Is the White House Using Taxpayer Resources to Shield Joe Biden’s Personal Missteps?

Is the White House Using Taxpayer Resources to Shield Joe Biden’s Personal Missteps?

  • January 17, 2023
Complaint alleges taxpayer-funded attorneys may be inappropriately intervening in classified document scandal

Today, government watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust announced it has filed a complaint with federal ethics officials. PPT alleges that taxpayer resources may have been inappropriately used and untenable conflicts of interest created by the involvement or senior White House lawyers in a matter that could personally benefit President Joe Biden.

A media firestorm has accompanied the revelations that President Biden had been storing classified documents originating from his tenure as Vice President in various homes and offices he occupied between his service in the Obama Administration and assuming the Presidency. The discoveries of these documents have kicked off significant public concern over mishandling of sensitive and classified information, triggered a congressional oversight investigation, and even led to the appointment of a Special Counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

In the ensuing coverage of the classified documents scandal, the White House Counsel’s Office, and Special Counsel to the President Richard Sauber in particular, appeared to be heavily involved in the President’s personal legal matter. Mr. Sauber has gone on the record to make clear he was personally involved from the time the initial classified documents were discovered. In a recent statement he stated, “I went to Wilmington Thursday evening to facilitate providing the document the President’s personal counsel found on Wednesday to the Justice Department.”

The White House Counsel’s Office is not the President’s personal law firm. It does not represent the President in purely personal matters that are separate from his role as President. Yet, the White House Counsel’s Office appears to be acting as lawyers to Joe Biden, private citizen, rather than President Biden in this matter. Mr. Sauber has given numerous public statements and the White House Press Secretary has repeatedly referred to Mr. Sauber as “his,” meaning President Biden’s, lawyer and referred reporters to Mr. Sauber and the White House Counsel’s Office, rather than the President’s personal lawyers, for comment. The involvement of the White House Counsel’s Office in a personal legal matter involving the President for activity that took place while he was a private citizen raises several serious legal questions and concerns, including who the WHCO’s client is in this matter.

The involvement of the WHCO could also create untenable conflicts of interest. The documents at issue almost certainly originated and entered Joe Biden’s possession while he was Vice President. If so, this suggests that either the Office of the Presidency (and possibly the White House Counsel’s Office itself) was lax in developing and enforcing its document security protocols at the end of the Obama Administration or the current President violated those protocols. In either case, it suggests a divergence of interests between Joe Biden, in his personal capacity, and the Office of the Presidency, the institution that the White House Counsel’s Office is supposed to represent.

“The American public will not tolerate a two-tiered system of justice – with well-connected insiders subject to a lower standard of scrutiny than the normal citizen,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “President Biden promised the most ethical and transparent administration in history. If the White House compounded a scandal involving possible mishandling of classified documents by improperly using taxpayer resources for his personal benefit and putting White House attorneys in positions that created conflicts of interest, we could be witnessing a serious betrayal of the public’s already-plummeting trust. It also creates the spectre of possible obstruction of a congressional investigation, depending on the legal basis for the intervention and any future privileges claimed by the White House on this escalating scandal.”