Karl Rove—former Deputy Chief of Staff to Republican President George W. Bush—broke out a white board on Fox News to explain why government documents found at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, D.C. are not at all comparable to former Republican President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago documents scandal.
Democratic President Joe Biden said he was "surprised" classified documents were found at the think tank, saying people know he "take[s] classified documents, classified information seriously" and his lawyers did the right thing when they "immediately called" the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and turned them over.
The story quickly drew comparisons to the ongoing federal investigation into Trump, who denied he broke federal law regarding presidential documents he'd spirited away from the White House.
But Rove—appearing on Fox News with his trademark visual aid—said that while the story is "problematic" for the Department of Justice (DOJ), ultimately Biden's legal team "did the right thing" in turning the documents over and cooperating with investigators.
You can hear what Rove said in the video below.
Trump's legal troubles erupted over the summer when he alerted the world the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) executed a search warrant for his Mar-a-Lago estate. Sources said Trump was in possession of classified material—including nuclear secrets—that prompted the intelligence community to voice concerns about national security.
Afterward, Trump claimed he had the ability to declassify any and all documents or information by thinking it was declassified. His claim was widely disputed by experts who noted there is a specific federal process that must be adhered to before any information can be declassified and some categories of information cannot be declassified by even the President.
His claims were shut down by federal prosecutors who heard the explanation from Trump's attorneys, who made the ability to withhold documents from review critical to Trump's defense.
Attorneys with the Department of Justice (DOJ) are reportedly putting Trump on the "fast track to prosecution." They have maintained the material Trump removed from the White House should never have been taken and the intelligence contained within was relevant to global affairs.
Even though Fox News anchor Dana Perino said the news classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center sounds "a little similar" to Trump's ongoing troubles, Rove was on hand to dispute that notion.
"Well, there are differences, but you can’t make this stuff up. But there are differences. For example, how many documents in Biden’s case, there appear to be about 10. In the case of President Trump, hundreds."
"How did they get there? We don’t yet know how the documents got to the Biden office connected with his activities on behalf of the University of Pennsylvania. We know that President Trump ordered the removal of the documents to Mar-a-Lago."
"How responsive were they? When when the Biden people found out about it, they called immediately, called the appropriate authorities and turned them over. We spent a year and a half watching the drama unfold in Mar-a-Lago, and it had to end in a police search to recover the documents."
"But still, despite the differences, this is going to create lots of headaches for the Department of Justice in deciding how to handle President Trump’s issues, because now they have an issue that, in, at least in the minds of a lot of ordinary Americans, are going to be conflated as being roughly the same."
"That’s why I think they did a smart thing in turning this over to the U.S. attorney in Chicago to look at initially because that’s the, one of the two remaining Trump U.S., Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys left in the in the Justice Department."
"That and the Delaware, who, the Delaware U.S. attorney who’s looking into Hunter Biden. But this strikes me as being very problematic for the for the Biden Justice Department."
Many appreciated Rove's commentary, noting how it placed him at odds with the running commentary on the investigation from the GOP.
Rove's appearance on Fox News isn't the first time he's defended Biden from mischaracterizations on the part of the network.
In September 2022, Rove contradicted Fox News personality Jesse Watters after Watters claimed Biden was not leading an adequate federal response to Hurricane Ian, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm and killed hundreds.
Watters attempted to portray Biden as dragging his feet over the crisis even though Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis very publicly thanked the Biden administration for its assistance. Rove contradicted Watters, noting the federal government responded quickly and approved DeSantis' request for emergency aid before the hurricane even made landfall.
Indeed, the White House stressed the political differences between Biden and DeSantis would not affect the federal government's disaster response—a marked difference from the Trump administration.
UPDATE 1/11/23 6:17 PM: Aides close to President Biden have confirmed a second batch of classified documents has been found in a new location. According to NBC News:
Aides to President Joe Biden have discovered at least one additional batch of classified documents in a location separate from the Washington office he used after leaving the Obama administration, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The number of documents, their classification level, and the location where they were found have not yet been confirmed.