The decision by President Joe Biden and his top advisers to keep the discovery of classified documents secret from the public and even most of the White House staff for 68 days was driven by what turned out to be a futile hope that the incident could be quietly disposed of without broader implications for Biden or his presidency.
The handful of advisers who were aware of the initial discovery on Nov. 2 — six days before the midterm elections — gambled that without going public, they could convince the Justice Department that the matter was little more than a minor, good-faith mistake, unlike former President Donald Trump’s hoarding of documents at his Florida estate.
In fact, the Biden strategy was profoundly influenced by the Trump case, in which the former president refused to turn over all the classified documents he had taken, even after being subpoenaed. The goal for the Biden team, according to people familiar with the internal deliberations who spoke on condition of anonymity, was to win the trust of Justice Department investigators and demonstrate that the president and his team were cooperating fully. In other words, they would head off any serious legal repercussions by doing exactly the opposite of what the Biden lawyers had seen the Trump legal team do.