Below is my column in the New York Post on the pledge of transparency by President Joe Biden in the classified documents scandal. Yesterday, President Biden assured the public that it could take “the word of a Biden” on their bright future. That would be more reassuring if he would fulfill his pledge to be “very transparent” on his storage of documents from his time as senator and vice president.
Here is the column:
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has repeatedly assured the public that President Biden is committed in the classified-document scandal to move forward in “a very transparent way.” Putting aside the refusal to share any information beyond a desire to be fully transparent, Biden has one major test awaiting him on his pledge: his senatorial records.
There has been much discussion of a classified document being found in his personal library in Wilmington, but there is a huge library of Biden documents sitting in the University of Delaware. The university is sitting on Biden documents due to a cynical 2012 arrangement made by Biden when he was vice president and contemplating a run for the presidency.
The president effectively locked away his records by giving them to the university, which has claimed for a decade that it is still working to organize and catalog the documents. He has refused to allow the public or the press to see the documents. With the recent reports that Biden may have included classified information in notebooks found at his residence, the status of the University of Delaware documents is becoming more and more untenable for the White House.
The University of Delaware has been used for years to shield potentially embarrassing documents from public review for the Biden family, including allegations that the president engaged in sexual harassment or assault as a member of the Senate. The university effectively agreed to serve as a type of lock box for the Bidens to prevent a review of his senatorial records as he ran for higher office.At great public cost, the university has fought efforts by the media and the public to allow access to the documents. It is a troubling position for any institution of higher education to fight access to historical materials . . . for years.
Now, however, there is growing concern that the files may not only include incriminating information on past sexual-assault allegations but actual classified information. There is already confirmation that Biden removed classified information from the Senate more than 14 years ago. It now appears he also may have transferred classified information from briefings and documents to his notebooks. That raises the question of whether such information is contained in the notebooks and papers housed at the university.
If President Biden is ready to embrace transparency, he can start by finally dropping his opposition to any review of his senatorial documents. At a minimum, the FBI should request access to determine if his violation of classified rules extends to this mountain of material given to the university.
No way to secure files
For decades, I have written and testified on why public servants should not be able to claim records from public service. This work includes a work on presidential papers published by Cornell in 2003 where I traced the flawed arguments of public servants that such documents are entirely their property.
Biden is the poster boy for how the claim of private ownership can run against principles of good government and the public interest. Biden became hugely wealthy while in public service as did his family. The Bidens have long been accused of open influence peddling to garner millions of dollars and choice jobs or contracts for family members. These documents could shed light on that corrupt history.
More importantly, the university is now actively involved in stopping inquiries into whether Biden may have assaulted a staff member or engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment of female staffers. It could also be shielding classified information from being located.
The “very transparent way” should also extend to other matters of great public interest. Even if Biden is not willing to give the public and press general access to these records, he should be willing to allow an independent third party to remove any documents related to matters of great public interest, including allegations of sexual misconduct and influence peddling.
Biden has yet to come up with a plausible reason why he is using the University of Delaware to prevent review of the documents. Indeed, the University of Delaware continues to expend public funds by making technical arguments against access while ignoring questions about the use of an academic institution to shield potentially embarrassing records.
Of course, the FBI does not need permission. They have ample reason to demand access in light of the president’s serial violations. Indeed, past discoveries form a perfect overlaid map of where the president has lived or worked in the past decade. Yet although there is new interest in searching his other residence, there has been little discussion of the largest trove of documents sitting in the bowels of the University of Delaware.
Presumably, this is one question that Jean-Pierre could actually answer. If the president is truly striving to be “very transparent,” he should be able to tell the University of Delaware that his records should be open to outside review. Otherwise, Biden’s pledge is being nothing but transparently dishonest.