Joe Biden should be penalized for mishandling of documents


Brionna McCall is the University News editor for the 2022-23 The Hornet Tribune staff. She is a 21-year-old senior from Auburn, Alabama whose major is communications. She hopes to pursue her concentration of print journalism after graduation in May.

Brionna McCall, University News Editor

President Joe Biden is currently facing a classified documents scandal despite believing he is handling the documents accordingly. I believe that presidents in general need to do a better job at handling classified documents.
Classified documents are sensitive information that requires government protection. Classified information can be photographs, hard drives, emails, databases, maps, images, CDs, videographs and much more. According to PBS NewsHour, numerous documents dating back to his vice-presidency days under the Obama administration were found on four separate occasions — on Nov. 2 at his former offices of the Penn Biden Center in Washington, on Dec. 20 in the garage of his private home in Wilmington, Delaware, and on Nov. 11 and 12 in his home library. The Justice Department assigned a special counsel to investigate how the classified documents ended up in those places.
During his tour of California’s storm damage, Biden told reporters that he does not regret the way he and his team have handled the found classified information.
Biden violated the Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, which according to the National Archives, governs the official records of presidents and vice presidents that were created or received after January 20, 1981.
The Act was passed after former President Richard Nixon tried to destroy recordings made in the White house. The recordings documented actions that were related to the Watergate scandal.
According to NPR, the National Archive is in charge of gathering and storing classified information after the president leaves office. It is required for presidents and vice presidents to send the documents to the archive for safekeeping.
Classified information should be handled appropriately to avoid improper declassification of sensitive material.
According to The Department of Energy, the reason for protecting sensitive material is to keep them from unauthorized disclosure to potential enemies who may want to harm U.S. citizens and U.S. security interests or develop weapons of mass destruction.
In other words, mishandling important government documents can lead to them being put in the wrong hands, and they can be used against the country and its people.
Others are comparing Biden’s classified documents scandal to Donald Trump’s scandal back in 2021, saying Biden’s situation is different solely from the fact that he did not need a warrant.
Biden dodged a bigger major crime by admitting to a smaller one. He voluntarily let the FBI search his home, which gave the notion that it was a mere mishap, but it was not a mishap because he held on to the documents since his vice presidency, which is suspicious.
According to The National Desk (TND), there are no criminal penalties or any enforcement mechanism associated with the PRA, and no former presidents have been penalized for violating that law.
Though there may not be any penalties associated with the PRA, there are other penalties under other federal laws presidents could face if they are found guilty of mishandling government records.
Under U.S. Code Title 18, Section 2071, “a person shall be fined or imprisoned not more than three years or both if they willfully and unlawfully conceal, remove, mutilate, obliterate, destroy or attempt to destroy, with intent to do so with any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other things, filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office.”
In 2015, Hillary Clinton was facing criticism for her email scandal when she was using a private email server while serving as secretary of state, and she was not charged with any crimes related to her mishandling of federal records. It was argued that the Constitution lays out eligibility criteria for serving as president.
Presidents and vice presidents should be penalized accordingly when inappropriately dealing with classified documents. Worse can happen when they can get away with so much.