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Former Clinton administration official David Gergen, now a political analyst at CNN, warned late this week that Biden was in for a nightmare over the classified document scandal.
When asked by network opinion host Anderson Cooper how big of a mess Biden was in, Gergen responded, "It's very, very big."
"Not legally, but politically,"
Gergen claimed. "It's a very, very big deal."
Gergen's claim may not be entirely accurate, as Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last week that he appointed a special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into the scandal.
"I do think that they, that the Biden people, they may be making a big mistake,"
Gergen said. "I don't think sitting there, hunkering down now, you're just acting like it's not out there ... they're going to get creamed doing that."
Gergen said that the way the Biden administration has handled the matter is going to lead the American public to ask the question, "What are they hiding?"
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Want to talk about the political fallout, which could be considerable, and unwelcome to the administration, certainly, coming, as Phil Mattingly mentioned, with inflation cooling, and gas prices dropping, and the President's approval numbers growing, in the polls, at least before this.
Joining us is CNN Senior Political Analyst, David Gergen, White House insider, for Democrats and Republicans alike, dating back to the Nixon years; also CNN Political Commentator, and former Pennsylvania Republican congressman, Charlie Dent; and CNN Political Analyst, Jackie Kucinich. She's Washington Bureau Chief for The Boston Globe.
David Gergen, let's start with you. How big a mess is this for the Biden administration?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER TO NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "HEARTS TOUCHED WITH FIRE: HOW GREAT LEADERS ARE MADE": It's very, very big. Not legally, but politically, it's a very, very big deal.
This is a President who was marching upward. For the first time in his presidency, he's got his numbers up, people are feeling better about the economy, for all sorts of reasons, to believe that he can now present himself - the fears that people like me have, about how old is he and can he govern well. Those fears will be dissipated if he were able to stay on that track.
But now, along comes this gigantic story, which was totally unexpected, and it's knocked that - the knock for six-
GERGEN: -the original plan, now.
But I do think that they, that the Biden people, they may be making a big mistake, Anderson. I may be wrong about this. I think they've done a wonderful job being cooperative with the government, and they've done it, quote, by the book, as they were saying.
But I don't think sitting there, hunkering down now, just acting like it's not out there, is a good strategy. They're going to get creamed doing that.
COOPER: There's also been the drip, drip, drip of information.
COOPER: Some of that unpreventable because they didn't know a Special Counsel was coming.
COOPER: But they did know when they had the President talk about the first batch of documents that were found-
COOPER: -they had already known that there were other documents found.
COOPER: You would think they might have just jumped - announced that all at once?
GERGEN: Exactly. That's why they could have put that out there.
GERGEN: And as matters now stand, that long delay in putting it out there is going to encourage people to believe, well what are they hiding?
GERGEN: And that's where they - there's a temptation in every one of these kinds of crises, to hunker down. And it's the wrong temptation. It's the wrong temptation to listen to - look to - you going all the way back to Iran/Contra, and other kind of crises, like that. You've just got to get the facts out.
GERGEN: "These are the facts we know. There's some facts we don't know. And we'll keep you posted."
COOPER: Jackie, do you think this largely takes away the White House's ability to criticize former President Trump's handling of classified documents? Obviously, yes, big differences between the two.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yes.
COOPER: But how often does nuance breakthrough in political discourse, these days? I mean, rarely.
KUCINICH: Well, yes. And that's the thing, right? This definitely muddies the waters in a way that, I think, Republicans are elated about.
I mean, going into, particularly on the House Republican majority, there was a perception, particularly among Democrats, that a lot of these investigations were going to be essentially fishing expeditions. Well, because of this, they were thrown a fish, and they're actually able to grab onto something. And this, it does mute the ability to criticize President Trump in the - former President Trump in the same way.
And let's be clear, this isn't happening in a vacuum. We all kind of expect Biden to announce his plans for the coming presidential election in short order. We think it's the beginning of this year. So, does this affect - I think there's a real question about that. Does this affect, on that timing, should this continue, in the weeks and months to come?
COOPER: Congressman Dent, as we reported, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan is launching this investigation into the DOJ. Should the Biden administration be concerned about Republican oversight on this?
