisan weaponization of the federal government — and the Biden family’s business deals. 

That means a natural extension of their announced oversight should be a prompt investigation of the National Archives. Of late, it seems that the Archives crew is not great at ensuring records subject to the Presidential Records Act — classified or otherwise — are properly maintained. 

More than that, Biden’s document scandal has provided new evidence that the Archives operation follows two different standards for ensuring proper document retention in which it abides by the same partisan political bias often apparent in other agencies within the bloated federal bureaucracy. 

As we now know, President Biden kept classified documents from his time as vice president in the Obama administration, as well as classified documents from his time as a U.S. senator. Some basic math concludes that it has been six years since Biden left his vice presidential office, meaning he’s had those classified items for at least six years. It’s been even longer — 14 years — since he resigned his Senate seat to become Obama’s VP. 

Putting the mishandling of specifically classified documents aside for a moment, the timeline here means the Archives didn’t know — or didn’t do anything about the fact — Biden had items subject to the Presidential Records Act for nearly a decade. There were no statements about Biden improperly taking documents from the Obama administration with him to the Penn Biden Center or to his residence in Wilmington, Delaware, after he was no longer vice president. 

And Americans haven’t heard much from the Archives since it was discovered Biden had indeed mishandled classified documents from his time as VP, with the most glaring example being the Archives' failure to issue a statement saying it had learned of documents in Biden’s D.C. office before the 2022 midterm elections. 

So silence is the standard used by the Archives when Biden took documents he wasn’t supposed to have. What standard did the Archives follow when Trump took documents from his administration to Mar-a-Lago? 

Well, just a few months after Trump left office in January 2021, the Archives requested Trump return documents from his time in office. Then, beginning in early 2022, the Archives issued a series of public releases and statement making it known that Trump had documents in his possession that it claim belonged with the Archives. 

As far as we know, no request for missing documents was ever issued from the Archives to Biden over the course of the last six years since he left office. And as mentioned previously, there was no press release when the Archives took possession of the documents found in the Penn Biden Center office. 

So why the disparity in the handling of documents? And why did six years go by with Biden being allegedly unaware that he had mishandled classified documents while Trump had been out of office for just a few months when the Archives launched its crusade to reclaim the items, a quest that culminated in an armed FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago? 

Those are just a few questions that the Archives’ leaders should answer, under oath, before a House committee. Perhaps the newly created Select Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government would be a fitting body to call such a hearing? 

Archives administrators should also explain their methodology for identifying missing documents, seeking to reclaim them, and how they determine what information to make available to the American people. Not to mention an explanation of how many other documents — especially classified ones — they know or suspect are currently in the wind and not in secure storage facilities. 

Joe Biden somehow passed six years with classified documents from his time as vice president scattered around his office in D.C. and his residence and garage in Wilmington, so there’s no telling how many other past leaders could have, purposely or accidentally, mishandled documents of varying classifications around their homes or offices. 

If this is a serious national security issue — as the mainstream media and Democrats initially argued when Trump was found to be in possession of documents with classified markings — then Americans should know the extent of the threat and what the government is doing to prevent the situation from being weaponized along political lines in the future. 


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