Joe Biden questioned about University of Delaware archives, where he donated Senate records

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A former staffer to Joe Biden in the early ’90s has accused the presidential candidate of sexual assault, here’s everything you need to know about it. USA TODAY

Former Vice President Joe Biden said the National Archives should search its records for a harassment complaint by a former staffer who accused him of sexually assaulting her in the 1990s. But he’s also facing questions about another cache of his records at the University of Delaware, where his accuser says her complaint may be found. 

On Friday, MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski repeatedly questioned Biden about whether he would release his University of Delaware records, which contain papers from his more than 30 years as a senator from the state.

Biden said the records, which he donated in 2012, did not contain any relevant information about the alleged complaint. 

“My archives do not contain personnel files,” the presumed Democratic presidential nominee responded.

Brzezinski continued to press Biden telling him the former vice president had asked for records at the National Archives to be opened, so “why not do the same in the University of Delaware records, which have raised questions because they were supposed to be opened and then they were sealed for a longer period of time.” 

Biden again replied the records do not contain personnel files and said the archive “has a lot of confidential conversations that I had with the president about a particular issue, that I had with the heads of state of other places.” 

But Tara Reade, the woman who said Biden sexually assaulted her in a Capitol Hill building in 1993, has called on Biden to allow the release of his Senate papers at the University of Delaware because she believes her complaint or separation letter may be stored there, she told Fox News.

Reade says she complained about sexual harassment, not assault, in 1993 in conversations with supervisors. She also says she filed a report with a Senate personnel office, but did not receive a copy of it. Multiple individuals say they recall Reade describing an assault well before she went public with her story in March. Others say they were were told about alleged harassment and retaliation.

But several former Biden employees, including those she said she spoke to about the alleged assault, told the New York Times they were never approached with any such complaint. News investigations have been unable to locate any record of Reade’s claim to the Senate.

What we know: Former staffer Tara Reade says Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993

Read the full statement: Read Joe Biden’s full statement on Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation

Biden would not commit to allowing access to his University of Delaware collection during the interview Friday. He expressed concern with contents being “taken out of context” while he runs for office. He also questioned who would be tasked with filtering through the records.

“There are documents in existence… for example, when I met with Putin or when I met with whomever. And all of that to be fodder in a campaign—at this time, I don’t know of anybody who’s done anything like that,” he said.

The thousands of records, a vast collection spanning more than 1,850 boxes, along with 415 gigabytes of electronic records, are still being curated, University of Delaware spokeswoman Andrea Boyle Tippett told The News Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network. The university expects the process to last until at least spring of 2021. University library curators are still cataloging the mass of documents, transcribing audio and coding files so that the collection can eventually be searchable.

Biden said in a campaign statement Friday morning that the University of Delaware papers would contain information on his public record: “speeches, policy proposals, positions taken, and the writing of bills.” Senators’ papers may also include correspondence, memos, reports, electronic files, appointment calendars, databases, photographs and even documents from family members, according to the Senate Historical Office

A Senate resolution governing Senate records states that any “investigative files relating to individuals and containing personal data, personnel records, and records of executive nominations” may be made available to the public only after they have been in existence for 50 years.

Analysis: Biden’s denial was unequivocal. That doesn’t mean he’s put this issue to rest.

Initially, the papers were expected to be available to the public two years after Biden’s last day in elected office. But since Biden announced his bid for president, the conditions of the agreement have changed. The documents will not be made public until two years after Biden retires from public life. 

Individuals from the Biden campaign did access the collection on at least one occasion in 2019, but not in 2020, Tippett told The News Journal.

“I don’t know anything about the nature of it. If you want more details about it, you’re going to need to call his office,” she said.  

Biden’s statement said any records of such a complaint could only be at the National Archives, “at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices.”

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