Lazy eyes listen
On August 8, 2022, a man holding a sign that reads Fake News is CNN stands next to Michael Williams, an anchor of Channel 5 WPTV (NBC affiliated), as he waits to go live outside former President Donald Trump’s home at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. The FBI raided the residence in order to recover classified White House documents.
Over the last week, most major news organizations published lengthy “explainers” claiming that President Donald Trump’s mishandling of classified documents was far worse than President Joe Biden’s. However, as the White House announces the discovery of additional classified documents, journalists are furiously reversing their positions.
For example, The Washington Post published a lengthy, defensive article late yesterday about how its reporters did their best to be fair and balanced in dealing with critics on both sides.
However, what was known when reporters wrote their explainers did not justify the news media’s hasty conclusion.
We still don’t know how many classified documents Biden possessed or possessed. The White House announced this morning that Biden aides discovered five more pages of classified material at Biden’s personal residence in Wilmington, Delaware, earlier this week. This is the third classified material announcement. Given the sequence of events, it would be incorrect to assume that this is the final classified document discovered.
As a result, the assertion that Trump possessed roughly 30 times more classified documents than Biden was based on false assumptions. Furthermore, because we don’t know what was revealed in the documents, no one can say whether Trump’s apparent mishandling of classified documents posed a greater threat to national security or a violation of the rules than Biden’s.
Another frequently repeated claim — that Biden’s behavior in publicly disclosing the documents was exemplary, whereas Trump’s was deceptive — is also unsupported by evidence.
It turns out that Biden was aware of the mishandled documents as early as November 2, 2022, a week before the election, and kept it a secret until questioned by a news organization.
While the White House notified the National Archives and Records Administration of their discovery on November 2, “in accordance with statutory requirements,” they did not notify the Justice Department. According to The New York Times, “some critics have said the Biden team should have informed the Justice Department itself sooner.”
While it is true that Trump appears to have resisted federal government efforts to retrieve the documents in question, it is also true that he believed — correctly or incorrectly — that he had a right to the documents in question.
To complicate matters further, it is unclear whether the Vice President has the legal authority to declassify documents. A 2003 executive order signed by then-President George W. Bush does not specify whether vice presidents have the “supervisory authority” over departments and agencies that they would appear to require in order to legally declassify information.
Whatever the case may be, it is clear that Trump claims to have declassified the documents, whereas Biden does not.
Even those who believe Trump’s mishandling was worse than Biden’s point out that “when classified documents are located in multiple non-governmental locations,” as they were in Biden’s case, “that deserves serious attention.”
All of this does not imply that the two cases are equivalent, or that Biden’s behavior was “worse” or “more illegal” than Trump’s. It does, however, imply that almost everything the news media confidently reported as the core facts of their case against Trump and for Biden was either incorrect or unknown.