Fact Check: Biden Did NOT Withhold '1,850 Boxes Of Classified' Documents From Time As Vice President

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Biden Did NOT Withhold '1,850 Boxes Of Classified' Documents From Time As Vice President Not Classified

Did President Joe Biden withhold 1,850 boxes of classified documents from his time as vice president between 2009 and 2017? No, that's not true: Though the University of Delaware Library has stated that it holds over 1,850 boxes of Biden's "archival records," these documents are from the president's decadeslong career as a Delaware senator. Senatorial papers, in general, are not classified, the National Archives and Records Administration and the U.S. Senate website say.

The claim appeared in a post on Facebook (archived here) that was published by podcaster Benny Johnson on June 9, 2023. The post said:

Joe Biden was withholding 1,850 boxes of classified document from when he served as VP with no declassification authority.
He had boxes at the University of Delaware.
He had boxes in Chinatown, DC.
He had boxes in Pennsylvania.
He had boxes in his wide open garage in Delaware.
But no indictment.
Americans want to know why there is a double standard in our justice system?

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Benny Johnson docs.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Jun 16 15:06:39 2023 UTC)

The social media post muddles the details, conflating senatorial papers donated by Biden to the University of Delaware Library from his 36 years (1973-2009) in the U.S. Senate with documents from his eight years at the White House as vice president (2009-17). The university's website says this about the papers:

The University of Delaware Library has acquired the Senatorial papers of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who was elected to a seventh term in the U.S. Senate in 2008, but resigned in January 2009 when he was sworn in as the 47th vice president of the United States. More than 1,850 boxes of archival records from the President's Senate career arrived at the Library on June 6, 2012. The collection, which also includes extensive electronic records and media, will remain closed pending completion of processing.

None of the documents at the University of Delaware are from when Biden was vice president.

The post from Facebook echoes repeated claims made by former President Donald Trump, who was indicted on June 8, 2023, over his alleged mishandling of classified documents and his alleged attempt to cover it up.

During a June 10, 2023, campaign rally in Georgia, the former president equated the case involving his presidential records with the senatorial records of Biden. At the 18:20 mark of C-SPAN's coverage of the event. Trump said:

By the way, Biden's got 1,850 boxes. He's got boxes in Chinatown DC. He's got boxes all over the place. He doesn't know what the hell to do with them. He's fighting them on the boxes. He doesn't want to give the boxes and then they say, 'Trump is obstructioning. He's obstructing.'

Trump made the same claim at least twice on his social media platform Truth Social -- on June 8, 2023, and June 13, 2023.

During a CNN town hall in May 2023, he used the term "1,850 boxes" three times to draw a parallel with Biden's files.

But Trump's claim that Biden is "fighting them" -- an apparent reference to government officials -- is not accurate. He has cooperated with investigators.

Additionally, presidential and senatorial records are not handled the same way. Under the Presidential Records Act, presidential records automatically transfer into the legal custody of the National Archives and Records Administration as soon as a president leaves office. No matter their status, presidential records never belong to the retired commander-in-chief.

The National Archives' Public and Media Communications staff provided this explanation of the Biden papers in a June 16, 2023, email to Lead Stories:

The Biden boxes at the University of Delaware are his Senate papers. The office files of Senators (and House Representatives) are their personal property.

Information on the U.S. Senate website says the same: "The records created and maintained within a senator's office are the property of the senator."

Investigation

Still, there is at least the potential that some classified materials could have gotten mixed in with Biden's Senate papers even if it's unlikely that all 1,850 boxes are filled with classified documents. Senators do have access to such information from time to time. Ultimately, any classified materials would belong to whichever government entity generated them, rather than the senator holding them.

Up to this point, there is no evidence to suggest any of the boxes at the University of Delaware contain classified documents. ABC News reported the following on February 15, 2023:

The FBI conducted searches at two separate locations on two days on the campus of the University of Delaware in recent weeks as part of the special counsel investigation into President Joe Biden's handling of classified information, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The searches did not uncover any materials with classified markings, although investigators did retrieve some materials that appeared to be notes for additional review, according to one of the sources.

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to Joe Biden and documents at the University of Delaware can be found here.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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