Almost a year ago to the day, HuffPost broke a bit of news that was disconcerting, if not necessarily urgent at the time:
The University of Delaware, home to almost 2,000 boxes of records from Joe Biden’s career in the Senate, was already three months late in making those documents available to the public and was pushing their release back to the end of 2019 at the earliest.
The school — Biden’s alma mater — had originally said the papers would “remain closed during processing for a period no sooner than two years after the donor retires from any public office.” Biden had left public office on Jan. 20, 2017, but apparently the university hadn’t finished “processing” them or whatever, which is why the release date had to be changed.
“The Biden senatorial papers are indeed still closed, pending completion of processing (still underway) and as per our agreement with the donor, which is that the papers would remain closed until the later date of 12/31/2019 or two years after the donor retires [from] public service,” Biden papers curator L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin told HuffPost at the time.
I’m writing about this now, so guess what wasn’t released on Dec. 31, 2019?
You would think, given the time-sensitive nature of all of this, that the University of Delaware would have hurried up the process — unless hurrying up the process wasn’t the point, and was, in fact, antithetical to the point. Then again, unless you were someone like me who follows this kind of thing for a living, this didn’t seem all that important. What was going to be contained in those papers, after all?
Sure, there could be some ugly stuff in there about Biden’s role as the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings. But Biden’s behavior during those hearings had been a matter of public discussion for decades. The chances of anything new coming out were pretty low.
There could be further letters with the arch-segregationist senators with whom he made common cause in order to kill off federally mandated racial busing. But busing hasn’t been a hot-button issue in so long, many Americans old enough to vote might not even be familiar with the controversy.
Then came the Tara Reade sexual assault allegation, and things took a turn. What’s amazing is that, despite the fact there’s at least some contemporaneous corroboration for Reade’s claim, the mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about it or find the evidence for it that the former Senate aide says is out there. Most notably, Reade told The New York Times she filed a complaint with the Senate personnel office around the time of the alleged 1993 sexual assault.
Reade says she doesn’t have a copy of the complaint, nor do Senate officials. However, as Campus Reform noted Wednesday, the University of Delaware just might. They’re not going to release it, though — at least not according to the archivists, who, according to Campus Reform, are still giving the same response to interviewers as they were giving back in April of 2019. This time, however, it’s a bit different, since that response is coming to questions related to a serious charge against a potential president of the United States, who is not only his party’s presumptive nominee but is even leading in national polls at the moment.
A petition published by the opposition research group America Rising PAC is calling on the university to release the documents.
“Joe Biden is facing an allegation of sexual assault by a former Senate staffer. New details are emerging every week, however he has yet to be asked a single question about the allegation by mainstream media,” the petition states.
“Currently, all of the documents from Biden’s career in the U.S. Senate remain under lock and key at the University of Delaware. The documents and complaints that may shed light on this alleged sexual assault could sit in those very files.’
“Yet, Biden refuses to release a single document.”
And said documents will remain unreleased. According to Campus Reform, University of Delaware director of external relations Andrea Boyle said– you’ll never believe this — that the documents are “still being processed.”
However, there’s been another change in the university’s language regarding the papers’ release. Instead of the whole thing about retiring from “public service,” Boyle told Campus Reform that “the entire collection will remain closed to the public until two years after Mr. Biden retires from public life.”
Let’s put that in perspective: Joe Biden was a senator in his early 30s and remained in that role for the better part of 40 years, after which he became the vice president of the United States. Then, after the 2016 election, he became the Democrat candidate-in-waiting. He’s now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Come November, he’ll either be the president-elect or the guy who lost to Donald Trump. Either way, he’s likely to spend the rest of his life governing and/or opining upon governance.
In short, Joe Biden will retire from public life when he’s embalmed or cremated. Two years afterward, we’ll apparently discover whether there were any documents in his files relating to Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against Biden. Hope you can wait until then, people.
I don’t want to say this is incriminating, but all Biden has to do is release the documents and we’ll know whether or not there’s anything in there relating to Reade. Certainly, there have to be trained archivists the University of Delaware can hire to speed up the process — or to simply look at the documents relating to that period in Biden’s career and see if there’s any there there.
For that matter, Biden himself could give the university permission to release papers as they relate to at least that part of his career. Considering Biden hasn’t addressed Reade’s accusation publicly so far, the chances of that happening are minimal, but the option is always there.
If none of that happens, sure, there’ll be conspiracy theorists who’ll still believe the University of Delaware was complicit in some great scandal to extirpate the evidence from Biden’s records, but they’ll be relegated to dodgy websites and the late-night AM airwaves. For the rest of us, we’ll have to be satisfied that if the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, there’s certainly an absence of evidence.
Instead, what the University of Delaware is telling us is that it’s not done processing the documents — but not that this matters, since we’re never going to see them in time for the election. The short-term administrative excuse, in other words, is nothing more than a preface to the long-term political one.
What are we supposed to make of this, then? Nothing to see here — so time to stop looking?
This would be a marginally acceptable answer if those inquiring were scavenging for more Anita Hill-related material or love letters to segregationists. A sexual assault allegation is quite a bit different, though, particularly when Biden’s papers can provide yet more contemporaneous corroboration — if not the report Reade filed.
This, in short, is no longer just a matter of finding detritus about Biden’s iffy past political opinions and affiliations. It’s about whether there’s evidence of an allegation of forcible sexual misconduct against a man who wants to be president of the United States.
If the University of Delaware can’t or won’t answer that question, then the University of Delaware shouldn’t be in possession of these documents.
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