Author Topic: Should the Justice Department indict Biden? Are impeachment actions looming?  (Read 1006 times)

apl68

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When Trump was raided by the FBI, I thought that was overkill. I thought such absconding with documents was pretty normal. I had no evidence, mind you, just imagining how powerful people operate. Biden messing up documents therefore doesn't surprise me. Looks to me like a low crime and misdemeanor.

Everybody give the documents back and forgeddabouddit.

That would surely be the healthiest thing to do...but we know it won't happen.

Thus far it looks like both administrations have been guilty of similar carelessness with  classified documents, but the one offense seems so far to be a good deal more egregious.  There's a difference between, say, being pulled over for speeding and politely handing over one's license to the police officer, and being pulled over for DWI and acting belligerent.

It's most unfortunate for our nation that a grossly incompetent administration has been followed by a fundamentally competent administration with a rare knack for shooting itself in the foot.
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Sun_Worshiper

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No way Biden will be indicted. Additionally, Biden's document investigation probably means no indictment for Trump, even thought the cases are pretty different, with Trump's being much easier to prosecute.

Impeachment is possible, but I doubt it will happen with such a narrow Republican majority in the House.

Ruralguy

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I'm willing to bet that all of the living former presidents and heirs of the dead ones have some classified documents lying around. I am sure that they made a genuine effort to return most or all of them, but just got sloppy or felt like keeping something for some reason. That doesn't give Biden or Trump a free pass, in my opinion, though they will probably get a free pass or something close. However, Biden is likely to be impeached, but not removed from office, on something. He most certainly won't deserve that, but he'll probably get it.

apl68

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I'm willing to bet that all of the living former presidents and heirs of the dead ones have some classified documents lying around. I am sure that they made a genuine effort to return most or all of them, but just got sloppy or felt like keeping something for some reason. That doesn't give Biden or Trump a free pass, in my opinion, though they will probably get a free pass or something close. However, Biden is likely to be impeached, but not removed from office, on something. He most certainly won't deserve that, but he'll probably get it.

When you consider the sheer volume of documents that circulate during a presidential administration, it's hardly surprising that things like this happen.  It's just not possible to handle all classified documents according to perfect procedures.
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Parasaurolophus

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Isn't it? They have aides to do most of the work, and simply never taking them out of the office/secure room sure would cut down a lot on potential breaches.
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Caracal

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That's what irks me about these cases.  If Liquidspouse did this kind of stuff, he'd be fired and prosecuted.  I don't like there being a different standard for bigwigs than for lower level government employees.  Liquidspouse is very careful, and it isn't that difficult to be.  For example, he reminds his coworkers that their notes from classified meetings will also be classified, so hey, don't take notes in your regular notebook because then your notebook will have to stay at the office.  Take notes on separate paper and leave it at work.

It doesn't make any sense to compare the procedures that civil servants need to follow with the ones that elected officials should abide by. When Liquid Spouse goes out of town for the weekend, I assume there isn't an expectation that they will need to be available at all times to make decisions. They probably aren't being briefed by various people with classified files on their vacation, nor does their job require them to be looking at classified files constantly, no matter where they are.

The risks are really different too. If Liquidspouse brings home classified material, that stuff is just sitting in your house, which presumably is not a fortress. A Vice President or President's residence, even a personal one, on the other hand, is under protection all the time and there is extensive surveillance.

Obviously, that doesn't mean classified files should just be stored in the president's house, but it isn't comparable to anything with your husband. If there were classified files stored in your house, your spouse would be fired because he can't have classified files in the house and it would raise a lot of questions about why he would want to in the first place. Biden (and Trump) were allowed to have these documents in their homes to review-they aren't supposed to be storing them there.

Parasaurolophus

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It's not just a question of firing--it's an offense that comes with prison time and fines, and in the past Biden has agitated for the imprisonment of those who mishandled classified documents

Also: are they allowed to bring them home? Presumably there's a policy, and presumably it's publicly available. That's what we should be referring to.
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Caracal

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It's not just a question of firing--it's an offense that comes with prison time and fines, and in the past Biden has agitated for the imprisonment of those who mishandled classified documents

Also: are they allowed to bring them home? Presumably there's a policy, and presumably it's publicly available. That's what we should be referring to.

Yes, they obviously can bring them home, or on vacation, or to all kinds of places, because presidents and-to some extent-vice presidents-are always on duty. If Biden goes to Wilmington for the weekend, he is still receiving briefings and making decisions and doing those things might mean he needs access to classified documents. There actually aren't any official policies about this-there are policies about classification generally and they specify various requirements that agencies need to abide by and specify that these agencies need to have their own policies that fit with these guidelines. These things don't apply to the president.

clean

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Quote
are they allowed to bring them home?

