A look at Biden’s think tank at the center of classified documents firestorm

The building that housed office space of President Joe Biden’s former institute, the Penn Biden Center, is seen at the corner of Constitution and Louisiana Avenue NW, in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. (G3 Box News Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

A look at Biden’s think tank at the center of classified documents firestorm

Ryan King

January 23, 05:45 AM January 23, 05:45 AM

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Nestled in a building near lobbying firms, law firms, and other trade groups sits President Joe Biden’s old office in a relatively obscure Ivy League think tank at the center of a growing classified document firestorm.

Biden unveiled the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in 2018 in a building located near the Capitol. He called the post-vice presidency gig a means of “strengthening American global leadership for the future.”

Now, questions about the think tank’s funding, how classified documents wound up there, and who had access to the office where the files were found loom large.


“The Penn Biden Center engages Penn’s students and partners with its faculty and global centers to convene world leaders, develop and advance smart policy, and strengthen the national debate for continued American global leadership in the 21st century,” the mission statement for the think tank reads.

In 2022, right before the midterm elections, one of Biden’s lawyers discovered a manila folder labeled “personal” that contained material with classified markings, CNN reported.

The lawyer was working to close out Biden’s office at the think tank, which reportedly served as his “main office when he [was] in D.C.” in the time between his vice presidency and presidency.

Investigators led by newly appointed special counsel Robert Hur are examining how the classified material wound up at the think tank. The files featured top secret material and information about Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom, CNN and CBS reported. They stemmed from his vice presidential days between 2013 and 2016.

The think tank office is located in a building on Constitution Avenue with the Capitol as a backdrop. Biden, an avid fan of Amtrak and train travel, was reportedly keen on that building because of its proximity to Union Station.

“The center is a big beautiful building,” William Snow, a 2019 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a former senior sports editor at the Daily Pennsylvanian, told the student newspaper. “I think Joe Biden called it the most expensive real estate in D.C. He was really adamant about picking it because it is a short walk from Union Station, where the Amtrak stops. And obviously, that’s what he’s famous for.”


Biden had a “Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor” gig at the University of Pennsylvania, which was affiliated with the think tank from 2017 to 2019. The role was largely ceremonial, as Biden did not teach classes and only made a handful of appearances on campus for various events. Nevertheless, he managed to earn over $900,000, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Recently, a conservative watchdog group, America First Legal Foundation, filed an ethics complaint calling for an investigation into whether the think tank effectively gave Biden and his allies a “no show” job. However, Biden’s political prowess attracted big-name visits to the school, including a former prime minister of Denmark, former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and others, per CNN. Biden also hosted a holiday party in the facility back in 2018.

Records indicate that the University of Pennsylvania amassed millions from foreign countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, and more. Following Biden’s appointment as an honorary professor, donations from foreign entities exploded from $31 million in 2016 to over $100 million in 2019, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

This included about $61 million in gifts and contracts stemming from China between 2017 and 2019, per the report. Some of the foreign donations to the institution were marked as anonymous.

Republicans have harped on the China donations. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-KY) demanded additional information on the donations from China in a letter to the institution this week. Comer and his counterpart, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), have opened investigations into the Biden classified document ordeal.

Comer also insisted on viewing visitor logs to the think tank to gauge who had access to the room where the tranche of classified papers was located. The White House counsel’s office confirmed earlier this week that there were no visitors logs kept for Biden’s residence in Wilmington, Delaware, where other batches of classified files were uncovered.

Close to a dozen people affiliated with the think tank or university have landed key roles in the Biden administration. For example, several months into his presidency, Biden named Amy Gutmann, who served as the president of the University of Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2022, to serve as ambassador to Germany. Kathy Chung, Biden’s former executive assistant, worked in an office nearby at the time and now works at the Pentagon, per CNN.

Gutmann was grilled about the University of Pennsylvania’s funding from China during a confirmation hearing in 2021. She chalked it up to the enormity of the university’s fundraising work. She also denied knowing specific details about gifts and contracts.

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Biden has insisted that he is “fully cooperating” with investigators and declared that he has “no regrets” amid the growing controversy. Vice presidents are required to relinquish presidential material and classified documents at the conclusion of an administration.

Other prominent officials, such as former House Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Paul Ryan (R-WI), have argued that they had rigorous procedures in place to safeguard sensitive documents. Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump, is also in hot water for roughly 300 documents with classified markings that have been recovered from Mar-a-Lago. A Justice Department investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith is now pending.

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