Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, DC shares his perspective on US politics:
What are the implications of the unfolding Biden document scandal?
Revelations that President Biden mishandled classified documents as a senator and vice president are the first major scandal of what has really been an otherwise pretty squeaky-clean administration. FBI officials have uncovered caches of documents in Biden's Delaware home and at his think tank, the Penn Biden Center. Media outlets like CNN have kept the story in the headline for weeks, even sending a helicopter to circle his house during an FBI search, adding to the drama.
The most immediate impact of these revelations is to undermine the criticism that Biden levied against former President Trump for his own document scandal, even though Trump had squirreled away a far larger number of sensitive documents and blocked federal investigators from getting access to them. Although the DOJ has appointed special counsels to review both cases, it is very unlikely that either president will be charged with document mishandling, especially now that it has come out that former vice president, Mike Pence, had his own stash of classified documents stored at an insecure location at his home.
And it's probably only a matter of time before we start hearing about this phenomenon from other former officials. After all, the US government has a famous habit of over-classifying sensitive materials, and we don't know if these records are nuclear codes or the results of Biden's cholesterol tests. While Trump could still face charges of obstruction of justice, Biden probably has the most to lose here, as the mini scandal could ultimately weaken his position within the Democratic Party. Though Biden is unlikely to face a serious primary challenger if he chooses to run, many Democrats have publicly and privately expressed concern about his advanced age. And any negative coverage could create an opening for opportunistic Democrats to increase the pressure on him to step aside for a younger generation.
Regardless, the House Republican investigation into the document mishandling will be lengthy and wide-ranging, including looking at the number of documents, who had access to them, the timeline of the revelations, and whether Biden created a national security threat through his treatment of the documents. This investigation will be tied up in other investigations like the one into Biden's ne'er-do-well son, Hunter, who lived in the house where the documents were found, or into Hunter's business connections to China, which Republicans allege may have affected US policy.
Although the document investigations will have many chapters, Biden's base is unlikely to be drawn in and many Democrats will see it as a political stunt, even if the sustained negative attention ultimately diminishes his reputation in the eyes of the public.