Given the job that these officials have is 24/7, there is no 'home' in the sense that they are 'off the clock' and in a 'private space'. They have something more akin to 'secondary/tertiary office locations'.  There is, essentially, no 'home'.

But the documents should have a 'keeper' and a place (like a staff member with a briefcase).  I would suggest that the document can leave the briefcase at any time, but should be tracked and periodically updated... "where is/do you still require document X007?"  IF not, then it goes back in the box (briefcase).

One difference I see is the argument that "these are mine!"  (Kim Jun Un's letters), or "I can declassify them by just thinking about it". 

So is this, in once case, stealing (They are MY property), or poor record keeping, or (likely for both) fast, careless packing (perhaps by staff)?
For instance, what happens if someone is fired and barred from campus or dies while working?  Who cleans their office, and what becomes of the contents?  (In my experience, my deceased coworker's children came to his office and cleaned it out, I helped in that they planned to donate his books to Goodwill or to sell them at the used bookstore if they were new enough.  I looked some over to remove any test banks or solutions manuals.
Alternatively (and Im wondering about this myself now), if you retire, how careful will you be with what you take home?  A recently (2 years ago) retiree was teaching until he retired, so he didnt have a lot of time to clear out as someone else was scheduled to move in!  We talked the other day and he was asking what he should NOW do with old exams given he doesnt have a shredder and doesnt really want to haul it all back to campus for a shredding day.  (We no longer have student workers that could be used for such things).

Anyway, i think that there are failures, but in context of the recent events, some are intentional and stealing ("It's mine" in response to a request to have it returned, and it is in a box in the garage.... with what other items, that came from where? .... or in Trump's case there is also a defense that the files were in boxes of pens, buttons and shirts, likely packed at the last minute, and unlikely packed by Trump himself!)
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Caracal

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It's not just a question of firing--it's an offense that comes with prison time and fines, and in the past Biden has agitated for the imprisonment of those who mishandled classified documents

Also: are they allowed to bring them home? Presumably there's a policy, and presumably it's publicly available. That's what we should be referring to.

For what it's worth-there are various laws that involve unauthorized possession of government records-classified or not, but they all involve language about either intent or "gross negligence." I kinda doubt that Biden himself was packing documents in boxes and putting them in his garage so it seems quite unlikely there's going to be any kind of criminal charge here.

Parasaurolophus

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It's not just a question of firing--it's an offense that comes with prison time and fines, and in the past Biden has agitated for the imprisonment of those who mishandled classified documents

Also: are they allowed to bring them home? Presumably there's a policy, and presumably it's publicly available. That's what we should be referring to.

Yes, they obviously can bring them home, or on vacation, or to all kinds of places, because presidents and-to some extent-vice presidents-are always on duty. If Biden goes to Wilmington for the weekend, he is still receiving briefings and making decisions and doing those things might mean he needs access to classified documents. There actually aren't any official policies about this-there are policies about classification generally and they specify various requirements that agencies need to abide by and specify that these agencies need to have their own policies that fit with these guidelines. These things don't apply to the president.

Again, it's not obvious. It's certainly plausible, but I would want to see the text of the laws or policies governing the handling of classified documents. Whatever the rules are, they apply to everyone equally, or not at all. If Presidents need special dispensation, then that must be reflected in the laws or policies governing the handling of classified documents. And I would be very surprised if it wasn't. There's no question that a sitting President may need immediate access to certain records, or access to someone who has access. But surely there are policies and procedures governing that access, if not outright laws. So what we need to know, I think, is what those are. (I believe that the GSA has regulations concerning their storage, for example, including what kinds of locks and cabinets are acceptable.)

But even if we grant that Presidents need to leave their documents strewn around various office buildings and residences, such an exception obviously doesn't apply to people who aren't the President. And, unfortunately, this is true of at least some of Biden's documents (which are left over from his time in the Obama administration), as well as all of Trump's. On this score, the Presidential Records Act (if nothing else--and again, I don't know about laws governing classification, which is why I'm asking for their specific text) is very clear, even if it lacks teeth.

I don't have a good solution for what should be done about it, because yes, it's extra complicated when the person who violated laws or protocols is currently the top government official, and when the violation happened before they were in that position. You certainly can't strip a sitting President of his security clearance, after all. This may be a good case for deferred consequences. But what I don't approve of is the application of different legal standards to powerful people. Nobody should be above the law, and if the law is unjust, then the time to figure that out is before you prosecute others for violating it--and, preferably, before you violate it.



For what it's worth-there are various laws that involve unauthorized possession of government records-classified or not, but they all involve language about either intent or "gross negligence." I kinda doubt that Biden himself was packing documents in boxes and putting them in his garage so it seems quite unlikely there's going to be any kind of criminal charge here.

