No doubt Republicans are gleefully contemplating the upcoming investigations into President Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified documents, while Democrats and their allies in the news media are busily pointing out how Biden’s alleged misdeeds are far less serious than those of former President Trump. But both Republicans and Democrats should be concerned about what the respective investigations of Trump and Biden might reveal. Neither party may like the conclusions which may be drawn.
Attorney General Merrick Garland could hardly avoid appointing a special counsel to investigate Biden, especially after already appointing one to investigate Trump. And as the investigations of Biden by the special counsel as well as by the inevitable GOP congressional committees proceed, Republicans and their media allies hope that the following questions may be answered:
- Given that the first set of classified documents to be found in Biden’s private office at the University of Pennsylvania were left there in early 2018 when the office was first made accessible to him, how did they get there? Who left them there? And who had possession of the documents between the time Biden left the vice presidency in 2017 and the time he moved into his private office a year later?
- Given that the documents were discovered on 11/2/22, why was news of their discovery not announced until this month—in other words, why the cover up? After all, the Biden-Garland Justice Department has not been shy about publicizing raid’s on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.
- Given that additional documents were discovered in the garage of Biden’s private home last month, why are we only learning of them now? Again—why the cover up?
- President Biden said former President Trump was “irresponsible” in his handling of classified documents: Cannot the discovery of classified documents in a private office once used by Biden as well as in a presumably locked garage also be considered “irresponsible” as well? If not, how many documents would have to be mishandled before the accusation of “irresponsibility” would be justified?
Democrats should be quite worried about what the investigations may reveal. Trump’s overall approval rating among the general public is only about 31%, but he retains the approval of about 70% of the GOP, and whatever else investigations may reveal about document handling or anything else, the investigations will inflame his base and strengthen GOP desires for revenge.
But Republicans should beware as well. Whatever answers investigations of Biden elicit can be turned against Trump: What about the chain of custody of the Documents found at Mar-a-Lago? To what extent did Trump’s resistance to turning over the documents in his custody to the government provoke the infamous FBI raid? Doesn’t the assertion that Biden was as “irresponsible” as Trump mean that Trump was as “irresponsible” as Biden? If, as Republicans believe, Biden should somehow be penalized, then what about Trump?
In theory, the respective investigations in Trump and Biden are supposed to be independent of each other. But in truth, the investigations are like Siamese twins sharing organs with each other to the point where neither can be surgically separated from the other. The results of each investigation will inevitably affect the fallout from the other. Should Biden be exonerated but not Trump, Trump and the GOP will claim that politics and favoritism produced different results, regardless of how specific facts about the Biden case differ from those relevant to the Trump case. On the other hand, should the investigation into Biden conclude he acted with gross and perhaps even criminal negligence, the conclusion that Trump also did so, given the greater number of classified documents he allegedly mishandled, will be inescapable.
To complicate matters further, the 2024 race for the presidency is gearing up, and Trump and Biden are each the leading candidates for renomination by their respective parties. Analysts are predicting that each investigation will take at least six months to a year to complete, meaning at least one if not both investigations could drag on into 2024, and the results of both investigations will provide cannon fodder for the public to consider.
And perhaps this may lead to the best way to get out of the mess Trump and Biden seem to have created for themselves, for each other, and for the American people. According to Justice Department protocol, Biden, as the incumbent president, can’t be indicted while still in office. Trump enjoys no such protection, but his indictment, should there be one, would be unprecedented and would no doubt stir up a political hornets’ nest the likes of which are rarely seen. Perhaps the best way out is to see the investigations through to their respective conclusions and, without necessarily indicting anyone (unless there’s proof that classified secrets were sold or given away), publish the results for the American people’s benefit. They can then decide the respective fates of the men who would lead them.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.