On the Biden and Trump classified document scandals

Mar-a-Lago living room, 1967

Glorious news in national politics, folks. We have two special counsels, two prosecutors conducting open-ended investigations into two presidents at once!

Remember that special counsels have brought us such hits as Oliver North and the Iran-Contra affair, the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky actual affair, and that Bob Mueller not-really-leading-to-anything affair.

What is different this time? It’s not that we have yet another investigation into a president accused of wrongdoing, because that’s what special counsels do. They’re supposed to look into something possibly untoward done by the chief executive. What’s weird is that we have two of them going on at once, for basically the same offense (question mark). And that nefarious activity is keeping classified documents in their houses.

Yes, you can have a private home or even a beach house if you are a president, but you are not supposed to keep the top-secret documents there. And especially you should not leave the military secrets on the back of the toilet when you have international guests, which I suppose that was probably the worst-case scenario.

Republicans are demanding Joe Biden’s head because that’s what happened to poor Donald Trump. Former President Trump was accused of not coming clean with all the documents he had in his home in Florida, and the FBI literally had to go in there and get them. There was a lot of hoo-ha, “how dare Trump keep this.” And now it turns out that Joe Biden had classified documents at his house, too. So, the Republican position is, “Well, you went after Trump, now let’s see what you’re gonna do to your own guy.”

The Democrats are busy explaining how this is totally different and not the same, although they’re not happy with Joe either. But their line is “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.” Not as many documents. Different documents. Joe Biden is the one that reported the problem. The documents were found, and Joe was totally like, “Hey, wait, these shouldn’t be here. I better let folks know.”

The public is busy watching the NFL and hoping nobody else is nearly killed on the field.

And here, we say place is politics.

So, we’re going to explain the difference between the special counsel investigation into the classified Trump documents at the Trump home, and the special counsel investigation into Biden documents at the Biden home by looking at place.

The difference between the Trump case and the Biden case is pretty much what you’d expect the difference to be between a president from Wilmington, Delaware, and a president from Manhattan, New York.

The difference between the Trump case and the Biden case is pretty much what you’d expect the difference to be between a president from Wilmington, Delaware, and a president from Manhattan, New York.

Plus, let’s talk the homes of the Presidents. I dunno about you, but I enjoy looking at the real estate listings. It’s kind of fun to see the little tours of the homes. We can do some lifestyles of the old and powerful here. Because let me tell you, these real estate listings are some whoppers.

The facts of the cases

First, the not-quite-charges against each president.


The National Archives was trying for more than a year after Trump left office to retrieve all of his records. I assume most of them are actual paper. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a description of exactly what they were, but let’s go with paper. He finally turned over 15 boxes of documents in last January, a year ago. But once the archives folks went through them, they’re like, “Wait, there’s classified material in these 15 boxes of documents!”

They turned that little item over to the Justice Department, which got a grand jury together. Last May, DOJ wanted all classified records returned, and they went to Trump’s house where even more material was seized/handed over. It just kind of went on from there.


Biden’s attorneys told the National Archives and the Justice Department — back in November — that they had discovered less than a dozen classified files inside a closet at the Penn-Biden think tank in Washington DC. And after they found that, the attorneys continued to look for other documents in Biden’s houses in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Everything was turned over to the authorities.

Donald Trump is from Manhattan

So that’s the specifics. And when we talk about, well, can we explain this with the place? Let’s talk about where Donald Trump is from. That’s New York City. He is a creature of Manhattan, and we all know what that means.

We know that folks from New York are supposed to be brash, they’re supposed to be loud, they’re supposed to be criminals with hearts of gold.

We know that folks from New York are supposed to be brash, they’re supposed to be loud, they’re supposed to be criminals with hearts of gold. And how do we know this? How do we know that they tend to meet at iconic places on Valentine’s Day and fall in love?

It’s because so many movies, so many books are set in New York City. It is the home of the American storytelling industry/culture. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes, Hollywood, — where we make our movies — is culturally an offshoot of New York — where we make our plays. We all know about Manhattan, specifically, New York City in general, because of that. I don’t think we need to spend any time going over what a stereotypical Manhattanite would be.

But let us think about how that applies to the government. You see, New York was founded by the Dutch it was old new Amsterdam, and it was not intended to be a colonization effort in terms of like establishing a new nation on a different continent. It was a for-profit undertaking to establish trade with the locals, to take products from the local Native Americans, to take products from other colonies that were on the East Coast, and ship them back to the old world with a little bit of the vig.

When we think of how New Yorkers relate to government and the law, it is a matter of profit over process.

