Updated May 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate secretary says it does not have authority to release Biden records on Tara Reade

Joe Biden.
Photo: Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The secretary of the Senate said Monday that it cannot comply with Joe Biden's request to release any documents pertaining to a sexual harassment complaint that Tara Reade allegedly made against him in 1993.

The state of play: The office said it had been advised by the Senate's legal counsel that it "has no discretion to disclose" any information pertaining to Reade because of confidentiality requirements under federal law.

  • Reade has stated she filed a written complaint with a "Senate personnel office" while working in his office as a staffer.
  • Biden said last week those records would not be with his Senate papers currently held at the University of Delaware — but at the National Archives, under the secretary of the Senate's purview.
  • He also personally addressed Reade's allegation of sexual assault for the first time, saying it "never happened."

Bob Bauer, an attorney on the Biden team, responded to the secretary's office with three questions:

  1. Is just the existence of any such records subject to the same prohibition on disclosure?
  2. Is there anyone, such as a complainant, to whom such records, if they exist, could lawfully be disclosed?
  3. Could the Senate release the procedures and related materials, including any standard forms or instructions, that the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices followed in 1993 for the intake and processing of any complaint of this kind?

The big picture: Reade told AP this weekend that even if the complaint were found, that she neither used the phrase "sexual harassment" in it nor described the alleged assault.

  • "I remember talking about him wanting me to serve drinks because he liked my legs and thought I was pretty and it made me uncomfortable. ... I know that I was too scared to write about the sexual assault."
  • "I talked about sexual harassment, retaliation. The main word I used — and I know I didn't use 'sexual harassment' — I used 'uncomfortable.' And I remember 'retaliation.'"
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