Joe Biden’s personal attorney Bob Bauer once berated the commander-in-chief at his Wilmington home. Biden couldn’t get a word in edgewise without the legal giant interrupting. Aides recall the no-nonsense law professor muttering, “Not very smart, Joe,” and “I don’t know why you’d say that,” and “That’s dumb.”
Bauer was playing Trump in mock debates at the time. Little did he know that he was standing in the middle of a crime scene, one he and his team of attorneys would be revisiting to quell a scandal of the president’s own making. The discovery of classified material at Biden’s various residences and offices makes for an open-and-shut case, according to former federal prosecutor Joe Moreno. “Biden can brush this off all he wants, but these are all clear violations,” he says.
Bauer may hope that no one at the Justice Department or the media picked up his book, co-authored by Jack Goldsmith, After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency. In it he argued that White House counsels — he was one in the Obama administration — had amassed a “worrisome” amount of power and could be counted on to enable presidential misbehavior. We must do away with the “assumption that the White House counsel should [serve] as a president’s crisis manager.” Bauer carved out an exception for a president’s personal attorneys. Bauer intended his book as a call to arms against former president Trump’s alleged abuses, but it appears to have become a playbook for a classic cover-up: Biden’s decision to unleash private attorneys in the search for mishandled documents makes sense in light of the arguments in Bauer’s book.
That strategy has paid dividends for the president as classified documents keep popping up. “The use of lawyers has ballooned alongside the notion that if you send lawyers, all the information is privileged. But looking for documents is not legal advice. They’re not lawyers in this capacity — they are witnesses,” Moreno says. “Upon finding the documents, Biden’s lawyers didn’t call the FBI or the DoJ: they called the White House.”
Bauer made his bones by convincing courts to ignore election laws and protocols to keep open selective polling places to Democrats’ advantage. He spent his early legal career lamenting money’s role in campaigns but ended up deriving an enviable lifestyle through his ability to cash campaign checks. Bauer can be trusted, as another high-profile Democratic attorney once said, to offer a “vigorous defense of the indefensible.”
Of course, you can’t talk about Bauer without mentioning his wife, SKDK partner and Biden confidante Anita Dunn. Biden is thought of as an old-school guy, but he is quickly catching up with the times. It used to be if you wanted to make money off government, you enlisted your brothers and sons to profit off your name, and so it was that the “Big Guy” cashed in on every XY chromosome in the family tree. Such operations have stained the honor of numerous public servants from the Kennedy family on to Biden’s personal favorite lobbyists, the Ricchetti brothers. Today, we demand that our elite families let the girls be handy.
No couple has benefited more from equal representation in cronyism than Dunn and Bauer, who have spent their careers as a “power couple” tag-teaming the public and private sectors. These Bethesda-based dog parents have perfected the art of the shakedown once reserved for the Al Sharptons of the world. Dunn went from demonizing hedge funds and Wall Street as Obama’s communications director to pitching these same entities to pay her firm gobs of money to beat back regulators.
Dunn has returned to the public eye in fits and starts since Biden’s 2020 campaign, which she took over after knifing any Biden loyalist who got in the way. She has taken temporary administration gigs just lucrative enough to avoid the threshold for financial disclosure. Biden’s uncanny ability to stumble into PR headaches, however, finally pushed her to disclose an impressive ninety-three-page portfolio featuring a who’s who of corporate-villains-turned-liberal darlings: AT&T, Lyft, Pfizer, Salesforce and Reddit among others. Her individual net worth soared to nearly $50 million along the way, according to the disclosures.
The classified documents scandal is where effective public relations come in handy. Biden benefits from the public image that took hold during the Obama years, when he transmogrified from a bitter, mendacious blowhard into a silly old man with a heart of gold. The White House stands at the ready to scold media critics when they point out Biden’s senior moments, but it embraces geezerdom with a wink and a nod when he is found to possess state secrets. The strategy appears to be to repeat the transparency lie even as he hides behind the legal team, while citing brain fog for how Biden came to possess the documents. Your great-grandfather may forget your name, but you know that he loves you — the same way he may forget protocol for handling classified material, but deep down he sure does care about it.
One gets the sense that Biden and team are wasting Dunn and Bauer’s respective talents on what amounts to a paperwork snafu that only the most extremely online DC vultures care about. The general public is never going to rally behind an impeachment based on clerical mishandling no matter the technical guilt. But, even if Biden skates by, one gets the sense that when Bauer mutters, “Not very smart, Joe,” these days, he is not play-acting.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s March 2023 World edition.