President Joe Biden formed a Presidential Records Transition Task Force to address the mishandling of classified documents during presidential transitions.
Biden’s announcement follows a special counsel Robert Hur’s report found he had willfully retained classified documents after serving as vice president. Though the Hur report decided not to criminally charge Biden for mishandling classified documents, but it portrayed him as an elderly man with a poor memory. This triggered calls from Republican lawmakers for the removal of Biden under the 25th Amendment.
“Previous presidential transitions, across administrations stretching back decades, have fallen short in ensuring that classified presidential records are properly archived at NARA [National Archives and Records Administration],” the White House said, as reported by AP News.
“In light of the many instances that have come to light in recent years revealing the extent of this systemic issue, President Biden is taking action to strengthen how administrations safeguard classified documents during presidential transitions and to help address this longstanding problem going forward.”
The task force, led by Deputy Administrator Katy Kale of the General Services Administration (GSA), has been assigned to investigate previous transitions and protect classified information during power transfer.
The task force will also assess the need for revisions to existing policies and procedures to prevent the unauthorized removal of sensitive materials that are legally required to be maintained by the NARA.
The task force, which includes representatives from various government agencies, such as the White House, National Security Council, GSA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and NARA, will work together to provide suggestions before the next presidential transition, according to Bloomberg.
Special counsel Hur’s report detailed numerous sensitive documents found at Biden’s home in Delaware and his former office in Washington, D.C. Some of these papers were marked as classified or later determined to contain classified information.
The report suggested that most documents were mistakenly removed from government offices. However, it also highlighted instances where Biden knowingly retained classified materials. Hur concluded that criminal charges were not warranted in the matter.
In response, Biden admitted responsibility for not being aware of his staff’s actions. He clarified that items appearing in his garage or being moved were not done by him, but rather by his staff.
A separate Justice Department report released last week confirmed that Biden had knowingly stored and disclosed classified material in unsecured locations at his residences. However, the report cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.