Senate office says it lacks 'discretion' to release possible Biden complaint

Ali Vitali and Mike Memoli
Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) speaks about the Coronavirus and the response to it at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, DE.
Michael Brochstein | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

Citing "strict confidentiality requirements," the office of the secretary of the Senate said Monday that it did not have the "discretion" to fulfill a request by former Vice President Joe Biden to find and release any documents pertaining to a complaint by a former staffer accusing him of sexual assault that she said she filed in 1993.

That alleged complaint would be about harassment that Tara Reade, the former staffer, says she experienced working in Biden's office, not the alleged sexual assault.

Noting the confidentiality requirements and "the Senate's own direction that disclosure of Senate records is not authorized if prohibited by law," the Senate secretary's office concluded it had "no discretion to disclose any such information as requested in Vice President Biden's letter."

More from NBC News:

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That response Monday morning prompted questions from Bob Bauer, a lawyer for the Biden campaign, including:

  • Is even the existence of such records subject to rules of disclosure?
  • Can the records be given to anyone, such as the complainant (Reade)?
  • Can the Senate release any procedural materials — including "any standard forms or instructions" — that the 1993 office would have used in processing a complaint such as Reade's?

NBC News has reached out to the Senate secretary about whether Reade could be given access to the complaint she says she filed, if it exists. NBC News has also reached out to Reade to ask if she would support the Senate secretary's finding and make these documents public, if they are found. She did not immediately respond to those questions.

On Saturday, Reade told NBC News in a text: "I filed a complaint re sexual harassment and retaliation but I am not sure what explicit words on that intake form until we all see it again."

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