The President

New task force will help protect classified records between presidents

The Presidential Record Transition Task Force is charged with promoting the protection of classified material as presidents enter and leave office.

U.S. President Joe Biden
Evan Vucci / AP
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President Biden is standing up a task force to address the handling of classified documents during Presidential transitions.

It follows the conclusion of a special counsel investigation into Biden’s handling of documents discovered at his residences, that found no charges were warranted.

The Presidential Record Transition Task Force will be tasked with looking at how to better safeguard classified documents during transitions, something the administration views as a “systemic” and “longstanding” issue, impacting both parties, and providing recommendation ahead of the next transition.

“President Biden takes classified information seriously – he returned the documents that were found, he fully cooperated with the investigation, and it concluded that there was no case. Now he is taking action to help strengthen future transitions to better prevent classified documents from being accidentally packed up and removed from the government, like we have seen with officials from every Administration for decades,” said White House Counsel’s Office spokesperson Ian Sams.

The task force will evaluate policies and identify best practices during transitions “to address the inadvertent removal of classified documents and to help prevent it from happening in the future, with the goal of ensuring that sensitive presidential records are preserved by NARA pursuant to the terms of the Presidential Records Act,” according to the White House. Specifically, Biden is directing it to study previous transitions, recommend training for staff, evaluate authorities, consult with experts and propose recommendations.

It will be led by Kate Kale, deputy administrator of the General Services Administration, and convene officials from the White House, GSA, NARA, National Security Council and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to the administration.

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Biden said what he would have done differently is oversee the transfer of documents, noting it was staff responsibility.

“And my staff did not do it in the way that, for example, I didn’t know how half the boxes got in my garage until I found out staff gathered them up, put them together, and took them to the garage in my home," Biden said in remarks last week. "And all the stuff that was in my home was in filing cabinets that were either locked or able to be locked. It was in my house. And so, I wish I had paid more attention to how the documents were being moved and where. I thought they were being moved to the Archives. I thought all of it was being moved. That’s what I thought."

The administration views it as an issue faced by both parties going back decades.

Former Vice President Mike Pence faced an investigation over found classified documents, which was closed. Former President Donald Trump is facing federal prosecution over his handling of documents, accused of obstruction in returning them.

The special counsel report said it found evidence Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials” but ultimately declined prosecution, citing insufficient evidence.

President Biden maintained he did not share classified documents and slammed the scope of the special counsel’s report that questioned his recollection.