by Victor Davis Hanson
Donald Trump for now certainly seems to have had more documents labeled classified at Mar-a-Lago in Florida than did Joe Biden at his various homes in Delaware.
Yet otherwise, the comparisons between the two cases, contrary to popular punditry, hardly favor Biden.
First, a stranger would face a far greater challenge entering a post-presidential Mar-a-Lago than a pre-presidential Joe Biden’s home, office, or garage—or who knows where?
Secret service agents and private security were stationed at Mar-a-Lago. Prior to the 2020 presidential election they were not at citizen Biden’s various troves for most of 2017-2020 much less prior to 2009.
Second, we seem to forget that for much of the developing controversy, Joe Biden’s own team was investigating Joe Biden.
On the other hand, the Biden Administration’s Justice Department and the FBI were not just investigating Trump as an outside party, but as a former president—and possible 2024 presidential candidate and opponent of Biden himself.
Remember, the narrative of the first Democratic impeachment of Donald Trump was the allegation that Trump had used his powers of the presidency to investigate Joe Biden and his family, a likely 2020 challenger to Trump’s reelection bid.
Third, no one in a position of government authority had passed judgment on Joe Biden’s alleged security violations.
That was not the case of the still alleged violations of Donald Trump.
Joe Biden, as president, had weighed in, during his own Justice Department’s ongoing investigations of Trump. Indeed, he proclaimed the former president to be guilty: “How could anyone be that irresponsible?” In contrast, he also dismissed the ongoing investigation of himself with “There is no there, there.”
Fourth, Trump is certainly right that as president he had a far more substantial claim of declassification rights than did Biden who took the papers out either as a senator or vice president.
Fifth, the FBI was not merely asymmetrical in melodramatically raiding the Trump home while allowing Biden lawyers to inspect various Biden stashes. The FBI also leaked the purported contents of the subjects of the Trump classified documents (falsely spreading the lie of “nuclear codes” and “nuclear secrets”) in a way it has not with the Biden cache.
The FBI went so far as to scatter the documents on the floor for a fake news photo-op as if the papers were so messily arrayed when they arrived.
So far, the FBI has come lightly and belatedly to the Biden case without the SWAT team get-up, and only under pressure from the public and the Republican opposition.
Six, Biden did not “self-report.” Biden’s team did not call the relevant government authorities the minute they discovered the classified documents in Biden’s office and home and garage.
In truth, Biden, or someone close to Biden, certainly knew that he or someone close to him had illegally removed classified documents when he left the vice presidency in 2017—or years earlier as a senator.
For at least the last six years—at least—Biden has felt no compunction to confess to authorities he illegally was in possession of classified documents.
Indeed, the only reason the current troves are coming to light was apparent White House paranoia that the media, the Biden Justice Department, and the special counsel were so fixated on the Trump documents that they likely feared someone might raise the logical question of whether a hypocritical Biden himself might be guilty of exactly the crime for which they were pursuing Trump.
Worse, Biden and his staff knew classified documents were in his possession before the midterms, but deliberately suppressed that information until after the elections were over.
Seventh, Trump’s documents were stored only at one place—Mar-a-Lago, and only for about 19 months. Biden’s were stashed at various locations for nearly seven years—or perhaps over a decade. There were far more opportunities of time and space for those without security clearances to have access to the Biden documents than to the Trump files.
Eighth, the press has exhaustively speculated, usually wrongly, about how the documents reached Mar-a-Lago and what they contained. In contrast, no one knows or even asks why Biden took classified documents, what they concerned, or who if any in his family circle had access to them.
Ninth, Trump’s documents did not expose other liabilities of the constantly investigated Trump. The Biden files so far have directed attention to the mysterious tens of millions of dollars in Communist Chinese money that poured into Biden’s think tank at the University of Pennsylvania, the proximity of members of the quid pro quo Biden consortium to these classified papers, and the files’ relevance, if any, to the Biden family’s overseas businesses. Did Hunter Biden ever consult or view classified documents while living in a home with them? Will there be fingerprint or DNA tests on the documents? If Hunter consulted any of these classified documents, then the Biden presidency is finished.
Tenth, former President Trump possessed contested documents as a private citizen. Biden’s files under contention involve the current behavior of the president of the United States. Biden ran for office, was elected, and serves as president with the full knowledge that during all this time he unlawfully possessed classified documents.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the newly released The Dying Citizen.
Photo “Joe Biden” by Joe Biden.