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Biden, Trump, classified documents: Could this all be partisan hype?

Let’s start with the proposition that there is plenty of hypocrisy on both sides.

When it was discovered that Donald Trump had taken hundreds of classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, the media uproar was deafening. The press and the Democrats practically presented him as ready to sell them to the highest bidder. The usual parade of legal experts insisted that he be charged.

Republicans and conservatives, for their part, either insisted it was no big deal or tried to avoid talking about Trump’s documents. And many agreed with the former president’s argument that the FBI should never have “raided” his Florida estate (albeit with a court order).

Then Joe Biden, who criticized Trump’s handling of secrets as “irresponsible”, was also found to be careless and sloppy with classified documents. Biden’s team sat on the story for two months and released incomplete and misleading statements. There was a Keystone Kops routine in which new documents were constantly discovered. The FBI finally conducted a 1 p.m. search of the president’s home in Wilmington last Friday – which the White House did not release until Saturday evening.

Biden, Pence and Donald Trump are under scrutiny for the discovery of classified documents in their personal properties.
(Associated Press)


Suddenly, Republicans who were largely disinterested in the woes of Trump’s documents were treating this as a five-alarm national security crisis. Biden’s actions were outrageous and inexcusable, especially since the documents dated from his days as vice president and senator.

This time it was the Democrats’ turn to play defense. Biden had played by the rules. It was his lawyers who found the initial documents, notified the Department of Justice and the National Archives, and voluntarily handed them over.

Any attempt to compare this to Trump insisting he has the right to keep the documents is ludicrous.

But there was one group that didn’t play along. The media turned on Biden because its members felt played, misled and blocked. Reporters looked visibly angry as they pressed for answers.


To take an example, when the White House confirmed CBS’ initial scoop on the first batch of documents found at the Penn Biden Center, officials already knew that a second batch had been found in Wilmington. But they said nothing, and when the news of the second batch broke, it smelt of cover-up. (That was several batches ago.)

Merrick Garland, fittingly, has appointed special advocates to probe both presidents. But what seemed deaf to some Biden allies was when he finally read a statement saying he had “no regrets” about anything he had done. Truly? Given the drip of disclosure — which in turn makes it unlikely that Trump will be accused of anything — does the president have anything to regret? Would he gain more sympathy by telling people, we screwed up, but we were trying to do the right thing?

United States Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers remarks at the United States Department of Justice Building November 18, 2022 in Washington, DC.

United States Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers remarks at the United States Department of Justice Building November 18, 2022 in Washington, DC.
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Yesterday’s announcement that Mike Pence had found classified documents in his Indiana home will only add to a collective national shrug: they all do.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty says he knows his lead will piss off his mostly conservative audience: “The Joe Biden classified documents scandal is mostly nothing.”

But then comes his next sentence: “So was Donald Trump’s classified documents scandal.” The massive media double standards we observed in the coverage of both situations, however, are by no means a vain burger; it is a real problem that must be denounced.”

Geraghty’s conclusion: “No case, viewed objectively, was likely a giant case. Biden should be investigated at least to the extent that Trump was, but no breathing person seriously believes that the either man is an Emirati agent. And, after Big Jim Comey essentially made possession of classified information a crime of active intent – at least for special humans – during the great e-war Hillary Clinton emails from 2016, there’s a 0.000% chance that one or the other will ever be prosecuted for their indiscretions.


Former US President Donald Trump raises his fist while walking towards a vehicle outside Trump Tower in New York on August 10, 2022.

Former US President Donald Trump raises his fist while walking towards a vehicle outside Trump Tower in New York on August 10, 2022.
(STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

I disagree with Geraghty on one central point. Yes, the media initially defaulted to “nothing to see here” mode, insisting that Trump’s mess was far worse than Biden’s mess. Yes, they may be starting to return to their usual corners. Yes, partisan commentators such as James Carville and Lawrence O’Donnell say the media is so worried about being seen as soft on the left that they are shifting Democratic scandals into false equivalence mode.

But when I watched CBS’s Ed O’Keefe and NBC’s Kristen Welker, as well as Fox’s Peter Doocy, pound Karine Jean-Pierre as the designated sacrificial lamb, I saw a level of aggression rarely glimpsed in the coverage of the Biden presidency.


Since the beginning of the republic, each party has jumped on the scandals of the other camp. House Republicans are preparing to do just that. There are instances in history where leaders have held their own side accountable, but that may be a holdover from a less polarized era.

Fox Gt

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