CHARLIE DENT, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE - PENNSYLVANIA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely, they should, because Jim Jordan must be absolutely giddy and salivating over this. I mean, politically, as just discussed, the waters have been muddied, even though there are real differences between the two cases.
But, Joe Biden, he ran for president on being competent. This looks like he was careless, and reckless, or his people were. I mean, for him to go out there and say that - well, first, bad news does not get better with time. The fact that they're releasing this out in bits and pieces, "Oh, yes, we found some, by the Corvette, locked in the garage." I mean, this is really not helping his case.
And plus, now that there is a Special Counsel appointed, again, that's just more reasons for the Republicans to picket them. What they'll find out? I have no idea. But, as a political matter, I think Republicans are thrilled because this really diverts attention away from many of their own problems. And so, they should be - they're in a much better position than they were one week ago.
COOPER: I mean, David, I guess, Republicans, is there a Catch 22, for them? I mean, if they cry foul about this, about the mishandling by the Biden administration, wouldn't that also put attention on President Trump's handling?
GERGEN: Yes, I think they've gotten a little overheated here in the last few days in their criticism. And I do think they are the ones who want to step back and let the story be told by others.
But among other things, right now, Anderson, when you're in one of these situations in the White House, you've got your team, your party is out, in the Congress and elsewhere, and you need to feed them things that they can use to defend you with. And the Biden people are not providing them the handles, the arguments, the counterarguments.
One of the things, for example, that has taken some of the sting off this, to me, is what we've experienced in recent years, is we've had an explosion in the number of documents that are classified now.
COOPER: Right, there's over-classification.
GERGEN: Over-classification. Pat Moynihan, 15 years ago, headed up a bipartisan commission to look at secrecy. And what he found was there were 2 million people in the federal government who could slap classifications on documents. And there were 1 million people in private industry who had the capacity to put-
COOPER: It's a lot.
GERGEN: -classifications on documents. And so, naturally, things just took off. And it made people, inside the government, increasingly complacent. And what you're seeing, I think, and have - finding these, some of these documents, on a garage, for God's sakes, is a sloppiness, a massive sloppiness-
GERGEN: -on people who don't understand these. And actually, this is quite sensitive.
GERGEN: We should take this seriously. But they've been engulfed by a lot of this other stuff where, as Jim Sciutto was saying earlier today, on your - on this channel, he said, basically, you used to have a sandwich down, for lunch, and then you put a stamp out, again, begin putting the classification on it.
COOPER: Yes. Jackie, I mean, you'd mentioned this before. But, I mean, do you really think it potentially impacts Biden's expected announcement for running?
KUCINICH: I don't know. I don't know, Anderson. I think it really depends. I mean, I don't think it's going to impact his decision whether or not to run certainly.
But we were going into this year, as Phil Mattingly mentioned, you had tagging on to the Senate. Republicans were in complete disarray, fighting amongst themselves.
You had the economy getting better. You had Biden touting the achievements from last year. And this really has kind of hit a wall, as a result of these revelations about these documents. So certainly, it dampens the momentum that this White House had, potentially going into a future announcement.
COOPER: And Congressman Dent, I mean, Senator Chris Coons, the Democrat from Delaware, obviously a big Biden ally, he was arguing that voters don't care about the President's handling of classified documents, that they're more concerned about gas prices, grocery prices.
That's essentially the same arguments Republicans were always making in the lead up to the midterm elections, and about stuff on Russia.
Do you think Coons is right?
DENT: Yes, Chris Coons is a good friend. And I think he is generally right on this question. But again, but if you're Joe Biden, you really don't want this issue around. The Special Counsel, sniffing around, nothing good will come of it.
And it's true. Biden's had good news. And Chris Coons is probably right that this is not the primary focus of voters.
But still, not a great issue, because it really speaks to a carelessness, and a recklessness, where Joe Biden has done his best to contrast himself with Donald Trump, who was always very careless, and reckless on many matters. And it just kind of undermines his whole argument.
But, at the end of the day, you're right, or Chris Coons is right, that most voters are concerned about the prices of groceries, and gasoline, and everything else they're dealing with.
DENT: Housing and whatnot.
COOPER: Yes. Charlie Dent, David Gergen, Jackie Kucinich, appreciate it. Thank you.
GERGEN: Thank you.