That may well be the case, but in that case my worry is about how that language has been interpreted when applied to ordinary people. So, for example, it doesn't seem to me like Asia Janay Lavarello was any more negligent or nefarious than Biden (and certainly less so than Trump!), but she got three months in prison and a $5500 fine.
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dismalist

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That the documents were classified is something of a red herring. The President determines what is classified, though he can delegate this to department heads. This is by executive order of the President! So the President is not just another employee of the government. Nor is the Vice-President.

What is not a red herring is that the documents are owned by the Archives. They must get them back. Biden returned them without fuss. Trump returned some, but not others. Noise! The Archives will get them back, I'm sure.
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Langue_doc

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Here's the latest from the NYT.

Quote
68 Days of Silence: Why the White House Stayed Mum on Classified Documents
Advisers to President Biden calculated that the Justice Department would view possession of the documents as little more than a good-faith mistake.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/20/us/politics/biden-classified-documents.html

Caracal

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It's not just a question of firing--it's an offense that comes with prison time and fines, and in the past Biden has agitated for the imprisonment of those who mishandled classified documents

Also: are they allowed to bring them home? Presumably there's a policy, and presumably it's publicly available. That's what we should be referring to.

Yes, they obviously can bring them home, or on vacation, or to all kinds of places, because presidents and-to some extent-vice presidents-are always on duty. If Biden goes to Wilmington for the weekend, he is still receiving briefings and making decisions and doing those things might mean he needs access to classified documents. There actually aren't any official policies about this-there are policies about classification generally and they specify various requirements that agencies need to abide by and specify that these agencies need to have their own policies that fit with these guidelines. These things don't apply to the president.

Again, it's not obvious. It's certainly plausible, but I would want to see the text of the laws or policies governing the handling of classified documents. Whatever the rules are, they apply to everyone equally, or not at all. If Presidents need special dispensation, then that must be reflected in the laws or policies governing the handling of classified documents. And I would be very surprised if it wasn't. There's no question that a sitting President may need immediate access to certain records, or access to someone who has access. But surely there are policies and procedures governing that access, if not outright laws. So what we need to know, I think, is what those are. (I believe that the GSA has regulations concerning their storage, for example, including what kinds of locks and cabinets are acceptable.)

But even if we grant that Presidents need to leave their documents strewn around various office buildings and residences, such an exception obviously doesn't apply to people who aren't the President. And, unfortunately, this is true of at least some of Biden's documents (which are left over from his time in the Obama administration), as well as all of Trump's. On this score, the Presidential Records Act (if nothing else--and again, I don't know about laws governing classification, which is why I'm asking for their specific text) is very clear, even if it lacks teeth.

I don't have a good solution for what should be done about it, because yes, it's extra complicated when the person who violated laws or protocols is currently the top government official, and when the violation happened before they were in that position. You certainly can't strip a sitting President of his security clearance, after all. This may be a good case for deferred consequences. But what I don't approve of is the application of different legal standards to powerful people. Nobody should be above the law, and if the law is unjust, then the time to figure that out is before you prosecute others for violating it--and, preferably, before you violate it.



For what it's worth-there are various laws that involve unauthorized possession of government records-classified or not, but they all involve language about either intent or "gross negligence." I kinda doubt that Biden himself was packing documents in boxes and putting them in his garage so it seems quite unlikely there's going to be any kind of criminal charge here.

That may well be the case, but in that case my worry is about how that language has been interpreted when applied to ordinary people. So, for example, it doesn't seem to me like Asia Janay Lavarello was any more negligent or nefarious than Biden (and certainly less so than Trump!), but she got three months in prison and a $5500 fine.

Well, the situation isn't comparable. She's an employee of the state department working abroad. I'm sure the state department has a long list of rules about handling of classified documents-and clearly an employee isn't supposed to just have them in their hotel room. Taking something you weren't supposed to take out of an embassy, and then leaving it in your hotel room, where it isn't supposed to be, is quite different from having something you were allowed to have at one point, in a place you were allowed to have it, but failing to return it when you were supposed to. The former pretty clearly shows either intent or gross negligence. The latter isn't as clear. The one parallel to Trump is the way Lavarello responded after she was told she had classified documents. She didn't immediately bring them back, as you would expect someone who had just made a boneheaded mistake to do-she didn't return them for two days despite repeated efforts to get her to bring them back.

I'm not really sure criminal charges were necessary in Lavarello's case. I would guess that there was an extensive investigation because the FBI was worried about possible espionage. When it turned out that this was just someone who was incredibly cavalier about following the rules, they had done all this investigating and wanted to charge her with something.

kaysixteen

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Sorrta brings up the reality that,  if it chooses to do so, the Federales can more or less find something to charge anyone with, more or less always.