White House says Republicans have ‘zero credibility’ over

Key events

Lauren Gambino

Lauren Gambino

The White House on Tuesday defended its public handling of revelations that classified documents were discovered at Joe Biden’s home and the president’s private office.

In a call with reporters, White House spokesperson Ian Sams said the decision not to immediately inform the public of the discovery of sensitive records in November was “consistent with safeguarding the integrity of the investigation”.

“We understand that there’s a tension between the need to be cooperative with an ongoing DOJ investigation, and rightful demands for additional public information,” Sams said. “And so we’re trying to strike that balance.”

He pointed reporters to a line in a statement released by the president’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, after the discovery of additional documents, which stated that “regular ongoing public disclosures also pose the risk that, as further information develops, answers provided on this periodic basis may be incomplete.”

The explanation did little to satisfy Republicans – or reporters – who have repeatedly pressed the White House on why it was not transparent with the public when the documents were first found at the president’s private Washington office on 2 November. On 2o December, Biden’s personal lawyers found “a small number of potential records bearing classified markings” in the garage of the president’s Delaware home. Five more pages of materials were found at his home on Thursday.

‘Rampant hypocrisy’

After the first discovery two months ago, the White House said it “immediately”notified the National Archives and Records Administration, which then informed the US justice department.

Sams repeated that the White House was cooperating with the investigation and would continue to do so, drawing a sharp distinction with the way Biden’s presidential predecessor Donald Trump handled sensitive documents.

Trump refused to turn over troves of government documents that he took with him to his Mar-a-lago estate, even after being subpoenaed. Agents dispatched to his home to retrieve the materials, which Trump said he had the right to keep, and even argued without evidence that he had declassified.

Sams accused Republicans of fomenting “faking outrage about disclosure and transparency” and “rampant hypocrisy.”

‘Fake outrage’

He seized on comments by the newly installed Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer, who has promised to aggressively investigate Biden’s handling of the documents. In a CNN interview this weekend, the Republican said: “At the end of the day, my biggest concern isn’t the classified documents, to be honest with you. My concern is there’s such a discrepancy between how President Trump was treated … versus Joe Biden.”

Asked last year about Trump’s handling of the documents, Comer, Sams noted, said it “didn’t amount to a hill of beans.”

“House Republicans lose credibility when they engage in fake outrage about an issue that they’re clearly pursuing only for partisan gain,” Sams said.

Sams said the White House was reviewing “a few letters” from the House Oversight committee related to Biden’s retention of classified documents and will make a “determination about our response in due course.”

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has vowed to investigate both the classified documents found at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and at Joe Biden’s properties.

But his sympathies were clearly with Trump. The Republican leader argued that the former president had been treated more harshly than Biden, which “just does not seem fair.”

“This is why the American people get so upset and distrust their government when they see that the law is not applied equally,” he continued, accusing Biden of “hypocrisy” for not making the document discovery public before the November midterms.

Here’s C-SPAN with his full comments:

Republicans to seat George Santos on committees despite his lies

George Santos will be seated on committees in the House, even though the New York Republican admitted to lying about his qualifications for office, House speaker Kevin McCarthy said.

While he did not say on which committees the freshman lawmaker will serve, the comment underscores that Republican leadership is disinclined to take any major steps to exclude Santos, who is facing an array of investigations into his admitted dishonesty on the campaign trail.

Here are McCarthy’s comments, courtesy of C-Span:

The day so far

Republicans are continuing to pressure Joe Biden over the classified documents found at his residence and former office, while Democrats are working to point out the significant differences between the president’s case and that of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the White House is demanding Kevin McCarthy release the details of the agreements he made with conservative Republican to win their support for his House speaker bid.

Here’s what else has happened today so far:

  • Trump may be the big winner of the kerfuffle over Biden’s classified documents, as it undermines the investigation into the government secrets found at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

  • The House Democrats’ lead prosecutor of Trump during his first impeachment will play a major role in defending Biden from the GOP’s investigation campaign.

  • State Democratic parties are revolting against Biden’s plan to shake up the primary calendar for presidential nominations.

In Florida, the Guardian’s Richard Luscombe reports that US authorities are turning back more and more migrants amid a surge in arrivals:

Authorities in Florida have been turning back growing numbers of undocumented Cubans and Haitians arriving by sea in recent weeks as more attempt to seek haven in the US.

Local US residents on jet skis have been helping some of the migrants who attempted to swim ashore after making arduous, life-threateningand days-long journeys in makeshift vessels.

