US: Classified documents probe pushes Biden think tank into spotlight

WASHINGTON: Like Joe Biden contemplating his next move in 2017 after decades in power, he considered a familiar route — forming a Washington-based think tank to focus on international affairs. and diplomacy. It proved to be an easy sell and also a lucrative one.
A gentle landing in the capital is common for officials with backgrounds like Biden, and Penn Biden’s Center for Global Affairs and Engagement was born with a sweeping view of the Capitol.
The former vice-president brought with him his trusted staff and boxes of files. Now, a small batch of those files is at the center of controversy because some are classified documents Biden has no right to keep.
Ivy League academic luster and lofty ambitions were overshadowed when it was revealed this month that sensitive documents were found last fall in a locker while Biden’s attorneys were clean up his old office at the center. That discovery is posing a test for Biden just as he is contemplating a re-election campaign in 2024.
It turns out that politics is always part of the equation.
During an early meeting at the center in February 2018, Biden told longtime foreign policy advisers — many of them from the Obama-Biden administration — that he was leaving campaign options open. potential presidential run in 2020 and that he welcomes them to join him. team if he decides to run.
Sure, after holding several forums at the center and speaking a few times on the main campus of the University of Pennsylvania, Biden announced his candidacy in April 2019. And after that, he was rarely in the center. center of Capitol Hill, which has continued to operate quietly since its namesake leader moved away.
Its relatively low record is now history.
Republicans in Congress are questioning the center’s budget and hiring practices, and the FBI may want to search the facility for more material, like Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware .
Affiliated with the Philadelphia school, the Penn Biden Center says it was founded on the principle of “a democratic, open, safe, tolerant, and interconnected world that benefits all Americans.”
According to Biden’s tax returns, the university paid him about $900,000 over about two years, beginning shortly after he left office when Donald Trump and Mike Pence occupy the White House. In addition to the center, Biden also takes on campus roles where he will speak on campus.
While staff at the center continued to conduct research, act as experts for the media and write columns on foreign policy after Biden’s departure, no new jobs were listed on the website. the center’s website for the past 10 months.
Elliott Abrams, who has held foreign policy positions for presidents in ReaganGeorge W. Bush and the Trump administration, said it has not developed as an influential think tank.
“It started as a parking spot for Biden’s people until he ran for president, and has never really grown beyond that beginning,” Abrams said.
According to public records and the website of the Penn Biden Center, many of Biden’s current allies in the White House have passed through the think tank.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was the center’s executive director from May 2017 to June 2019. Michael Carpenter served as executive director before he was appointed US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation. work in Europe.
Other center employees include Steve Ricchetti, now a senior Biden adviser. There are at least seven other Biden employees who were at the center and are currently involved in national security matters within the administration.
Even Amy Gutmann, the university’s chancellor at the time who helped found the center, now works for him. She is the US ambassador to Germany.
Biden himself has a long history with the Ivy League school; His late son Beau, daughter Ashley and granddaughter Naomi all graduated. Biden received an honorary degree from Penn in 2013 after he delivered his graduation speech.
According to his aides, Biden regularly worked outside the center on Constitution Avenue as he quietly planned to run for president, but he did not spend time there after announcing his candidacy. His lawyers finally cleaned up the office when they came across the classified documents last November.
Biden told reporters he was surprised to learn the documents were there. Records were immediately turned over to the Justice Department, but the discovery of records there and at Biden’s home led to an investigation by a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Trump also faces a special counsel investigation into classified documents. In his case, FBI agents executed orders indicating they were investigating possible crimes, including knowingly withholding national defense information and attempting to obstruct a federal investigation. . Biden voluntarily allowed the FBI to search his home.
Former officials from all levels of government discovered they were in possession of classified documents and turned them over to authorities at least several times a year, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the nature of the document. sensitivity of confidential documents.
However, the existence of documents at the Penn Biden Center has generated unwelcome criticism of the think tank, particularly by House Republicans investigating the handling of the case. mishandling confidential documents. They asked for a list of all of the center’s employees, including work dates and wages, visitor logs and documents, and security-related contact information.
A conservative legal team, led by former Trump advisers, has complained to the IRS about the center’s hiring of Biden and his allies.
The Chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, Representative James Comer, R-Ky., has suggested that some of the tens of millions of dollars in foreign gifts to the university come from people patronage in China went to the Penn Biden Center.
Donors from Ireland, Hong Kong, Canada, India, Japan and Brazil have also contributed to the university in recent years, although the House of Representatives has focused on donations from China.
A statement from the university said it would address the committee’s questions in a timely manner, but it has never solicited gifts for the center. There were three voluntary gifts from two donors totaling $1,100.
Funding for the center comes only from the university’s funds. The total academic operating budget for the university is approximately $4 billion. Penn Biden Center officials did not say how much of it was devoted to center operations.
“It is important to reiterate that the Penn Biden Center has never solicited or accepted any gifts from any Chinese or other foreign entity,” according to a statement from the Penn Biden Center.


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