Senators Want Access to Mishandled Classified Documents

January 26, 2023

Senators on the Intelligence Committee argued Wednesday that they should have access to the classified documents discovered on the personal properties of President Biden, former President Trump and former Vice President Pence.

The committee members met with National Intelligence Director Avril Haines on Wednesday, insisting they need to see the mishandled documents for themselves. 

“It is our responsibility to make sure that we, in the role of the intelligence oversight, know if there’s been any intelligence compromised,” said Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) at a news conference following the meeting.

A lawyer for Pence discovered about a dozen documents marked classified at his Carmel, IN home earlier this week, prompting an immediate review by the FBI and the DOJ of the documents and how they ended up in the former Vice President’s residence.

That revelation came in the wake of discoveries of classified materials at President Biden’s  private office and residence. Biden voluntarily agreed to an FBI search on Friday of his home in Wilmington, DE, which uncovered another six items in addition to the materials previously found  at the residence and his private office. 

This followed an August FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence that uncovered hundreds of documents marked classified, which prompted a legal back-and-forth between the former President and the DOJ.

In November Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed veteran career prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel to determine, among his duties, whether criminal charges should be brought against Trump over his actions surrounding the documents, and this month Garland appointed a special counsel, former U.S. Attorney Robert Hur, in the Biden case.

Members of Congress have sought access to the documents, or at least a risk assessment detailing what was within them, since the discovery at Mar-a-Lago. But they say the Biden Administration has objected, arguing it can’t provide that access as the two special counsels are investigating.

Senators counter that this doesn’t follow precedent. In the DOJ’s Russia investigation, for example, committees had access to classified materials that were also part of then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

The Administration’s position is “untenable,” Senate Intelligence Vice Chair Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Wednesday. “The information we’re asking for has no bearing whatsoever or would interfere in no way with a criminal investigation.”

In each case surrounding classified documents, the significance of the material and whether its mishandling breaches national security is not publicly known.

Warner said the Senate may try to find a way to put more safeguards around Presidential transitions and the handling of documents. 

Some members have long talked about instating new parameters about what is classified, reacting to concerns that some documents are kept secret when they don’t necessarily need to be.

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