The news broke earlier this month that classified documents were found at US President Joe Biden’s private office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, DC. The sensitive paperwork was discovered by Biden’s attorneys back in early November. The subsequent inception of President Biden’s private residence in Wilmington, Delaware in December unearthed additional classified material, located in his garage. The documents were from Biden’s two terms as Vice President under President Obama between 2009 and 2017.
Last week, on Thursday, 12 January, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the case. The investigation is headed by US Attorney John Lausch, who was confirmed in his position in the Northern District of Illinois by a Republican-majority Senate back in 2017. AG Garland’s Justice Department was informed about the discovery of the documents back on 4 November 2022.
The Democratic Mainstream’s Double Standards
Evidently, it is hard not to draw parallels and contrasts between this case and the case of Former President Donald Trump.
Trump’s private residence, the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, was raided by FBI agents back in August 2022. The probable cause for the agents’ deployment was the same as the allegation President Biden faces now: unauthorized possession of classified documents. Yet this time AG Garland did not feel the need to send armed agents to the sitting president’s home. We did not get to see the ‘sweet’ areal shots of the FBI arriving at the President’s private residence in Delaware, as we did at Mar-a-Lago, for which Garland, as he later later confirmed, had personally approved the request for a search warrant.
The mainstream media also made sure to highlight the that a raid of a former president’s property by federal agents was, in fact, unprecedented. That is true—the closest thing to such an occurrence happened in 1872, when sitting President Ulysses S. Grant was arrested for speeding on his horse and buggy in Washington, DC by officer William H. West.
On the other hand, special counsels or special prosecutors investigating presidents is one of the most ‘precedented’ routines in American politics at this point. Just last November, AG Garland organised another special counsel, tasked to look into President Trump’s handling of classified information, as well as his potential wrongdoings during the transfer of power after the highly contested 2020 Presidential election.
Even during his time in office, President Trump had to endure the two-year-long investigation by a special counsel led by Robert Mueller about his campaign’s possible (but eventually disproven) ties to Russia. President Bill Clinton had to go through a similar procedure on two occasions. Once, in relation to the Whitewater scandal, in which he, First Lady Hillary Clinton, and their associate Jim McDougal allegedly defrauded investors of a small investment fund after their real estate project imploded in Arkansas; and once again during the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal where he falsely denied having had sexual relations with a White House intern. The latter investigation led to the first impeachment of a US President in 130 years. Cabinet members and close associates of former presidents George W. Bush, his father George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter faced investigations by special prosecutors just in the last 40 years. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Watergate, President Gerald Ford himself was investigated by special prosecutor Charles F. C. Ruff to find out if he had pocketed maritime union funds.
All this is to stress that having a special counsel set up in a case involving the President is definitely not as unusual as sending FBI agents to a president’s private residence. President Trump was subjected to the latter, while President Biden has been spared such a politically damaging humiliation—despite the facts of the two cases being virtually identical.
An associate of President Trump notified the National Archives that classified documents were found in the former president’s residence back in December 2021, just like President Biden’s personal attorney did in his case. Both times, the Justice Department was promptly informed. Both Trump and Biden made the argument that the documents were actually securely locked away in their homes. If anything, Donald Trump has a better defence, as he can cite the presidential authority to declassify documents, while Joe Biden held the office of Vice President when he took the papers with him.
President Biden appeared on CBS’s long-running news magazine programme 60 Minutes in September 2022. There, he was asked by journalist Scott Pelley what he was thinking about the FBI having found a stash of classified documents on his predecessor’s Florida estate. Not knowing what was coming to him, he replied: ‘How could this possibly happen? How one anyone [sic] can be that irresponsible?’
Implications for 2024
Rumours have also been floated that this may be a ploy by the Democratic establishment to prevent the incumbent President from running again. As Tucker Carlson said on 12 January, ‘this is pretty clearly the beginning of the end for Joe Biden. We can’t prove that. The future is unknowable, but holy smokes, it does not look good and it doesn’t look good in a very recognizable way… Joe Biden’s own aides keep finding stacks of felonies he’s left around the place in his office, in his car, and instead of throwing this evidence in the fireplace, as under normal circumstances they would, they’re sending these documents on to the Justice Department. That’s not a good sign.’ The idea of replacing him on the top of the ticket was openly talked about even by mainstream, leftist media outlets back in June of 2022 when his favourability was at an all-time low for a first-term president. Things have improved for the Democrats since. They have managed to outperform expectations in the 2022 midterm elections, keeping control of the Senate (and even gaining a seat), gaining two governorships, and only losing the House by a slim majority.
However, 2024 may not be smooth sailing for the incumbent party after all. Biden’s approval rating is still in the net negative in the aggregate of polls. Another polling aggregate by the website RealClearPolitics has him trailing Florida governor Ron DeSantis by 2.6 percentage points nationally. RCP’s polling average was remarkably accurate for the national popular vote in the 2022 House elections: it showed Republicans up 2.5 points on Election day, and they ended up winning by 2.8.
Furthermore, midterm election results are not a major predictors in terms of presidential elections, as opposed to history professor Allan Lichtman’s 13-item questionnaire known as ‘The Keys to the White House’ which has been exceptionally accurate so far: it correctly predicted the winner of 9 out of 10 presidential elections between 1984 and 2020—it only missed the one from 2000, which was decided by around 500 votes in Florida…
This laser-accurate method only allocates one question to the midterm elections. And that works in favour of the Republicans. The question is ‘After the midterm elections, does the incumbent party hold more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections?’. The Democrats do not, giving one point in favour of a change of government.
So, in 2024, the Democrats may have to brace for another close election. If the economy does not improve, they may even fight an uphill battle. Joe Biden most likely will not be able to get through campaign season as passively as he did in 2020 during the time of Coronavirus lockdowns, when he basically hid in a basement. He will most likely have to get out and make many public speeches, something he quite evidently struggles with—this might be a scary enough proposition for the Democrats to make them cook up something to convince the President not to run again.