The highest officials in the U.S. federal government, both present and past, and from both the Republican and Democratic parties, are under fire for mishandling classified information.
This includes former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and, incumbent President of the United States, Joe Biden.
Shortly after the new year, it was revealed that Biden was in possession of classified documents containing information that was prior to his presidency.
According to The New York Times, documents were first discovered by his personal lawyers and the FBI in a “small locked closet” at the Penn Biden Center, a political think tank, about six days prior to the midterm elections.
Following these revelations, the White House Counsel’s Office announced that they would search Biden’s personal residences in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, which unveiled more documents stored in the garage of his Wilmington home.
According to Fox News, White House lawyers released a statement saying, “lawyers discovered among personal and political papers a small number of additional Obama Administration records with classified markings…All but one of these documents were found in a storage space in the President’s Wilmington residence garage.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed John Lausch, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, as special counsel to investigate the matter.
Republicans are concerned that the president’s son, Hunter Biden, who has had a number of controversies, was living in the Wilmington home while the documents were stored there. Biden has also been called a hypocrite by his political rivals since the president was critical of Trump’s classified document situation, asking on 60 Minutes, “How could anyone be that irresponsible?”
In the summer of 2022, the FBI searched Trump’s Florida residence, Mar a Lago, because he was withholding classified documents that he allegedly took with him following his departure from the White House in 2021.
The National Archives claimed that he had taken 15 boxes of documents, including “classified national security information,” back to Mar a Lago.
According to Business Insider, Trump has been negotiating with the National Archives since February of 2022 about how to proceed. These conversations resulted in Trump creating a more secure storage area for the documents.
The search warrant, which was made public shortly after the raid, stated that Trump was under investigation for three possible criminal offenses.
Business Insider reported that these criminal offenses include an alleged violation of the Espionage Act for improperly possessing documents that could harm national security.
Trump has defended his taking of the documents, claiming that he declassified them prior to leaving office, which a president has the power to do.
However, the official process that a president must go through to declassify documents has become a controversial topic as it pertains to Trump’s situation. It would be very difficult to prove that he did not declassify due to the legal gray area that the process falls in.
According to The New York Times, Trump scored a legal victory when Judge Aileen M. Cannon of the Southern District of Florida appointed a judge of the Eastern District of New York, Raymond J. Dearie, as a special master to look over the documents before the government does.
However, a court of appeals reversed that appointment towards the end of 2022.
This past week, a twist was added to the classified documents scandal when it was reported that classified documents were found in Pence’s Indiana home.
According to The Hill, Pence’s attorneys conducted a search of the home and self-reported the finding of the documents. The former vice president stated that “mistakes were made” while packing up and leaving the nation’s capital, and that he takes “full responsibility.”
A senior political science student expressed, “The federal government should have a more secure process when it comes to handling classified documents. These documents are classified for a reason, and no official should be able to take these documents to protect themselves politically once their time in office is done.”
A sophomore homeland security student added, “There is a difference between the way Biden handled his set of documents and Trump. In the moment, at least, Biden announced that he possessed documents, and cooperated with the FBI. Trump on the other hand was less cooperative, and also used it to spin a political narrative.”