Familiarity breeds contempt

No one “familiar with the matter” delivered the goods in Andrew Kerr’s Washington Free Beacon story “Photos Place Hunter Biden in Corvette at Site of Classified Docs in July 2017.” No, Kerr’s story is based on photos and other information extracted from Hunter Biden’s laptop. The photos demonstrate the security issues raised by President Biden’s storage of classified documents at his Wilmington residence and in the garage there. The story is highly reliable.

By contrast, the Washington Post relies on “person[s] familiar with the matter” in “Inside the White House document strategy and its pitfalls.” The story is featured in the RealClearPolitics lineup this morning. The bylines of four reporters accompany the story. Two more “contributed to this report.” The story is highly unreliable.

Here is the opening of the long Washington Post story representing the work of six reporters:

One of President Biden’s personal attorneys entered the luxurious 10-story office building, so near the U.S. Capitol that its promoters billed it as “the front seat to power,” on a Wednesday last November to begin what seemed a mundane task: clearing out a rarely used office that Biden occupied after leaving the vice presidency.

The attorney, Pat Moore, went through a large closet and found nothing out of the ordinary, a person familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. Then he tackled a smaller closet, finding it stuffed with folders, boxes and other political memorabilia, including documents related to Beau Biden’s funeral, drafts of political speeches and boxes of personal books, the person said.

But next, Moore made a surprising discovery: a folder with a cover sheet saying it contained secret government documents. Moore immediately called another attorney and notified the White House Counsel’s Office, which in turn contacted the National Archives, according to two people familiar with the matter.

But if the way they found the classified documents was out of the ordinary, Biden’s lawyers were determined to be sticklers for the rules once it happened, said people familiar with their work.

This is the line that “people familiar with the matter” leaking anonymously to the Washington Post want you to believe. “Familiarity” should breed contempt for them all, including the reporters. There is more that follows in the Post’s long story, some of it based on leaks from “two people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.” Familiarity breeds contempt.

Those same two people reappear: “Biden’s aides sought to follow the Justice Department’s guidance, heeding its protocols for conducting searches and reporting additional discoveries, said the two people familiar with the probe.” Again, familiarity breeds contempt.

And then we have the search of the garage at his Wilmington residence: “Biden had been kept up to speed, and he had to sign off on searches of his personal property, according to a person familiar with the process. But he was also surprised by the discoveries, aides say. He had dealt with classified material for decades and considered himself a stickler for the rules on such matters. When he was writing a book after leaving the vice presidency, he made the trip to the National Archives to review relevant documents, staying on-site to pore through them, an official said.” I won’t repeat myself.

More familiarity: “[P]eople familiar with the case say that during that stretch — roughly between Nov. 4 and Dec. 20 — federal investigators and Biden’s personal attorneys were in fact busy, communicating frequently about protocols for how to identify other classified records. They conducted follow-up searches at multiple locations, the people say, a fact not previously reported.”

How familiar can you get? This familiar: “Biden’s top aides were determined that the legal process would override any political moves or public messaging, not the other way around. They did not want to be seen as trying to shape the investigation’s outcome, according to people familiar with their approach.”

Quotable quote from one top official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter: “This is a rule-of-law administration. We are serious about it. We don’t comment on ongoing investigations. So we were always walking a fine line here, in that we were in one.”

UPDATE: AT NRO Jim Geraghty delves into the mysteries of the Penn Biden Center and the classified documents. Jim demonstrates a curiosity about unanswered questions that is invisible in the Washington Post story.

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