The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday said the Biden administration’s refusal to release key details behind President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents to lawmakers “doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle remain frustrated following a closed-door hearing in January in which the Office of the Director of National Intelligence blocked the release of key details of the documents until the Department of Justice concludes its investigations.
“The administration’s position is untenable,” Mr. Warner told reporters at Monday’s Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington. “If there was a violation made by President Trump, President Biden or Vice President Pence about the mishandling of documents, that ought to be pursued. I have no interest in that.”
“I’m concerned not only about the documents, but what has been done, if anything, to mitigate” further mishandling, he said.
Classified documents dating to Mr. Biden’s time as vice president were discovered at the Washington office of his University of Pennsylvania-affiliated think tank last November, just days before the midterm elections.
More classified documents were later discovered at Mr. Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware. The White House didn’t acknowledge the matter until after it was made public by CBS News in January.
After meeting in January with Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Republican and Democratic senators fumed over the administration’s decision to stonewall senators over key details behind the classified documents.
Lawmakers said the administration’s stonewalling impeded the committee’s ability to do its job of providing oversight of the intelligence community.
“I think this responsibility lies at the Department of Justice,” Mr. Warner said on Monday. “I’m hoping for progress this week. I’m not saying a solution. I’m hoping for progress.”
Committee members said the intelligence officials had not provided a preliminary assessment of the risk to national security posed by the unsecured documents.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican on the committee, said in January that the briefing raised questions about whether the ODNI had viewed the documents or was being barred from doing so until the Justice Department completed its investigation.
The Department of Justice has also stonewalled requests from the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee.
Justice officials have said the release of certain information to lawmakers could hamper ongoing special counsel investigations into the matter.
House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer, Kentucky Republican, pressed the White House last week over claims that the National Archives and Records Administration was barred from issuing a public statement after it was alerted to the discovery of classified documents from Mr. Biden’s Washington think tank.
The archives’ general counsel, Gary Stern, testified before the committee in January that NARA drafted a public statement in response to CBS’ Jan. 9 report that Mr. Biden had stored classified materials at the Penn Biden Center, but that someone outside of NARA blocked the release.
The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, pushed back on Mr. Comer’s characterization of Mr. Stern’s testimony to the committee in a staff memo Tuesday.
Mr. Raskin provided additional remarks from Mr. Stern in the staff memo, in which the counsel confirmed that acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall directed NARA personnel not to comment on “potential or ongoing investigations.”