Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called out Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for what he claimed was his department’s effort to obstruct his inquiry into the classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s home and at the Biden Penn Center in Washington, D.C. The documents dated from Biden’s vice presidency when he lacked executive authority to declassify them.
“My and Sen. Johnson’s staff have been told that your department’s Office of General Counsel is a barrier to the Secret Service producing relevant material to Congress,” Grassley told Mayorkas on Tuesday. “It appears that the Office of General Counsel is being used to shield and frustrate and obstruct congressional oversight.”
Grassley continued: “What steps have you instructed the Office of General Counsel to take to produce the requested material to me and Sen. Johnson? And what legal barriers exist to producing the Secret Service visitor logs to Congress if they can’t be given to Congress?”
The first documents appeared in November as the Penn Biden Center was preparing to vacate its space. The senators wrote White House Counsel Richard Sauber inquiring whether or not Biden had complied with federal records laws. They also asked whether or not the then vice president used several private email addresses to conduct official business.
Six classified documents were found at Biden’s Wilmington home in January during a 13-hour sweep of the residence.
Grassley and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., wrote U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberley Cheatle in a January 23 letter asking for the release of visitor logs for the president’s Delaware home. They asked for a “full and complete list of all individuals who entered the locations where classified records relating to then-Vice President Biden’s tenure have been identified” to be provided to them by February 2. That never happened.
Mayorkas told Grassley he gave a directive to his department to comply with its congressional oversight requirements.
“I don’t know whether the Secret Service maintains visitor logs of the president’s residence,” Mayorkas said. “But if they do and those have been requested, we will comply with the law.”
The Secret Service claimed last year in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that such logs exist.
“The Secret Service does not maintain visitor logs at the private residences of protectees,” U.S. Secret Service chief of communications Anthony Guglielmi told Fox News in January. “While the Secret Service does generate law enforcement and criminal justice information records for various individuals who may come into contact with Secret Service protected sites, we are not able to comment further as this speaks to the means and methods of our protective operations.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) previously won a FOIA suit to obtain records for visitors to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort last year.
“While we won access to those records, we never got much, as the Secret Service came out and said they were not vetting the president’s meetings, the Trump Organization was,” CREW spokesperson Jordan Libowitz told The New York Post last April, when the Secret Service first claimed to have no Delaware logs.
Biden likely could not be prosecuted for mishandling such records because longstanding legal opinion suggests that a president cannot be prosecuted while in office. However, those in the president’s orbit who might have been involved could be prosecuted.
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John Rossomando is a senior analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his reporting.