When we think of how New Yorkers relate to government and the law, it is a matter of profit over process. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the elites running the show and profiteering off of the financial sector, as we all know from the Wolf of Wall Street, (Wall Street being a street in New York; there used to be a wall, but now it’s just full of money). Or is it the underclass who occasionally rise up and try to seize power? Tammany Hall got labeled as totally corrupt and bad, but it got that label from the elites, who were not happy that the rabble had taken over and were handing out jobs and money to their own people.

We all know about New York. Just remember that it, it was a for-profit colony established for trade purposes.

We know that because we get to hear stories about it. The business-before-moralizing attitude allowed them to print books and to put on plays that other, more moralistic colonies would never allow.

What do you know about Delaware?

Delaware, though, what do you know about Delaware? There is a great book out there called “The Flame Pits of Delaware,” which I highly recommend.

But if you aren’t familiar — and I don’t think most of us are — with Delaware, the first thing to know is that it has just three counties. The fewest of any state. It’s pretty easy to keep track of. There is New Castle in the North followed by Kent, and then Sussex. I hope you’re picking up on the English vibes there, Kent and Sussex both being important places in England. There’s a lot of castles in England. So what are, what are we talking about here?

New Castle, which is where we’re gonna find Biden on the cultural map, is part of what we might think of as the, the Midlands. We often talk about Collin Woodward’s, “American Nations” here. Well, the Midlands is his term for basically the Pennsylvania culture. It, it was founded by Quakers.

Now, that’s not how it started out in Delaware. Little note here, just like New York, the Dutch were the first new Europeans to settle in Delaware. And they had a trading post starting in 1631. But sadly, all of those people were killed off in a dispute with local tribes. Then the Swedish founded New Sweden in 1638 there but they were conquered by the Dutch. So, we have the Dutch from New York lay claim to what is now Delaware.

But then the Dutch are deposed by the English, who took over New Amsterdam, called it New York, and now they’ve got control of this whole area, and they hand over ownership.

And when we say ownership, we mean that like the European vision of like some sort of title to the land, right? Like, it’s not like everyone in the land of what would become the Midland States understood this concept.

At any rate, William Penn gets the rights to this “property.” And Penn was going to found Pennsylvania, and he was a Quaker. Pennsylvania would turn out to be famously a Quaker experiment.

Pennsylvania would turn out to be famously a Quaker experiment.

The Quakers, also formally known as the Religious Society of Friends, were a religious denomination. They rose in northern New England which by the way was ground zero for the Industrial Revolution. They got their start in like the 1650s.

And they have this idea about an “inner light” that all people should mind. They should do good and treat others as they would be treated. Then we’re all gonna know God and we’re gonna go to heaven. That may sound like a lot of religions but compare and contrast following one’s inner light with following the “outer light” of the organized church and its leaders. Following the idea of an inner guide led them to some interestingly progressive ideas as we would look at them, you know, when we look backwards in time, they were big on women’s rights. They were the first Americans to get out there and oppose slavery.

We were talking about like politics and government, however. And when it came to law government, the Quakers were not known for their effectiveness, given that they didn’t like to order anyone around or to be ordered around themselves. They wanted everyone to look inside and find the right thing to do, which turns out didn’t really work in a colonial context.

Philadelphia was ground zero for the Pennsylvania experiment. Literally meaning the city of brotherly love, which is totally in keeping with the Quaker ethos. And to this day, New Castle County in northern Delaware is part the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

William Penn tries to combine the lower counties that he got with what is now the state of Pennsylvania, the big holding. They have the same government for a little while. But it doesn’t take long for the lower counties to get grumpy. We always talk about the foundations as so important. We already had some Swedes, some Dutch there. They were not liking the way the things were going with the Quakers in Philadelphia.

Eventually we end up with two separate governments and one governor. Further down the road, these lower three counties break off politically from Pennsylvania and they become their own state. What we’re left with is a three-county state in which that northern county, the one closest to Philadelphia, is part of that Quaker culture.

What we’re left with is a three-county state in which that northern county, the one closest to Philadelphia, is part of that Quaker culture.

It is what we’d call the Midlands. It has that sort of hands off, let everyone do their own thing, let’s all do right by each other, kind of vibe.

The lower two counties are actually near Maryland and Virginia. And if we were talking about the cultural map of the United States, that would be what Woodward calls Tidewater. Remember that Virginia is the home to all these early American presidents who have a sort of deliberate nobility about themselves. They saw themselves — the planters from that area — as being above everyone but obligated to everyone.

Which might be a little different from the Deep South, where you are A, above everyone, and B, everyone could step off.

