WASHINGTON — White House officials said Monday there is no visitor log keeping track of who comes and goes from President Biden’s personal residence in Wilmington, Del., where six classified documents were discovered the last days.
A senior House Republican on Sunday demanded that the White House turn over logs of visitors to Mr. Biden’s home, citing what he called the “serious national security implications” that the documents could have been accessed to persons without security clearance.
“It is troubling that classified documents have been improperly stored at President Biden’s home for at least six years, raising questions about who may have viewed or had access to classified information,” the rep wrote. James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky and Chairman of the Oversight and Accountability Committee.
But a spokesman for the White House legal counsel’s office said no such newspaper existed because Mr Biden’s home is not official government property.
“Like any president through decades of modern history, his personal residence is personal,” spokesman Ian Sams said. “But upon taking office, President Biden reinstated the norm and tradition of keeping White House visitor diaries, including publishing them regularly, after the previous administration abolished them.”
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The discovery in two locations of classified documents from President Biden’s time as vice president prompted the Justice Department to look into the situation.
Anthony Guglielmi, the Secret Service’s communications chief, said his agency also does not track people who visit a president’s personal home.
“The Secret Service does not keep logs of visitors to private residences of beneficiaries,” Guglielmi said. “Visitor logs that are kept in government buildings are part of the National Archives and Records Administration, and while we have access to these, we are not the custodians of these records and logs.”
Republicans’ transparency demands in Mr. Biden’s classified documents case highlight the political danger to the president, who criticized former President Donald J. Trump when boxes of classified documents were found at his residence from Florida.
Last week, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate documents found at Mr. Biden’s home and office. In November, Mr. Garland appointed another special counsel to investigate Mr. Trump’s handling of sensitive documents and his failure to return them all, even after being subpoenaed.
The two cases are different. Mr. Trump fought with officials for months over whether to return government documents in his possession. In Mr. Biden’s case, his aides and attorneys turned over the documents and contacted authorities quickly after discovering them for themselves.
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Additionally, the documents found at Mr. Biden’s residence were in a garage of his private home, which largely serves as a gathering place for the president and his family on weekends. By contrast, Mr Trump’s Florida estate, known as Mar-a-Lago, is a private club that regularly hosts large parties and events, often near where the classified documents were found. .
On social media on Monday, the former president mocked Mr Biden for keeping classified documents at his home. He also bragged: “Mar-a-Lago is a highly secure facility, with security cameras everywhere, and monitored by staff and our excellent Secret Service. I have INFO on everyone!
But Republican critics of Mr. Biden, like Mr. Comer, seek transparency in a way that they do not have for Mr. Trump.
Asked on Monday whether the oversight committee would ask Mr Trump for Mar-a-Lago’s “everyone’s INFO”, a spokesman for Mr Comer declined to answer. Instead, he made a statement that did not explain why the committee had asked for visitor logs at Mr. Biden’s home, but not Mr. Trump’s.
“The American people deserve transparency, not secrecy,” spokesman Austin Hacker said. “We will continue to press the Biden administration for answers on who had access to these classified documents.”
Aides to former presidents blasted Mr Comer’s request, noting that past administrations did not keep records of who came and went from a president’s private home.
“Either completely misinformed or deliberately misleading,” tweeted Eric Schultz, who was President Barack Obama’s spokesman, on Monday. “Not how it works.”
Mr. Schultz noted that there were no journals kept for the homes of Mr. Trump, former President George W. Bush or former President George HW Bush.
“No logs from Trump’s homes, Crawford Ranch, Kennebunkport or any President’s family home,” he wrote.
Administrations maintain visitor logs for the White House. During Mr. Obama’s tenure, officials released these documents several times a year in an effort to be candid about who was meeting with Mr. Obama and other senior officials, though the names of some visitors were excluded.
Mr. Trump’s White House has not released visitor logs. Mr Biden restarted the practice when he took office.