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Can Congress fix the White House’s classified materials problem? Senators respond

Jan 25, 2023


Authorities have found classified materials in the private homes of three current and former elected members of the executive branch from their time in the White House. The feds revealed Tuesday that former Vice President Mike Pence, like President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, had classified material in his private residence.

As the controversy continues to grow, members of Congress are asking for answers about what happened and how documents made their way out of sensitive areas.

Now legislators, who are permitted to see sensitive materials in only designated, secured settings, are wondering what can be done. Straight Arrow News went to Capitol Hill and asked senators what Congress can do — if anything — to impact White House procedures.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pointed out that the rules are strict for members of Congress.

“If we are in a classified briefing and make notes, we can’t take the notes out of the room,” he said.

“I think there needs to be a more careful review of security considerations at all levels of government, including the legislative and executive branches,” Durbin added.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., noted that the president and vice president “need to” see a lot of classified material and that, unlike lawmakers, getting them to view materials in just one place would be difficult.

“I suspect it’s hard to confine them — you know, they’re on the move a lot and I imagine it would be pretty cumbersome to try and confine them to a particular space and say, ‘Mr. President, Madam Vice President … you’ve got to come to this area to view the classified information,’” he told SAN. “I mean, I just don’t know how that would work.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., too, pointed out that being president or vice president is very different from being a legislator. Members of the executive branch see more classified material and in a way that is different from senators. The South Carolina Republican said that when he gets classified information it’s in a “controlled setting” and that he’s not given the documents.

While admitting there’s a problem, Graham went out of his way to not accuse anyone.

“You’ve got a common pattern here,” he said. “You’ve got two vice presidents and one former president in possession of classified information. I’m not accusing them of anything in particular — let’s just find out what happened and move on and make Americans safer.”

Hawley added that he believes “the public deserves some account of what is in these documents,” while also acknowledging that “obviously, if they’re classified they can’t be released publicly in full, but I think we can get the broad outlines.”

“I think the public, particularly as it relates to the sitting president of the United States, they probably deserve to know,” he concluded.

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