Biden denied papers tied to assault claim
WASHINGTON — The secretary of the Senate has declined Joe Biden’s request to release any potential documents pertaining to an allegation of sexual assault against him from a former Senate staffer, citing confidentiality requirements under the law.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, made the request Friday after delivering his first public comments responding to the allegation from former staffer Tara Reade that he sexually assaulted her in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building in the spring of 1993. Biden has denied the allegation.
In response, Senate Secretary Julie Adams’ office told Biden’s legal counsel in an email that after reviewing the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991 and a Senate resolution regarding the release of Senate records, “based on the law’s strict confidentiality requirements,” the Senate legal counsel has advised that the secretary “has no discretion to disclose any such information.”
Biden campaign lawyer Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel, responded by asking whether “just existence of any such records” is “subject to the same prohibition on disclosure.”
Bauer also asked if someone such as a complainant could seek to have the records disclosed, and whether the Senate could release the procedures and other related materials that the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices would have used to process a complaint in 1993.
Reade has said she filed a partial report with a congressional personnel office outlining broad details of her concerns with Biden that she believes could offer proof of some of her allegations.
She said in March that when she was an aide in Biden’s Senate office in 1993, he pushed her against a wall in a Senate office building, put his hand up her skirt and sexually assaulted her with his fingers.
Reade said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press that she did not use the words “sexual harassment” or “sexual assault” in her complaint, but rather described an incident she said amounted to sexual harassment and the retaliation she faced afterward.
Biden on Friday denied the claims and called on the National Archives to release any documentation, as the former vice president insisted any personnel records would be kept there. After a spokesman for the archives said those records would have remained in the Senate, Biden wrote Adams asking her to search for them.
Reade has called on Biden to release the records that she says are being held at the University of Delaware, but Biden has said they do not include any personnel files. Those records are sealed until two years after Biden retires from public life.
Reade’s allegations have tested the Democratic Party, as it wrestles to find a balance between its support for Biden and the #MeToo movement’s imperative to believe women who accuse powerful men of abuse.
Democratic leaders have supported Biden since the allegations surfaced, but some rank-and-file Democrats have become uneasy. Still, many Democrats have pointed to President Donald Trump’s numerous sexual assault allegations, most of which he has not addressed, and applauded Biden for his transparency.