The Tidewater area in southern Delaware is essentially southern in culture, Northern part, essentially northern, but it’s on the border. And that’s really important. I think it’s huge in Joe Biden’s political success, by the way. If you are in Delaware, I feel like you could kind of like move between the two worlds. Not unlike DC, which was placed specifically to straddle the border between the North and the South.

Delaware literally has a bit of the North and a little bit of the South in one tiny state.

That can be seen in like how they dealt with the big bad slavery question. Of course, slavery was existent in the colonies and then in the early states, but the Quakers were early to get out there and say, well, this is not right. This is not following the golden rule.

By 1810 three quarters of all Black people in Delaware were free. Unlike other parts of the North, you have a somewhat significant Black population in Delaware. And unlike the South, most of those Black people are free.

Delaware did try to abolish slavery officially, on the books, in the Legislature, but they never quite got there. It’s still kind of the South, and they still kind of think, “Shouldn’t we keep it on the books anyway?” Or they would say that slavery is not that bad, but they didn’t participate. By 1860 the largest slave holder in Delaware had 16 people that they claimed to own, which obviously is not what we would see in Georgia at the time.

In the 1860 census — we’re talking just before the Civil War — showed that over 90% of the Black population in Delaware was free. That’s good. I suppose it should be a 100 percent, but we’re just trying to sketch a scene here. Delaware is straddling these two cultures. Although it can’t bring itself to condemn the South too much, it also doesn’t want to participate in some of those Southern practices. It voted against secession in 1861, remained in the union. Most of the folks there fought for the union in the Civil War, although some did go down and serve in regiments for Maryland and Virginia, which are right next door and are part of the South.

Interestingly, here’s something although Delaware basically had ended slavery as a practice, it also rejected the Civil War amendments of the Constitution banning slavery and granting the right to vote to Black people.

Now, the important thing to know about Delaware history here is that if you’ve got these two cultures, which one is dominant.

Well, after the Civil War, industry took off. I’s not a coincidence that the industrial heartland of the United States really coincided with the Midlands culture. That had a lot to do with the Quakers and their emphasis on practical education, as opposed to like liberal arts education. Trades, that sort of thing. The Midlands today stretch east to west through Pennsylvania and go out through what we would think of as the Midwest.

Just as that big, industrialized area in the United States, so northern England where the Quakers came from industrialized. What we think of as the “blue wall,” that that northern group of states in the United States, has an analog in England, in that there is an area of not super-progressive, but not conservative voters in northern England, as I understand it.

Industrialization tips the power balance in Delaware towards the Midlands and away from the, the Tidewater, the slave-holding or slave-sympathizing portion of the state. The DuPonts were there, the family and the company, hugely influential. And that’s the 20th century ethos.

Then we go through de-industrialization, which is exactly what the Midwest went through. Delaware lost their General Motors plant. They lost their Chrysler plant. They lost a steel plant. All in the early parts of the 21st century. DuPont apparently cut a third of its footprint in Delaware in 2015.

You might think given all this, that Delaware is part of that angry, we’ve-been-left-behind deplorables coalition, right?

But not really.

Part of that is because they are a tax haven. They pulled an Ireland or Luxembourg, these small countries in Europe where you find your mojo through adjusting your tax laws. You’re able to negotiate with these larger states, whether that’s a country or just actual states in Delaware’s case, by attracting some of the financial sector.

More than half of all US publicly traded companies are incorporated in Delaware.

More than half of all US publicly traded companies are incorporated in Delaware. And according to the Wikipedia entry, I just looked up, 63% of the Fortune 500 are incorporated in Delaware. So Delaware made an amazing transition from being an industrial place in the 20th century to a tax haven in the 21st, which brings us to Joe Biden. I will go on the record as being a big Joe Biden fan.

Joe Biden is the personification of Delaware

But I am aware that the knock on Joe is that he’s cozy with the banks and the credit card industry and all that, which is exactly what you’d expect for a politician from Delaware.

He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, but he moved to Delaware in 1953 when he was just a little Joey of 11. He graduated from the University of Delaware. He was elected to the New Castle County Council in 1970, at which point he was only 50 years old. I’m kidding. He actually was elected the US Senate in 1972 at the age of 30. But he’s still around!

And in case somehow you are unaware of this, he was the vice president under President Obama from 2008 to 2016, if I remember the Obama administration correctly, just so you know. So there’s Joe Biden is of Northern Delaware.

That’s my point. You heard all about Delaware and its culture and its industry, and there’s Joe Biden, the archetypal representative there.

Joe Biden’s houses

Would you like now to have a tour of the Joe Biden house in Delaware? Where does he live? I looked it up.

