But during the subsequent interview on MSNBC, he struggled to answer questions about other documents that could also potentially shed some light: ones housed at the University of Delaware.
Biden resisted repeated inquires from “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski about also releasing documents from his personal files there. Those documents are being held back now since they are generally released once an official like Biden leaves public life.
Biden repeatedly sought to beg off questions about the files by saying that they would not contain any documents pertinent to the Reade allegations.
“First of all, let’s get this straight: There are no personnel documents. You can’t do that,” Biden said, adding: “You have my income tax returns. They’re private documents. They do not get put out in the public. They’re not part of the public record.”
He repeatedly drove home the point that there were “no personnel records” in the documents. Pressed further, he said he was also sure there was nothing about Reade in those documents.
“So personnel records aside, are you certain there was nothing about Tara Reade in those records --” Brzezinski asked.
“I am absolutely certain,” he said, adding: “There is nothing. They’re not there. I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make. There are no personnel records, by definition.”
Biden also said he worried that disclosing documents, including his confidential conversations with foreign leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, “could really be taken out of context.” He emphasized that those documents are generally released when someone leaves public office.
“All of that to be fodder in a campaign at this time — I don’t know of anybody who’s done anything like that,” Biden said.
Brzezinski then offered a compromise: Why not have someone search just for documents that pertain to Reade?
Biden, though, wouldn’t commit to it. “Who does that search?” he said.
Brzezinski said the university or some kind of commission could do so, but Biden reverted to talking about how any actual complaint should be in the National Archives.
But while the complaint — which Reade has said was not for the alleged assault but for making her feel uncomfortable — might not be in Biden’s University of Delaware files, those files could contain other documentation that could shed light. As The Post’s editorial board wrote recently in urging Biden to release any such relevant records:
One place to start is the records covering Mr. Biden’s 36-year Senate career, donated to the University of Delaware in 2012 and slated for release to the public two years after Mr. Biden “retires from public life.” These could contain confirmation of any complaint Ms. Reade made, either through official congressional channels or to the three other employees she claims she informed not specifically of the alleged assault but more generally of harassment. They could also contain nothing of the sort.
The editorial board repeatedly acknowledged there may indeed be nothing pertinent or about Reade in those files, as Biden now insists, but it said they should be examined:
There are 1,875 boxes and 415 gigabytes of electronic content, largely uncataloged. Searching won’t be as easy as some might assume. But an inventory conducted with an eye toward releasing only relevant material could at least ascertain whether personnel records are part of this archive at all.
The Post’s Matt Viser first wrote about the withholding of the documents this past summer, before these Reade allegations came to light. He noted that the University of Delaware changed its language on when they would be released. Initially they were due in either December 2019 or two years after Biden left “public office” — whichever was later. That would have set the documents for release a few months ago. But the language was later changed to be two years after Biden left “public life” — a broader term that means they remain sealed as Biden seeks the presidency.
As Biden notes, keeping them sealed before he leaves public office is how things are generally done. But that doesn’t account for whether he would release just specific documents pertaining to Reade.
It’s also worth noting that, while Biden questioned who would actually conduct the search, the documents were reviewed by the university starting in 2013. That year, it announced a two-year project to review both Biden’s papers and the papers of the senator who was briefly appointed to replace him, Ted Kaufman (D-Del.). The university said Friday the curation of the documents is ongoing, but it’s logical to assume that process might provide some orderliness to the documents and make it easier to sift through them.
And while the documents may not be a likely home to a complaint like the one Reade says she filed, there could be other documents related to personnel — schedules, memos between staff members and other items — that could speak to Biden’s interactions with Reade and perhaps what happened in the time surrounding the alleged incident. These personal files often contain many different types of information beyond the speeches, interviews, private documents and conversations Biden spoke about Friday morning.
Reade, for instance, has said she was removed from her position overseeing a group of interns after the alleged incident, which she said was retaliation for filing her complaint.
Biden’s denial not just that the complaint would be in the files but that there is anything about Reade in them was also notable, given number of documents in the files spanning his many decades in public life — and given that she was one of many staffers.
The university in its comments Friday morning said members of Biden’s team did review the documents in 2019. Reade had been one of several women who came forward alleging inappropriate touching in the spring of that year, so it’s possible the campaign might have looked for such records, though Biden didn’t say as much Friday. The university said no members of Biden’s staff had accessed the files this year, which would include the period after Reade made a more serious allegation of sexual assault.
Biden insisted Monday morning that he was confident that the complaint Reade said she filed was not in the National Archives. But the questions about what he is and should be disclosing won’t stop with that.
Update: The campaign of President Trump, who has faced many allegations of sexual harassment and assault, in a statement Friday accused Biden of hypocrisy.
“Biden has a different definition of transparency than he sets for others,” the campaign said. “While he called for the complete release of Mike Bloomberg’s documents related to complaints against him, Biden made clear he does not want his University of Delaware records released because they could be used against him in the campaign. He also falsely said those records are not ready to be made public.”
The University of Delaware has in fact said the documents are not fully curated and that the process will take until next year.