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Casting off the divine right of kings—a doctrine in which the monarch’s word was absolute and in which the king was above the law—was a central facet of the American Revolution. That, along with the adoption of constitutional limits on the power of government, was a founding principle of the American Republic.
However, it appears that President Biden didn’t get the memo. Judging from his mishandling of classified documents, he evidently doesn’t think the constraints of the law apply to him.
Time and again, the president has thumbed his nose at this constitutional concept. From his edicts ordering immigration officers to ignore the law, to his unlawful OSHA vaccine mandate, he has acted as if he is above the law.
Fortunately, state attorneys general have stepped up in defense of the rule of law and have asked the courts to put him in check. Most recently, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton scored a victory against Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The court struck down an agency rule that threatened to cut federal funding to Texas and other states that prohibit child sex change surgeries.
With the revelation of multiple sets of his illegally-stored classified documents, it has become clear that Biden’s disregard for the rule of law extends beyond his unconstitutional executive actions. It also applies to his handling of classified materials. And he’s been doing it for many years.
At a time when faith in elected officials is at an all-time low, Americans desperately need a president who scrupulously follows the law and who leads with transparency and accountability. Instead, we have the opposite. Rather than take responsibility, President Biden and White House officials bent over backward in their attempt to convince an increasingly skeptical public that there’s nothing to see here. Move along.
President Biden’s treatment of classified documents indicates that he either has no idea how they are to be handled, or he just doesn’t care.
As a former Department of Justice official who had top secret clearance at the time, I say for certain that his behavior ignores the law and applicable rules. For example, classified documents must never be stored in boxes in a garage. When I was at the Department of Justice the classified documents that I had access to were kept inside a safe, which was inside a locked office, which was in a secured building guarded by federal officers. The rules were so stringent for a reason—the documents contained information that our adversaries could use against our country.
President Biden’s casual treatment of such classified material was shocking enough. But his administration’s response to the discovery of the documents is equally troubling. Media reports and official statements suggest that both the White House and Department of Justice failed to take necessary steps when they learned of the first set of classified documents. Highly sensitive information was allowed to remain for months in unsecured locations. In addition, private representatives of the president were allowed to control the search for more documents and, eventually, to handle even more classified documents. Some of these reportedly do not themselves hold security clearances.
The president himself could face serious penalties for mishandling classified information under federal laws governing “the exercise of gross negligence.” Laws like the Espionage Act make removing, divulging or destroying classified information, whether intentionally or not, a criminal offense. In fact, several public officials have pled guilty to the removal of classified documents before, including retired army general and former CIA Director David Petraeus.
The White House and the Biden Department of Justice are now in the spotlight. Although the appointment of a special counsel is a step in the right direction, it does not diminish the administration’s subtle attempts to thwart justice and influence the investigation. The president has long proclaimed his commitment to depoliticizing the Department of Justice. But the repeated interference of the White House calls into question his sincerity.
Two things must happen immediately if the public’s trust is to be restored. First, the White House must make clear that the special counsel and the Department of Justice are free to pursue the investigation wherever it may lead—without any influence from the White House and without any consideration of political consequences.
Second, the Department of Justice should provide the public with a basic timeline of what has happened and provide an explanation of why certain actions were taken. This can easily be done without divulging the substance of the investigation. That timeline and explanation should cover the following:
*At what point was the Department informed of the discovery of these documents?
*Who directed the Department not to publicly disclose the discovery of documents until after the 2022 midterm elections? Who was involved in making this decision?
*What steps did the Department take, on what dates, concerning the documents until the appointment of the special counsel?
*Are public reports correct that the Department allowed the president’s representatives, who lacked appropriate security clearances, to control searches subsequent to the initial discovery? If so, who made this determination?
I recently sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to provide this information to the American people. If he does so, he will do much to restore confidence not only in the Biden Department of Justice, but also in the administration’s respect for the rule of law. That information, along with a full and independent investigation by the special counsel, will reassure the country that no one is above the law.
The Founding Fathers cast aside any allegiance to the idea of divine right of kings when we broke from England. It’s time for the president to do the same.