Apparently, he lives in a mansion built in ’98. If you look at the pictures, it’s colonial style. It looks like it’s really old, but it’s actually from ’98. It has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, five fireplaces at basement garage, and 5,748 square feet. He lives in a 5,700 square foot house. And apparently now it’s on four acres. And I looked this up, this doesn’t seem possible, but a, the article I found said it’s estimated worth was just under $1 million, $960,000. I live in western Washington, so if you were in Seattle, that would get you like a nice 1,600-square-foot square rancher.

Joe’s house in Wilmington, Delaware has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, five fireplaces at basement garage, and 5,748 square feet.

I kind of questioned that, whether or not it’s le worth less than a million dollars at 5,700 square feet. But anyway, Delaware prices, who knows?

Also, as we learned earlier, there were not only top-secret documents in the closets in the colonial style mansion. There were top secret documents at the beach house. Maybe in the sand room.

That beach house is a mere 4,700 square feet. It has six bedrooms, five bathrooms, plus one, half bath. It’s 5.5 bathrooms for those of you you playing at home. And three fireplaces.

Hey, wait a minute, does that mean that Joe Biden’s house has more bathrooms than it does bedrooms?

Hey, wait a minute, does that mean that Joe Biden’s house has more bathrooms than it does bedrooms?

It does. Holy cow. I love that. That is convenient. I bet no matter where you are in Joe Biden’s house, you’re only a couple steps away from the Lou.

All right, Joe Biden’s papers were hanging out in this beach house, which by the way, is apparently only on a third of an acre. I looked up a picture, it looks like it three stories tall, a whole story of garage on the bottom, followed by two stories of awesomeness, no doubt. But it’s repeatedly worth way more than the house in Wilmington. This one apparently was purchased for 2.74 million in 2017. So that’s some real living there, right? That’s some real living.

That’s where the Biden papers were found, scattered about probably with coffee stains on them or under the remote controls by the television.

Trump and Mar-a-Lago

But where were the Trump papers? They were in Florida.

And let’s remember that. It is totally in keeping in being from New York to move to Florida. The number one state of origin for people moving to Florida is New York.

In fact, there’s an article recently about where is the oldest population and surprise, Florida has like a really old population. And you would think that that would, that doesn’t jive with like, the pictures I see of Florida, which is like people 29 and younger on the beach in Miami is my impression. But apparently that’s not representative of the population. Most of their older folks though, are moving there from out of state. It’s a destination for retirees and Trump, bu nose, spring chicken. You’re part of this demographic. Alright?

Specifically, unlike Joe Biden’s places in Delaware, Donald Trump’s place in Florida has a name. It’s Mar-a-Lago, “sea to lake,” in Spanish.

It was built for the heirs to the Post Cereals business. That’s right, the General Foods Corporation. All that cereal money went into building this amazing house in the twenties. It, and it looks to me to be you know, kinda like a Spanish revival style, which is really in, in the 1920s and very cool.

Okay, let’s go back to the bedroom count. The bedroom count for Joe was six bedrooms in his house. When he is not vacationing in the vacation house, he’s down to six. No, he has six in both. OK. So, Joe Biden’s rocking 12 bedrooms in his lifestyle. Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago when, it was built, had 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms.

Joe Biden’s rocking 12 bedrooms in his lifestyle. Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago when, it was built, had 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms.

And interestingly, apparently a 29-foot-long marble dining table. You couldn’t squeeze that into most garages, honestly. Like your car might be 18 feet long, if you have a big one. And it’s a 29-foot-long dining table. I love it. 12 fireplaces and three bomb shelters, pretty handy.

I will note, however, let’s be clear that the bedroom to bathroom ratio is way off for Donald Trump. He barely has like one bathroom for every two bedrooms, whereas Joe Biden has like over a one-to-one ratio. Also of note in the Joe-versus-Donald Trump living quarters battle, at $160 million current value, Mar-A-Lago is worth 58 times the beach house for the Bidens, which is worth more than their house.

58 times more valuable. That’s incredible. And also kind of in keeping what I think of as the Manhattan type. Aren’t they supposed to be like super wealthy and all that?

I love the story of how Donald Trump got this, by the way, it’s so New York, and Trump is so New York. Apparently the heiress to the cereal fortune, upon her death wanted to give it to the National Park Service, which is really generous and nice. And they’re gonna use it for state receptions, it could be the Southern White House. But the National Park Service A, had no money to keep it up because, you know, they don’t have any money. And B, neither Richard Nixon nor Jimmy Carter really wanted to move there. I don’t know why. I guess it just wasn’t, they weren’t into Spanish revival.

