As special counsel is appointed, Biden gets his own docu-drama


Just days ago, President Joe Biden was savoring his party’s better-than-expected performance in midterm elections, watching his public approval ratings rise, and touting positive economic signs.

Now, he’s under investigation by a special counsel, and has lost an easy talking point against a potential 2024 rival: former President Donald Trump. 

Why We Wrote This

The White House is highlighting key differences between President Joe Biden’s situation and that of former President Donald Trump. But even allies admit the optics aren’t good.

So far, the known facts about classified documents from Mr. Biden’s time as vice president, found at a former Biden office in Washington and in his Wilmington, Delaware, home, pale in severity compared with those around former President Trump. Mr. Trump, who is facing a special counsel investigation into numerous classified materials found at his Florida estate, some at the top-secret level, resisted efforts by the National Archives to retrieve the materials and faces allegations of possible obstruction. 

By contrast, Mr. Biden’s lawyers say they immediately reported the discovery of classified documents to the National Archives. But while the first set was discovered on Nov. 2 – before the midterms – that information was not revealed to the public until this week.

“It would be very difficult, given these new circumstances, for Democrats to use the issue of the Mar-a-Lago documents effectively against Trump,” says William Galston, a former senior Clinton administration official. “That’s a major consequence.”

As President Joe Biden well knows, political fortunes in Washington can turn on a dime. And nothing does it quite as effectively as the appearance of hypocrisy.

Just days ago, the president was savoring his party’s better-than-expected performance in midterm elections, watching his public approval ratings rise, and touting positive economic signs.

Now, he’s under investigation by a special counsel, and has lost an easy talking point against a potential 2024 rival: former President Donald Trump. 

Why We Wrote This

The White House is highlighting key differences between President Joe Biden’s situation and that of former President Donald Trump. But even allies admit the optics aren’t good.

Revelations about classified documents from President Biden’s time as vice president, found at a former Biden office in Washington and in his Wilmington, Delaware, home, have changed the narrative. Mr. Biden is on the defensive, as newly empowered House Republicans take aim at the latest Biden drama. On Wednesday, a House committee opened a long-planned investigation into the president and his family.

But it’s Attorney General Merrick Garland’s naming of a special counsel Thursday, hours after Biden lawyers told the Department of Justice they had found yet another classified document at his Wilmington house, that has sent Washington into overdrive. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland (right) announces Jan. 12, 2023, that he has appointed a special counsel to investigate classified documents found in President Joe Biden’s home and at an office. U.S. attorney John Lausch (left) recommended a special counsel be appointed after beginning the investigation.

Even though the known facts around Mr. Biden’s Obama-era documents pale in severity compared with those around former President Trump – who faces a special counsel investigation into numerous boxes of classified materials found at his Florida estate, some at the top-secret level – the optics are nevertheless damaging. 



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