The National Archives and Records Administration failed to meet the deadline to turn over documents to Congress relevant to an investigation into whether political bias played a role in its soft and quiet approach to President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents.
This failure comes amid concerns that the NARA may be providing deferential treatment to Biden, particularly when compared to how it approached a similar matter involving former President Donald Trump. After all, acting NARA head Debra Steidel Wall was reportedly one of the leading figures who triggered the FBI raid on Trump’s residence over allegedly mishandled documents.
What is the background?
Committee Chair Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) wrote to acting Archivist Wall on Jan. 10 concerning “a political bias” at the NARA.
“For months, NARA failed to disclose to Committee Republicans or the American public that President Biden—after serving as Vice President—stored highly classified documents in a closet at his personal office. NARA learned about these documents days before the 2022 midterm elections and did not alert the public that President Biden was potentially violating the law,” wrote Comer.
“Meanwhile, NARA instigated a public and unprecedented FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago—former President Trump’s home—to retrieve presidential records. NARA’s inconsistent treatment of recovering classified records held by former President Trump and President Biden raises questions about political bias at the agency,” he added.
Comer noted that unlike in the case of Trump, whose residence was raided by armed FBI agents, no search warrant was executed after classified Obama-Biden administration documents were discovered to still be in Biden’s possession. Instead, the president’s attorneys “quietly” handled the situation with the Department of Justice.
Republicans on the committee wrote to NARA in August, stating, “The seeming weaponization of the federal government against President Biden’s political rivals cannot go unchecked, and if NARA is working to further these efforts, it will be only the latest agency to lose its credibility in the eyes of the American people under the Biden Administration.”
Committee member Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) echoed these statements in an op-ed this week, writing, “We can see several systemic failures in oversight that have led to widespread deception,” including “the weaponization of a federal agency to hide information from Congress and using the power of the presidency to hide a story until after the midterms.”
The committee requested that, by no later than Jan. 24, NARA turn over all documents and communications:
- between NARA and the White House related to classified documents at the Penn Biden Center;
- between and among NARA employees related to such classified documents;
- between NARA and the DOJ related to the documents; and
- between NARA and any outside entity, including Biden’s attorneys.
In his Jan. 10 letter, Comer also clarified that the “Committee on Oversight and Accountability has specific jurisdiction over NARA under House Rule X.”
NARA comes up with nada
Jan. 24 came and went, but NARA did not provide the committee with any of the requested documents.
A committee spokesman told Axios, “The National Archives has not produced the requested documents to the Committee at this time,” adding that “Chairman Comer’s request still stands and anticipates moving forward with a transcribed interview with NARA’s general counsel soon.”
Committee Chair Rep. Comer told Newsmax that “there’s a problem with how the National Archives does things.”
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, told Fox News Digital that the NARA has been “far less prominent” during the Biden scandal than during the DOJ’s apparent Trump fault-finding mission, underscoring that it “will need to be more transparent with Congress or risk contempt sanctions.”
Derrick Morgan, once staff secretary to Vice President Dick Cheney, suggested NARA’s silence on Biden and aggressiveness towards Trump indicates a “double standard.”
For its possible double standard, the NARA is now facing double scrutiny from both chambers of Congress.
Ahead of the NARA’s failure to meet its deadline, Republican Sens. Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) penned a letter to head archivist Debra Wall demanding “full transparency regarding its involvement, knowledge and role with respect to the existence of these classified and unclassified documents.”
The letter cited various instances where the NARA previously declined to provide records that the Biden administration might otherwise want to keep under wraps, including records pertaining to the Biden family’s “financial dealings and potential conflicts of interest” as well as records “about then-Vice President Joe Biden’s use of non-government email for government business, the transmission of government information to his son, Hunter Biden, and compliance with federal records laws.”
The Republican senators indicated they are conducting an “objective review of NARA’s involvement” in these matters as well as its “interactions relating to the discovery of records, including those marked classified” found in Biden’s homes and offices.
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