So much for sunlight.
Democrats, who spent the past four years challenging, suing and eventually impeaching President Trump over his refusal to release documents, are about to march into the 2020 presidential campaign with a candidate who said Friday that he is OK with shielding his own records.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden said he will not heed calls to have the University of Delaware release his Senate papers, which he donated years ago.
He said the speeches, position papers and documents from conversations with world leaders, amassed over a quarter century on Capitol Hill, could dent his chances of winning the White House, and he doesn’t want them public.
“They could be really taken out of context,” Mr. Biden told MSNBC on Friday.
The immediate demands for access to the papers stem from allegations by Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer who this year publicly revealed an incident in 1993 when she says Mr. Biden pushed her against a wall, stuck his hand under her skirt and penetrated her with his fingers.
Ms. Reade has called on Mr. Biden to release his Senate records. She said they could shed light on her claim.
Mr. Biden vehemently denied the allegation in a public statement and said in an interview with MSNBC that “this never happened.” Still, he balked at agreeing to Ms. Reade’s request that he release the records.
Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden’s opponent in November, has faced allegations of sexual misdeeds and has now admitted to knowing about hush payments to silence two women who might have gone public with claims of affairs.
Mr. Trump also has rebuffed demands to release his tax returns, and he faced impeachment for shielding witnesses and official documents from congressional investigators who wanted to probe his interest in having Ukraine investigate Mr. Biden.
Mr. Biden’s stonewalling of transparency requests deprives him of the high ground in pointing out Mr. Trump’s furtiveness.
“Biden’s deny and stonewall position guts his core message that he’s serious, battle-tested and an open book,” said Kevin Sheridan, a Republican consultant. “Whatever you think of the charges against him, Joe Biden is violating his own standards of due process and presumption of innocence. Refusing to release his records only makes him look like a bigger hypocrite.”
Mr. Biden donated more than 1,850 boxes of records to the University of Delaware in 2012, when he was vice president.
The university said it would make the material public two years after Mr. Biden retired from public office. He left the vice president’s job on Jan. 20, 2017. But the university changed its deadline last year and said it would wait until two years after Mr. Biden left “public life.”
“We are currently curating the collection, a process that we estimate will carry at least into the spring of 2021,” spokeswoman Andrea Boyle said in a statement Friday. “As the curating process is not complete, the papers are not yet available to the public, and we are not able to identify what documents or files can be found within the collection.”
The records cover Mr. Biden’s Senate career from 1973 to 2009.
For those looking to delve into Mr. Biden’s Senate years, the university tells them to contact the National Archives, look at the published proceedings of Congress or go to C-SPAN.
Fear of what could be lurking in old documents is not unwarranted. Mr. Biden has had to fend off complaints about his Senate friendships with segregationist lawmakers.
Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, spent much of that campaign dealing with revelations from her once-secret emails from her time as secretary of state. Those emails were pried loose by Freedom of Information Act requests just as the primary season was hitting its stride in 2015.
The Pro-Trump Great America PAC is looking to force the university’s hand. It announced last week that it would file a freedom of information request for the documents to be released because the university is public.
Mr. Biden said the records at the university do not include any personnel files. He said those are at the National Archives. If a complaint against him exists, he said, the archives should make it public.
Moe Vela, who served as director of administration for Mr. Biden, called it is a stretch to compare Mr. Trump’s lack of transparency with that of his former boss.
“Stop with the double standard,” Mr. Vela said. “You want him to release documents that have nothing to do with Tara Reade, but you guys aren’t demanding the same of Donald Trump with his tax returns.
“I would be willing to bet that in those tax returns are all kinds of conflicts of interest and problems much greater than Joe Biden having talked to a president of a foreign country,” he said.
He called the Biden documents “a non-story” and predicted reporters would be “horribly bored and disappointed” with the documents even if all of them were released.
But Steve Guest, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said Mr. Biden is “covering up his University of Delaware documents to save his political future.”
“The most transparent thing Joe Biden did this morning was admit that he is hiding documents so they can’t be used against him,” Mr. Guest said Friday.
⦁ Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.