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Post: Secrets of US Presidents


The scandals surrounding classified documents are not only doing major political damage to US President Biden. They also point to a deeper problem: Washington’s obsession with secrecy.

When classified documents were found at Donald Trump’s private residence in Florida, Joe Biden reacted angrily: “How could someone be so irresponsible?”

Now the same thing is happening to Biden and Trump is criticizing the “double standard”. Secret government documents were also found several times in Biden’s private rooms.

Former presidential adviser speaks of ‘great damage’

“This explosion on such a small number of documents has caused irreparable or at least enormous damage,” says David Gergen, who has advised four US presidents.

The documents halted the Biden campaign’s upward move just as it gained momentum.

David Gergen, former White House adviser

Scandals surrounding classified documents are swirling in the United States. After six more documents were seized last Friday, US media are now reporting that classified documents were also found in the home of former Republican Vice President Mike Pence. CNN reported that a lawyer for the politician found him.

Democrats criticize information policy

Democrats are trying to sharply separate the Biden and Trump cases. And indeed, there are key differences: Biden’s team self-reported (possibly a few dozen) documents discovered and worked with researchers. Trump had tried to prevent the documents (probably more than 300) from being investigated and had spoken of a witch hunt against him.

But after the latest finding, top Democrats are also venting their anger. First of all, in the criticism: the White House’s hesitant disclosure policy. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said Biden should be “ashamed” of the situation.

While Biden himself said he had no regrets about the documents found a few days ago, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Biden had a lot to regret.

The first documents were found in November, before the US midterm exams. The White House only knew about this a few weeks ago. Biden’s team clearly prioritized justice, losing credibility in the media and public opinion in this process.

According to an ABC/Ipsos poll, the majority of Americans believe that both Trump and Biden acted inappropriately when dealing with classified documents. Trump’s handling of the documents is seen by many as a “more serious concern”. But Gergen says it will likely be another “free pass” for Trump.

Trump has an outstanding record of letting everything bounce off him.

David Gergen, former White House adviser

What are confidential documents about?

In the US, the Presidential Records Act (PRA) regulates how official documents are handled. Accordingly, the documents of the President and Vice Presidents are in the public domain, not private property, and should be handed over to the National Archive after leaving office.

It’s not unusual for presidents or vice presidents to oppose it – but it’s extremely rare for them to actively oppose it, as in the case of Trump.

Now Joe Biden and Donald Trump are facing investigation by the special prosecutor. Biden’s classified documents are said to relate to his term as a senator and vice president under Barack Obama and Trump’s term as president.

It is not yet known exactly which documents are in question. According to the relevant federal regulation, there are three classification definitions: “Top Secret”, “Confidential” and “Confidential”. According to media reports, some documents found about Trump fall under the “top secret” category.

  • Why isn’t “secret” the same as “secret”?

    Both cases – without claiming to be the same and without having a full account of what documents were found – illustrate, in the eyes of many experts and observers, a deeper problem of overclassification of documents than of omission. .

    Too much information is classified or classified as classified, according to Jameel Jaffer, associate professor of law and journalism at Columbia Law School. “One consequence of our completely broken classification system is that the fact that documents are classified says little about whether their disclosure (or ‘misuse’) will cause harm,” Jaffer wrote on Twitter.

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In an interview, Jaffer keeps many things secret for the wrong reasons: not because the information jeopardizes national security, but because it would be embarrassing or offensive to disclose, Jaffer criticized. “To cut”.

Barack Obama told Fox News in April 2016 regarding the scandal involving then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for using her private email address and a private server for sensitive government records:

There are things that are really top secret and there are things that are put in front of the President that you might not want to see in public, but are basically things you can get from public sources.

Barack Obama, former president, in 2016

What threatens those who reveal secrets?

Anyone who knowingly transmits or discloses confidential or confidential documents is guilty under the Espionage Act. This could result in several years in prison, including on treason charges.

One possible charge that may be threatened in connection with classified documents is the unlawful possession of national defense information pursuant to Title 18, Section 793(e) of federal law.

Prosecution also depends on whether the material was deliberately withheld, whether the law was deliberately disregarded, the size of the documents, and whether it hindered judicial investigation. This could make the difference between Biden and Trump.

In the Hillary Clinton case, the Justice Department ruled against the indictment at the time. So if previous precedents are followed, it is also reasonable that no charges can be brought against Biden based on what is currently known.

And even if Biden pleaded guilty, it’s unlikely that charges will be brought against an incumbent president. The Department of Justice is strictly prohibited from doing this. This fact should also motivate Trump to want to return to office in 2024.

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Source: ZDF

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