Charlie Pierce on the document snipe hunt.
Oh, dear Lord. CNN is actually going to hunt the snipe.
Among the classified documents from Joe Biden’s time as vice president discovered in a private office last fall are US intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom, according to a source familiar with the matter. A total of 10 documents with classification markings were found last year in Biden’s private academic office and they were dated between 2013 and 2016, according to the source.
Oh, I have so many guesses on the “source.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland has assigned the US attorney in Chicago, a holdover from the Trump administration, to investigate the matter, CNN previously reported. Garland made this move after receiving a referral from the National Archives and Records Administration. The documents were discovered on November 2, just six days before the midterm elections, but the matter only became public Monday due to news reports.
What Garland is doing is what protocol demands. What NARA did is what protocol demands. The lag between the discovery of the material and the “matter becoming public” is explained by the Biden people doing exactly what the protocol demands, as even CNN seems to understand. And the documents also were discovered only four days before the Patriots beat the Colts, 26-3, for all that their proximity to the midterm elections matters.
This business about the midterms is to provide some ominous background music to what is, at best, a semi-story. (Ken Dilanian and Hallie Jackson on MSNBC also seemed hot in pursuit of this particular snipe on Tuesday afternoon.) The administration handled this the way it was supposed to be handled. As shocking as it may be to Dilanian and Jackson, telling the press is not part of that. So even the leak was an informal part of the Washington protocol.
The source told CNN that a personal lawyer for Biden was closing out the downtown DC office that Biden used as part his work with the University of Pennsylvania. The lawyer saw an envelope with markings indicating they were the former vice president’s personal documents, opened the envelope and noticed there were classified documents inside. The lawyer closed the envelope and called NARA, the source said. After making contact with NARA, Biden’s team turned over several boxes in an abundance of caution, even though many of the boxes contained personal materials, the source said.
In other words, the story stopped being newsworthy almost immediately. It should have been a one-line entry in a daily wrap-up column. Its only lesson should be that government officials, large and small, should not take classified material out of its secure setting, just because it’s a monumental pain in the ass for everyone involved if you forget you have it.
(Oh, and don’t stash them in your Pool Shed, and then lie to those nice National Archives people about it, and then stonewall the FBI when they come over for a chat.)
The newly empowered Republicans, of course, went predictably bazats on the whole business. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene has already called for the president’s impeachment, and several others have called for ramped-up investigations. Most of the news coverage of this seems content to pretend that this isn’t a transparent attempt to use this moment to both-sides the ongoing investigation of the Pool Shed Papers.
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has asked for a briefing on both episodes, surprising many with the fact that the committee has yet to be briefed on the Pool Shed Papers. This set off another burst of doomy organ music on the cable television news: “DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN wants a briefing…”
The snipes are migrating toward D.C. again.
This was written before a second set of documents was found, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Biden administration did exactly what they were supposed to do: turn them over to NARA immediately without a fuss or a search warrant. So take your false equivalency and… well, you know where to put it.