As a senator in the 1970s, Joe Biden tanked then-President Jimmy Carter’s pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency over the nominee’s illegal possession of classified documents.
Carter chose Ted Sorenson to serve as his CIA director in 1977.
Sorenson had admitted to taking boxes of classified records home with him after leaving the White House in 1964, and using the materials for his work in writing a biography of former President John F. Kennedy. Sorenson’s admission to this came in affidavits used in cases involving the Pentagon Papers.
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At the time, Biden considered the affidavit and joined with Republicans to block Sorenson from being confirmed by the Senate. Biden also suggested Sorenson may have violated the Espionage Act.
During Sorenson’s confirmation hearing, Biden said the “real issue” was “whether Mr. Sorensen intentionally took advantage of ambiguities in the law, or carelessly ignored the law.”
“If he did so, can he now bring the activities of the intelligence community within the strict limits of the law?” Biden asked. “We will expect that in the future of intelligence agencies. If that is to be the case, then we must hold the Director — DCI — accountable as well.”
Carter eventually withdrew Sorenson’s nomination, though Sorenson defended himself by saying his “handling of classified information was at all times in accordance with the then-existing laws, regulations and practices,” according to a 1977 Washington Post report on the withdrawal of his nomination.
Decades later, Biden finds himself under special counsel investigation for his improper retention of classified records from his time as vice president during the Obama administration.
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Attorney General Merrick Garland last week appointed former U.S. attorney Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate the president’s possible unauthorized removal and improper retention of classified documents and records discovered at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., and in his private residence in Wilmington, Delaware.
Classified records were found inside the Washington, D.C., offices of the Penn Biden Center think tank on Nov. 2, but the discovery was only disclosed to the public last week. A second stash of classified documents were also found inside the president’s garage at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and over the weekend, additional classified records were found inside the president’s home.
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The White House has said it was cooperating with that DOJ review, and maintains it will continue its full cooperation with Hur’s investigation.