Joe Biden’s turn to the center over immigration comes as Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, attempts to plot his own strategy for handling a sensitive situation in the south of his state, calling out national guard troops in a hardline approach.

To the GOP, the White House’s demand for answers from Kevin McCarthy is little more than a distraction from the unfolding investigation into Joe Biden’s classified documents.

Here’s Republican operative Matt Whitlock:

White House calls on McCarthy to reveal ‘secret, backroom deals’ in speaker election

The Biden administration is calling on House Republicans to “come clean” about the deals Kevin McCarthy made to win election as House speaker, and accusing the party of embracing extreme policies.

“House Republicans have yet to come clean with the American people about the secret agreements Kevin McCarthy made with the most Maga members of their conference in order to end their leadership election debacle,” the White House said in a statement. “But as we learn more about what was hashed out behind closed doors, it has become clear that these hidden agreements could impact the lives of every American.”

Here’s more from White House spokesman Andrew Bates:

An unprecedented tax hike on the middle class and a national abortion ban are just a glimpse of the secret, backroom deals Speaker McCarthy made with extreme MAGA members to end this month’s chaotic elections and claim the gavel. The few agreements we know about would fundamentally reshape our economy in a devastating way for working families and criminalize women for making their own health care decisions. They’re also planning to plunge the economy into chaos and take millions of American jobs and 401k plans hostage unless they can cut Medicare. What other hidden bargains did Speaker McCarthy make behind closed doors with the most extreme, ultra MAGA members of the House Republican conference? The American people have a right to know – now – which is why we are calling on him to make every single one of them public immediately.

Police in New Mexico have arrested an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the state legislature on charges of arranging shooting attacks on Democratic politicians, the Associated Press reports:

A failed Republican state legislative candidate, who authorities say was angry over losing an election last November and made baseless claims that the vote was “rigged”, has been arrested in connection with a series of drive-by shootings targeting the homes of Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico’s largest city.

Albuquerque police chief Harold Medina held a news conference on Monday evening hours after Swat officers arrested Solomon Pena at his home.

Medina described Pena as the “mastermind” of what appears to be a politically motivated criminal conspiracy behind four shootings at, or near, the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators. The shooting took place between December and early January.

Pena lost an election in November to incumbent state Representative, Miguel P Garcia, the longtime Democrat representing House District 14 in New Mexico. Garcia won by 48 percentage points, or roughly 3,600 votes.

Police said Pena had approached county and state lawmakers after his loss, claiming the contest had been rigged against him despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022. The shootings began shortly after those conversations.

State legislatures nationwide are starting their legislative sessions, and the Guardian’s Kira Lerner reports Republican lawmakers have already floated new proposals to tighten down on voting:

Republican lawmakers across the country have already filed dozens of bills that would restrict voting, including proposals in Texas that would increase criminal penalties on people who violate voting laws and enact a new law enforcement unit to prosecute election crimes.

The 2023 legislative session comes in the wake of an election that was described by many voting rights advocates as a triumph of democracy, despite the restrictive voting laws that were in place in 20 states for the first time last year.

Before this session, at least 26 states enacted, expanded, or increased the severity of 120 election-related criminal penalties.

This year, Republican-controlled legislatures plan to continue pressing for laws that they say would help prevent widespread voter fraud, a problem that voting advocates say does not exist but nonetheless continues to be alleged by Donald Trump and his allies. Several pre-filed bills would further criminalize voters and election officials, a trend that has been occurring across the US in the past few years.

As chair of the House judiciary committee, Jim Jordan will be one of the Biden administration’s chief antagonists over the coming two years, and he appeared on Fox News to accuse the president of misleading the public over his possession of classified documents.

“I want to know why they kept this from us, and maybe the most important question that we’ve asked now for over a week is, why did they keep it from the American people when they knew about it before the election?” Jordan asks, after recounting how the documents were first discovered shortly before the November midterms.

Here’s the full interview:

Jordan last week announced his committee would launch an investigation into the documents.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s plan to shake up the Democratic presidential primaries is running into opposition from states that traditionally lead the nominating process, the Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt reports:

The Democratic party’s rationale for shaking up its presidential primary process was fairly straightforward: the current system is dominated by two predominantly white states who vote first, giving people of color little say in choosing the potential next president.

Facing fuming New Hampshire officials, however, and a Georgia Republican party happy to meddle in Democrats’ plans, the Joe Biden-led effort to make things more equitable now looks increasingly in peril.

New Hampshire, which has held the first presidential primary for decades, is proving itself particularly unyielding, raising the prospect of a rogue vote taking place in the state.

