In their pursuit of answers about the contents of the classified documents found in possession of President Biden and former President Donald Trump, senators on the Intelligence Committee on Sunday blasted intel officials over the lack of transparency.
The panel’s chair, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, and its ranking member, Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, said during a joint appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that it seems the press knows more about the contents of the sensitive materials than they do.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that there isn’t some media report about what was found where, some sort of characterization of the material in the press,” Mr. Rubio said. “Somehow the only people who are not allowed to know what was in there are congressional oversight committees.”
Federal authorities have so far rebuffed lawmakers’ demands for a briefing on the contents of the classified documents found in the private possession of both presidents, arguing that they are the subject of ongoing investigations by the Department of Justice.
But that argument doesn’t make sense, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Warner said.
“I don’t know how congressional oversight on the documents, actually knowing what they are, in any way impedes an investigation,” Mr. Rubio said. “These are probably materials we already have access to. We just don’t know which ones they are.”
SEE ALSO: House Intelligence Committee chair cites ‘systematic problem’ in mishandling classified documents
“The Justice Department has had the Trump documents for about six months, the Biden documents about three months,” Mr. Warner said. “Our job is not to figure out if somebody mishandled those. Our job is to make sure there’s not an intelligence compromise.”
The chairman of the other chamber’s intelligence committee also issued warnings Sunday about the executive branch, saying the U.S. has a “systematic problem” in the mishandling of classified documents at the highest levels of government.
In addition to Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, Mike Pence also had classified documents from his time as Mr. Trump’s vice president.
Rep. Mike Turner, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said he “can’t imagine a circumstance” in which politicians would need classified documents outside of their secured government locations.
“It’s just really astounding because it shows there’s really a systemic problem here on the administration handling side of both the vice president’s office and the president’s office,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I can’t imagine a circumstance where anyone would believe that they need to have them in their home.”
Mr. Turner also lamented the lack of transparency by federal officials about what Mr. Biden’s classified documents contain. He suggested that Attorney General Merrick Garland could be issued a congressional subpoena to pony up the information.
“They don’t have an ability to say under the Constitution or a statute, ‘we have an ongoing investigation, therefore, now we can’t tell you,’” Mr. Turner said.
“I think it only makes everybody concerned about what are they hiding and why are they trying to keep it from Congress. You’re going to see bipartisan, bicameral support to force Attorney General Garland to make these available to Congress so that we can take a look at what happened, what’s in these documents and what does Congress need to do to protect America’s secrets?” Mr. Turner said.
• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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