The White House blasted Republicans on Tuesday, accusing them of hypocrisy with how they’ve handled the separate controversies surrounding classified documents found at President Biden’s garage and office and former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.
In a call with reporters, White House aides accused the GOP of engaging in “political theater” by attacking Biden while giving a free pass to Trump.
“The president and his team have been fully cooperating, acting responsibly and ensuring that this is handled properly,” said Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House Counsel's Office. “You’ve seen something far different emerging among elected Republicans. What are they doing? They’ve decided that it’s time for more political stunts and theater.“
The call was set up after a difficult week for the White House that found Democrats struggling at times to explain why documents had been taken to Biden’s garage and office, and why the public hadn’t been told about them until Jan. 10 — when the news first broke about the discovery.
The White House first discovered that classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president had been taken to the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 2 — before the midterm elections and after Biden and other Democrats had blasted Trump over classified documents at Mar-a-Lago found earlier in the year.
The White House Counsel’s Office notified the National Archives of the discovery days later and the Archives then notified the Department of Justice. Attorney General Merrick Garland last week appointed a special counsel to look into the issue after Garland had previously appointed a special counsel to look into the Trump classified documents matter.
On Tuesday, days after House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) asked if the White House had a visitor log for Biden’s Wilmington, Del., residence, Biden’s team sought to go on offense by accusing the GOP overreaching on the issue.
Comer, in an interview with CNN, also called Biden’s residence a “crime scene” after the classified documents were discovered at Biden’s home.
Sams and others say the GOP fury over the found Biden documents stands in sharp contrast to the more blasé reaction many Republicans had to the discovery of classified documents at Trump’s home.
Democrats also have argued the two situations are very different because of the level of cooperation Biden has sought to maintain in alerting the Archives to the discovery. Trump, in contrast, largely stiff-armed the Archives, they say.
In addition, the documents at Mar-a-Lago were in a Florida estate where hundreds of guests come and go for social occasions.
“They’re faking outrage even though they defended the former president’s actions,” Sams told reporters on Tuesday.
White House aides and allies pointed to the irony of Comer’s remarks in August when he brushed off Trump’s possession of classified materials.
“What I’ve seen that the National Archives was concerned about Trump having in his possession didn’t amount to a hill of beans,” Comer told Newsmax at the time.
In November, Comer also told CNN that a House investigation into Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents would “not be a priority.”
Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), who served as the chief investigator in the first impeachment of Trump, told The Hill it’s “just the latest example of House Republicans abusing their oversight authority and demanding things they have argued against in the past.
“The American people are tired of Republican hypocrisy and Chairman Comer is not off to a good start, he said.
Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist and the director of the public policy program at Hunter College, said Republicans like Comer were “willing to shield Trump from any public of governmental scrutiny while he was president but are hypocritically intent upon using all available congressional power at their disposal to unpack Biden’s life, shame him and discredit Democrats.”
In many ways, White House officials and their allies are happy to have this fight with Republicans, allies say because they are taking the bet that Trump’s baggage on this issue is worse than their own and has the potential of backfiring.
White House allies say Republicans will have a tough time explaining why Trump held on to the documents and then resisted the FBI. Biden, on the other hand has fully cooperated with the Department of Justice and the appointed special counsel.
“It’s ludicrous,” one Democratic strategist close to the White House said of the GOP.
“Do they really want to go there?" said one Democratic strategist close to the White House. "Didn't their guy have many more documents at his home? Didn't he try and stop people from taking them back?”
Republicans have used the controversy to blunt Biden’s trajectory weeks ahead of his expected announcement for reelection. They’ve sought to use the episode to paint Biden as corrupt.
“The Biden are just a Delaware version of the Sopranos,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote on Twitter.
Republican strategist Doug Heye said it’s fair game.
“Congress tends not to deeply investigate a White House of the same party,” Heye said. “That was true of Democrats last Congress and of Republicans under Trump.“
And he predicted that the controversy wouldn’t backfire on the GOP.
“This cuts at Biden’s argument that he and his team of pros won’t make the mistakes Trump and his Addams Family team made — on something Biden specifically criticized. And when Democrats say, but Trump was worse, well, okay but now you’re talking degrees and if you’re explaining you’re losing.”