Top Senate Republicans have signaled that it’s very unlikely that President Joe Biden’s classified documents case rises to the level of an impeachable offense.
“I don’t think you want to get into where it’s a tit for tat, every two years or four years you’re dealing with impeachment proceedings in the House and Senate,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the upper chamber, told The Hill. “There has to be a really good reason, obviously, the constitutional reasons and grounds for that. So we’ll see where it goes.”
And another member of the leadership team, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), was asked about impeachment. “No,” was his response, according to the outlet.
When asked Tuesday about whether the document case qualifies as an impeachable offense, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dismissed the question.
“I don’t have an answer to that hypothetical. I do think that the Justice Department seems to be willing to treat everybody the same and to try to retrieve the documents, and obviously it’s not a great idea to take classified documents away from the archives. We’ll see how they continue to handle it,” he said.
Lawyers for Biden since early January have confirmed that classified documents from when he was either a senator or vice president were found at his office and residences. Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced a special prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney Robert Hur, will investigate the case.
“This actually might be an impeachable offense. If there’s a high crime and misdemeanor standard, which there is, this is the closest thing to one in recent years,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), according to the outlet. “If the special counsel comes up with anything, realizing [Biden’s] a sitting president, I suppose they could draft up what would become articles of impeachment, depending on what they find.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mounted a defense of Biden while speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday. His remarks came on the same day that a lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence said that classified materials were found at his home in Indiana.
“I’ve known President Biden a long time,” Graham said. “I’d be shocked if there’s anything sinister here.”
The comments come as the House Judiciary and Oversight committees have conducted investigations into the classified documents that were discovered in Biden’s office in Washington and his private Delaware residence. A lawyer over the past weekend confirmed that FBI officials searched his home in Delaware last week and discovered more classified materials.
The latest discovery of documents prompted public concern among Senate Democrats, some of whom have said it warrants a full investigation.
“You have to get the answers to the questions before you reach a judgment,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is running for reelection in two years, told Politico. “If it’s a handful of documents and they’re not very serious, and maybe they were once classified but they’re not anymore, and there’s a good explanation for why he had them—but you don’t know the answer to those questions.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that the finding “diminishes the stature of any person who is in possession of it, because it’s not supposed to happen.”
“Whether it was the fault of a staffer or an attorney, it makes no difference,” he told CNN on Sunday. “The elected official bears ultimate responsibility,” the Illinois lawmaker added.
Biden’s lawyer, Bob Bauer, said that the recent classified documents and “surrounding materials” were dated from Biden’s time in the Senate, where he represented Delaware from 1973 to 2009. Other materials found last week were from his tenure as vice president between 2009 and 2017, Bauer told news outlets.
“At the outset of this matter, the president directed his personal attorneys to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice,” Bauer said. “Accordingly, having previously identified and reported to DOJ a small number of documents with classification markings at the president’s Wilmington home.”
When asked about the case, Biden told reporters in California that he believes he did nothing wrong.
“There is no there, there,” the president said last Thursday.
Again, Biden was asked Wednesday about the latest developments in the case while he was making an announcement confirming the United States would send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. He did not respond to any questions and walked out of the room.