The Park Service gave it back to the Post family. And then those folks weren’t sure what to do with it. They put it on the market, I think, for $20 million. This is in the ’80s. Donald Trump’s just getting going. Donald Trump offers them $15 million, but they’re like, “No. It’s $20 million or nothing, Donald.”

So Trump talks to the owner of KFC, the Kentucky Fried Chicken Fortune who owns the property next to the cereal fortune. He buys the land between Mar-a-Lago and the ocean for $2 million. And then he says, I’m gonna build a giant home that’s gonna totally wreck your view. And because of that you know, the Post people now either got to keep their unsellable giant estate and lose the beach view, or sell to Donald Trump.

So they sold to Donald Trump at an estimated total purchase price around $10 million. And now it’s worth $160 million, which is probably where he gets these ideas about being an amazing real estate genius. Although it seems a little aggressive to me. But again, that’s what I think of when I think of like New York financial moves, right? Is to basically force people to give you a deal. Not to like amazingly brilliantly come up with a deal.

Apparently, Mar-a-Lago is frequently the home ground for the International Red Crosses Ball. This is a quote, “white tie tails and Tiara. I don’t get to go to black tie things. And white tie’s the next level up, plus you get to put on tails! And I assume put in a monocle and then the ladies wear a tiara.

Which that’s fantastic. Okay? That’s enough of that. I mean just enjoy the tour.

Everything about this reflects the different cultures of Delaware and Manhattan

I think that in housing you would say that Joe and Donald are totally representing their home cultures, right? And I would argue that everything about this up to and including those houses reflect the cultural differences between New Castle County, Delaware and the borough of Manhattan. Biden found classified papers and told on himself, he, he’s like, oh, I’m sorry, these shouldn’t be here. He told on himself after it’d become like a huge deal for Donald Trump, his former opponent he still did it, and his lawyers help him report on himself. That’s, and that is so very goody two shoes of him. Now, you could say it’s self-serving, and I’m not saying that like, oh, well, he should be patted on the back for leaving classified papers around.

I’m just saying that if you’re thinking about somebody who comes from a very, like egalitarian and we should all do right by each other and live by the Golden rule kind of place. And here’s Joe Biden who has been, you know, middle class Joe in the, obviously we talked about his house. He’s not really middle class, but when we talk, look at Donald Trump, we start to realize what he’s talking about. He is, he is just clearly like, feels like he has to do the right thing. I gotta do the right thing here. I’m turning myself in less than a dozen documents apparently, right? <Laugh>,

Donald Trump from Manhattan gets angry letters from the lawyers of the National Archive saying, you need to give back your documents. And he turns over 15 boxes after being irritated. And when they get uppity about with him about how there’s classified documents in here, he is like, talk to my lawyer. And then they end up having to like s you know, execute a search warrant on his palace in Florida. And he’s really angry about it and people are shouting. And, you know, I just love that if Biden’s Delaware response is like, I’m, I have to tell on myself that Donald, you know, I will have my, get my lawyers, I have to tell on myself. And Donald Trump’s response is like, get bent, talk to my lawyers. And that’s the difference between the cases. I mean, it really is that we’re gonna hear all about how Joe Biden did this and that, and in those papers was this and that.

And we’re gonna hear about how Donald Trump refused to cooperate, or he had more, or they were different, or they were laying out for the Chinese premiere to read while the, the Chinese premiere was there at the giant marble table. That can go nowhere because it weighs 10 tons. And those are real differences, and I can’t wait to see what happens with these two special councils and whether they become like two totally different cases or if they just run amuck somewhere. But to me and for the show, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the, the little tour here, it does seem a little bit like you’re just dealing with the difference between one president who has a house in Delaware and another president who has a palace in Florida, and the way that they would react to being told they have to give papers back.

And side note, I don’t, you know, I assume that the classified documents are a big deal. I mean, lord knows what’s on them. On the other hand, it does seem to illustrate to me that you are dealing with human beings who are given all the information in the darn world while they are president, and then they’re supposed to move out in a hurry and go back to their large houses and don’t take any of these. And it, I, I don’t know. I am kind of curious to see how all that works and how they managed to make it happen. I don’t know how you end up with 15 boxes, but on the other hand, if you’re just grabbing everything and moving out, maybe you do. The point is, I would be astonished if this is the first time in American history that somebody has found next to their electric bill, the former president’s classified papers.

I can see it now. It did the George Bush, the first probably had some, you’re like, ah, I got some mail here, a fundraising letter from the Humane Society. And what is this? Oh gosh, I guess there weren’t weapons of mass destruction over there. Gosh, I should have told junior.

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