By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – This week’s revelations that US President Joe Biden stored secret documents from his time as vice president at his home in Delaware have given him and the Democratic party a political headache as he approaches a tough reelection bid .
Biden started 2023 buoyed by unexpectedly strong midterm election results for Democrats. Since then, inflation has fallen and the opposition Republican Party seemed in such public disarray that it took days to elect a Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The 80-year-old president was about to ride that wave and announce he would run for the White House again, perhaps as early as next month, after the State of the Union address on Feb. 7, sources told Reuters.
But the appointment of special counsel to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday to investigate the Biden administration’s document handling has neutralized the Democrats’ ability to vote former President Donald Trump, the Republicans’ top nominee so far, in 2024. , to target classified documents.
“It’s actually … a huge gift to Trump,” said David Axelrod, a former political adviser to President Barack Obama. Axelrod said the latest developments were “embarrassment” as Biden criticized his predecessor after the FBI found classified government documents during a court-ordered search of Trump’s Florida resort.
“He’s really taken off here. And he had a lot of momentum, and this is a bump in the road,” said Axelrod.
After aides to Biden found classified documents at his Delaware residence, including some in his garage, and at a Washington think tank he was associated with, Biden’s counsel said Saturday he had found five additional pages of secret markings in the home. of the president.
The White House has promised to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation and says the documents were accidentally lost.
It declined to comment on the Justice Department’s investigation.
In September, Biden called Trump’s handling of classified documents “totally irresponsible.” The former president, commenting on the latest developments on his Truth Social platform, wondered when Biden’s homes would be searched. Trump announced his own re-election last year.
Biden pushed infrastructure and climate change legislation through Congress and led the united response of Democratic nations to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But he faces lackluster approval ratings and concerns about his age as he looks to 2024.
“This is a distraction for the White House as they started to gain some momentum,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former spokesman for Republican President George W. Bush.
“This makes Biden look like a giant hypocrite,” Conant said. It is clear that Trump’s handling of classified material has been an ongoing problem that the Republicans have not had a good answer to until this week.
While legal experts highlighted the differences between the two cases — Trump refused to return documents and about 100 marked secret documents were found in his home — a Democratic communications adviser, who declined to be named, said the issue would still raise questions among voters. calls about Biden’s competence. .
Axelrod said, “I suspect when this thing shakes it will be less than it seems today, but right now it’s a huge pain.”
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons and Daniel Wallis)