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Opinion Why won’t Biden open up his records to scrutiny?

Former vice president Joe Biden at an event in Philadelphia in March. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)
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In his appearance Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” former vice president Joe Biden was adamant that the accusation of sexual assault made against him by former Senate aide Tara Reade is not true.

It was a straightforward and strong denial. He made a sound proposal to ask the National Archives to search for a complaint that Reade claims she made to the Senate’s human resources office more than a quarter-century ago. But that makes one thing all the more perplexing: the way Biden dodged co-host Mika Brzezinski’s repeated questions about the records of his Senate years that are under seal at the University of Delaware. Why, she asked him again and again, does he not open those archives to scrutiny?

Biden didn’t adequately address the “why.” He simply kept repeating that those files do not contain personnel records. We are expected to take his word for that. There is a good chance that Biden is telling the truth. But even if he is, those boxes of material might hold many other items that could be relevant: memos from staff members that mention Reade or her allegation, schedules that convey a sense of how much contact he had with Reade. The materials might include documents that speak to the general culture in the office. There might be … Well, we just don’t know what might be there, because Biden won’t let anyone see them.

In a column in Friday’s Post, I suggested one way the material might be examined quickly and efficiently:

What Biden should do is name a small group of well-respected, impartial researchers — historians, academics, archivists. Then, he should ask the University of Delaware to give them access to his papers as soon as the precautions put in place as a result of the novel coronavirus are loosened. My own experience with the solitary endeavor of digging through boxes of documents suggests it would not be all that hard to practice rudimentary social distancing.
A team of independent researchers could probably get through the material in a matter of weeks or a couple of months at the most. They could then issue a report on whether they found anything that was relevant to what Reade claimed happened to her. It would then be incumbent upon Biden to make those records public.

There might be other reliable methods for searching the records. But one thing is clear:

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Biden’s intransigence on the question of his Senate records is becoming increasingly untenable. He deserves the presumption of innocence. His archive may indeed include nothing that is relevant. But the best way to remove a shadow of doubt is to open a window and let the light in.

Read more:

Jennifer Rubin: What Joe Biden did right in rebutting Tara Reade’s claims

Marc A. Thiessen: Biden gave Christine Blasey Ford the ‘benefit of the doubt.’ Why not Tara Reade?

Erik Wemple: Tucker Carlson eviscerates Democrats over Tara Reade double standard

The Post’s View: Biden himself should address the Tara Reade allegations and release relevant records

Karen Tumulty: How Joe Biden handles the Tara Reade allegations is a crucial test