Lawmakers Propose New Penalties for Leaders Who Mishandle Docs

Lawmakers Propose Stiffer Penalties for Leaders Who Mishandle Docs

( – People who hold elected positions tend to have access to classified information. Some even handle top-secret files that could cause national security concerns should they fall into the wrong hands. Former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and the current commander in chief, Joe Biden, have all been caught with classified documents at their homes or off-site offices, raising the question of just how common the issue really is. Lawmakers have taken steps to hold those who mishandle documents accountable.

Illinois Reps. Darin LaHood (R) and Mike Quigley (D) introduced a bipartisan bill titled the Classified Documents Accountability Act. The legislation would create a specific process that would take place during administration changes requiring each outgoing president and vice president to log and certify that they turned over any classified documents in their possession to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Anyone caught violating the procedure would face civil penalties as well as removal of security clearance and other stiff repercussions. The legislation would apply to the president, vice president, and all other “high ranking government officials, Intelligence committee members, or military officers.”

The penalties for not complying are stiff. For example, the civil fine for retaining or removing documents without authorization is up to $500,000 per violation. It also garnishes the person’s pension by half and suspends their staffing, use of office space, and travel allowances.

Speaking to CBS News, Quigley expressed his astonishment at just how many officials have mishandled classified material, saying, “there’s not an excuse for it.” He cites his own experience in working on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where he says he has “never [seen] such behavior” before. LaHood echoed the same sentiments. He believes the changes are necessary “to deter this kind of behavior in the future.”

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