Daniel Goldman was the lead prosecutor when House Democrats impeached Donald Trump in 2019, and is now set to become one of Joe Biden’s main defenders in the chamber against the Republican investigation campaign.

Beyond putting pressure on the White House over the classified documents found in Biden’s possession, the GOP has also launched an inquiry into the business activities of the president’s son Hunter Biden, among other investigations.

Goldman spoke to Punchbowl News about how he plans to fight back against these inquiries.

“The American people do not care about Hunter Biden’s laptop … And what we’re going to see, as they have foreshadowed, is excessively overreaching partisan investigations that are solely designed to hurt President Biden’s reelection chances in 2024. They have determined the narrative and what they will now try to do is find an investigation that can match the narrative,” he said. “And what we Democrats can do is continue to point out the fact that they are doing nothing for the people while focusing on politicized investigations that have no merit.”

The House GOP may be relishing the Joe Biden’s possession of classified materials, but, as the Guardian’s Peter Stone reports, their ability to govern the chamber has become far more complicated thanks to a deal between Kevin McCarthy and the party’s most conservative lawmakers:

The deals struck between the new House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, and almost 20 members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus are already emboldening the most conservative figures in the Republican party with moves set to give the caucus considerable power in the months ahead.

In order to secure the speakership McCarthy was forced into a humiliating series of defeats before his deal-making and concessions finally offered enough to bring rebel members of the Freedom Caucus onboard.

Now in McCarthy’s first days as speaker, the roughly 40-member Freedom Caucus has already scored big. Several caucus members landed plum seats on rules and appropriations panels, had a role in creating a new panel to launch a far-flung investigation of the Department of Justice (DoJ) and other agencies conservatives argue are “weaponized” against them, and stand to benefit from the gutting of House ethics oversight.

Democrats are playing defense for Joe Biden as he faces his own classified documents case, with several lawmakers acknowledging that the president made a mistake, but arguing he’s acting very differently from Donald Trump.

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan threaded that needle in an appearance on NBC News over the weekend. “It’s certainly embarrassing,” she said of documents dating to Biden’s time as vice-president that were found at his Delaware residence and a former office in Washington DC.

But she likened his case and Trump’s to two car accidents, one that was a mistake, the other intentional. “This is very much about how it’s being handled,” she said, arguing the Biden has been transparent and forthright with federal authorities ever since his aides first found the material. “It’s totally different right now, both serious in terms of having classified documents, but the president is doing the right thing.”

Here’s the full interview:

The discovery of classified documents in Joe Biden’s possession is a boon not only for House Republicans, but also for Donald Trump, who is being investigated by the justice department over the government secrets found at Mar-a-Lago. Even though there are substantial differences in the two cases, the Guardian’s David Smith reports that might not matter to the American public:

The discovery of government secrets at two locations associated with Joe Biden appears to have produced one big political winner: Donald Trump.

The White House was in rare crisis mode last week as it emerged that lawyers for Biden had found classified material at his thinktank in Washington DC and home in Delaware. At an unusually contentious press briefing, one TV correspondent dubbed the affair “garage-gate”.

The justice department appointed a special counsel to investigate Biden’s handling of classified documents from his time as vice-president. It was a rare setback for an administration that promised to be transparent and scandal-free. It also complicated an investigation into Trump over an ostensibly similar matter.

Squabbling begins between Biden, GOP over classified documents

Good morning, US politics blog readers. Republicans were always going to use their majority in the House of Representatives to put the White House on the spot, but last week’s news that classified documents were found in Joe Biden’s possession has given them even more investigative fodder than they expected. Over the weekend, the Biden administration for the first time hit back at House Republicans’ demands regarding the material, saying they have “no credibility” and are “politicizing this issue”. The GOP’s goal is ultimately to embarrass Biden, but the president also faces a legal threat in the form of special counsel Robert Hur, who was appointed by the attorney general to handle the legal investigation into the classified materials. Hur will no doubt do his work quietly, but the Republicans will not. Expect to hear more about this issue from them today.

Here’s what else can expect:

  • Biden is welcoming guests to the White House, including Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte at 11:15 am eastern time, and NBA champions the Golden State Warriors at 2:45 pm.

  • Bernie Sanders will deliver a speech on the state of the American working class at 7 pm. The progressive mainstay is also the chair of the Senate committee on health, education and labor.

  • British foreign secretary James Cleverly is visiting Washington. He’ll speak at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at 9:15 am, then hold a press conference with US secretary of state Antony Blinken at 3:30 pm, where Ukraine and Iran will likely be on the agenda.