WASHINGTON — A Democratic push to discredit Congressional Republicans who are launching a series of investigations into President Joe Biden could break down because of an unexpected obstacle: fellow Democrats.
With confidential documents from Biden’s vice presidency popping up where they shouldn’t be, Democratic lawmakers are becoming more vocal in their criticisms of how he or his aides handled sensitive material that should have been returned to the government when he left his job in 2017.
As Biden’s defenders see it, berating him in this flammable moment is a form of self-sabotage. It gives credence and legitimacy to the House Republican committee chairs who are trying to use Congressional subpoena power to undermine Biden ahead of the 2024 election, they argue. A better approach would be to speak with a unified voice and question the motives and intentions of the Republicans who control the House investigative machinery and have pointed it openly at Biden, they added.
“My view is that anonymous Democrats who are doing this are effectively forwarding a false right-wing narrative and should stop the stomach ache,” said David Brock, chairman of Facts First USA, a group formed to counter government-led oversight. Republicans in the Biden administration. “Democrats aren’t doing themselves any favors by anonymously criticizing the administration.”
Convictions are no longer so anonymous. Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., on Sunday called the debacle “irresponsible.”
Biden is among a growing number of high-ranking officials who have been found to have wrongfully possessed classified material. FBI agents seized a treasure trove of documents from former President Donald Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida, last summer, suspecting he hadn’t given up everything he brought with him from the White House. And former Vice President Mike Pence revealed this week that he too had discovered classified documents in his Indiana home.
“The whole thing is awful. It’s just bad – bad optics and bad politics,” Manchin said.
One sore point for members of Congress is that they are forced to take special precautions when viewing classified documents, but the rules don’t appear to apply in the White House. Either lawmakers read the material in the presence of an executive branch official who then retrieves it when they’re done, or they view it in a secure room and leave it on the table when they leave. Given the restrictions they face, Democratic lawmakers seem incredulous that Biden’s office was so vacant that classified material ended up in his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and an old office in Washington, D.C.
“Ultimately, it’s a responsibility for all of us — whether you’re a senator or a president or whoever — to keep track and make sure all your paperwork is in the right place,” said Senator John Hickenlooper, D-Colo. . “And there has to be a partnership between the elected official and his staff. Everyone can be blamed, but ultimately it’s my job.”
Another irritant has been the slow-moving revelations from the White House that Biden’s lawyers have unearthed more and more batches of classified material.
“I hope all places that could be searched have been searched and there will be no further discovery of documents,” said Neil Eggleston, a former White House adviser under then-President Barack Obama. “Each time there’s a further discovery of documents, it makes it harder for President Biden to take the position that this is all ordinary and a mistake in the packing process, which I ultimately think it is.”
Whatever the validity of those criticisms, some Democrats insist the party must silence them now that Republicans are conducting investigations and are in a position to hurt Biden.
“When they criticize the White House, I don’t know what kind of agenda they’re broadcasting if it doesn’t… help MAGA’s right-wing extremist agenda,” said Maria Cardona, Democratic strategist and co-chair of Facts First. “It certainly doesn’t help yourself.
On Capitol Hill, House Republicans have opened an oversight inquiry into Biden’s handling of records. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to the Secret Service this week asking for any records showing who may have visited the Biden home and potentially viewed documents found on the premises. (Both the White House and Secret Service have said they do not keep such records for his personal residence.)
The documents are only part of the wide-ranging investigation the GOP has undertaken. Comer’s committee is also reviewing paintings sold by Biden’s son Hunter. And he sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking about any “suspicious activity reports” the banks may have produced in connection with Biden’s family business dealings.
“We understand that the White House and the administration will resist every single attempt” to hand over the documents, said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., a member of the Oversight Committee. “But what I don’t think they’ll be able to resist are subpoenas to come and testify. I suspect you will see it coming very soon – and very robustly – in a way that you have never seen Republicans do perhaps in your life.
Anticipating that Republicans would gain control of the House in the midterm elections, Democrats launched a multi-pronged effort to push back the investigations that would inevitably come. The White House counsel’s office now has a communications arm to respond quickly to Republican allegations of presidential wrongdoing. A barrage of outside groups, including Facts First, are up and running, amplifying the White House’s message and attacking GOP lawmakers as extremists who are abusing their oversight powers.
Even if Democrats can’t stick to a consistent message, they can at least rest assured that Republicans are having the same difficulty. A more moderate wing of the GOP fears that obsessive attention to Biden and his family will alienate voters and put the party’s slim majority at risk.
“I’ve been yelling from the rooftops about political issues,” said Rep. Nancy Mace, RS.C., a member of the Oversight Committee.
“Investigate corruption, but also the merits: inflation, immigration and find a middle ground” on abortion, he added. “If we don’t do it, in two years we will lose the majority. of this.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com