The ‘Outnumbered’ panel debates after 2020 hopeful Joe Biden finally breaks his silence on the Tara Reade sexual assault allegations.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Friday called on the Secretary of the Senate to essentially resolve confusion over where personnel complaints from the 1990s would be held, after demanding hours earlier that any complaint from the former staffer accusing him of sexual assault be located and released.
The scramble came after Biden publicly denied Tara Reade’s allegations Friday morning. In doing so, he had urged the secretary of the Senate to seek out such records from the National Archives.
But who has them and who controls them turned out to be a murky issue, with the Archives responding that the Senate technically has “control” of any such files from 1993, the year in question.
Biden wrote a letter to Julie E. Adams, the Secretary of the Senate, later Friday asking her to address the possible discrepancy.
“We had understood that the Senate stores records from this office, and from this period, in the National Archives. The Archives now states that the records would have remained under the control of the Senate,” Biden wrote.
“Accordingly, I request that you take or direct whatever steps are necessary to establish the location of the records of this Office, and once they have been located, to direct a search for the alleged complaint and to make public the results of this search,” he continued. “I would ask that the public release include not only a complaint if one exists, but any and all other documents in the records that relate to the allegation.”
One possibility, based on the numerous statements on the issue Friday, could be that the Archives technically has such records but the Senate controls them. But Biden’s letter appeared to treat this as an open question.
This confusion followed another debate over whether the University of Delaware should also be involved.
Reade, who said that she had filed a complaint after the alleged incident, had called for a search of Biden’s senatorial papers, which are kept at the University of Delaware.
“I’m calling for the release of the documents being held by the University of Delaware that contain Biden’s staff personnel records because I believe it will have my complaint form, as well as my separation letter and other documents,” Reade told Fox News on Tuesday.
In a written statement on Friday morning, however, Biden said if such a complaint exists, it would be kept at the National Archives, putting the focus squarely on the agency that houses hundreds of years worth of American history.
“There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be — the National Archives,” Biden said. “The National Archives is where the records are kept at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices. I am requesting that the Secretary of the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document. If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there.”
That statement from Biden tipped off confusion and speculation on who exactly controls documents from the Fair Employment Office.
A Business Insider story linked to one version of the Standing Rules of the Senate that requires the Secretary of the Senate to give “noncurrent” documents to the General Services Administration. But another, and apparently more updated, version of the Senate rules instead states that such documents should be given to the “National Archives and Records Administration for preservation, subject to the orders of the Senate.”
But the Archives later seemed to suggest that it had nothing to do with the records from the Office of Fair Employment Practices, continuing to sow confusion over who controls the documents and where they might be.
“Any records of Senate personnel complaints from 1993 would have remained under the control of the Senate,” the Archives said in an unsigned statement. “Accordingly, inquiries related to these records should be directed to the Senate.”
The Archives did not specifically deny, however, that the personnel complaints could physically be in its custody, as Biden said, even if the Senate controls them.
Fox News reached out to the Secretary of the Senate, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
A comment from Biden himself in his “Morning Joe” interview on MSNBC seems to make sense of the messy situation — noting that the Senate has control of the documents even if they are supposedly physically housed at the National Archives.
“And if that document existed, it would be stored in the National Archives where documents from the office she claims to have filed her complaint with are stored. That’s where they are stored,” Biden said. “The Senate controls those archives, so I’m asking the Secretary of the Senate today to identify whether any such document exists. If it does, make it public.”
But Biden’s letter later in the afternoon expressed far less certainty.
Biden in the “Morning Joe” interview not only called for a search of the National Archives, but strongly resisted pushes from the program’s hosts to grant access to the senatorial papers he donated to the University of Delaware but are not available to the public.
“There is nothing, they’re not there … The material in the University of Delaware has no personnel files … but it does have a lot of confidential conversations” with other officials, like the president and foreign dignitaries, Biden said.
“That would not be something that would be revealed while I was in public office or while I was seeking public office. It just stands to reason. To the best of my knowledge, no one else has done that either,” Biden continued. He said such high-profile conversations and other confidential files could be used as campaign “fodder.”
When he was pushed to approve a search for just Reade’s name rather than a full search of the records held by the university, Biden responded with silence for several moments before asking, “Who does that search?”
The MSNBC host then suggested that the University of Delaware search the records, or that Biden himself set up a commission. Biden did not directly address the question.
Reade, who supported Biden’s challenger Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary, first came forward last year to accuse Biden of inappropriate touching, as did several other women. But in late March she told a much more graphic version of her story to The Intercept and podcast host Katie Halper that raised the level of the allegation to sexual assault.
Biden and his campaign, along with former aides from Biden’s time in the Senate, have denied that the assault Reade alleges could have happened in Biden’s office.
“No, it is not true. I’m saying unequivocally it never, never happened and it didn’t. It never happened,” Biden said Friday morning on MSNBC.
But a handful of Reade’s associates have come forward to support her story, saying that Reade had previously told them about the alleged assault by Biden. Additionally, last week a video resurfaced of a woman, who Reade claims is her mother, calling into “Larry King Live” to talk about “problems” her daughter had with a prominent senator.
The woman in the call does not mention Biden or sexual assault, but the timing of the call fits with when Reade says she was forced out of her job after complaining about the alleged assault by Biden.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Allie Raffa contributed to this report.