Secretary of the Senate refuses Joe Biden’s request to search for alleged complaint

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  • Following Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s Friday request that the Secretary of the Senate release any alleged harassment complaint filed by Tara Reade, the Secretary has responded that it will not disclose any such information.
  • Reade previously told Business Insider she filed a formal sexual harassment complaint — without mentioning the assault allegation — with the Senate. She could not recall which office within the Senate’s bureaucracy she approached.
  • Biden said on Friday that such a record would have been filed to the Senate’s Fair Employment Practices Office, which was established to handle labor issues.
  • Those records are controlled by the Senate, whose rules would bar the release of Reade’s alleged complaint until 2043, nearly two decades from now.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Secretary of the Senate has denied Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s request to search for a harassment complaint allegedly submitted by a former staffer who claims that Biden sexually assaulted her while she worked for him in the 1990s.

In a letter sent Friday to Secretary of the Senate Julie E. Adams, Biden requested “that you take or direct whatever steps are necessary to establish the location of the records of this Office, and once they have been located, to direct a search for the alleged complaint and to make public the results of this search.”

“I would ask that the public release include not only a complaint if one exists, but any and all other documents in the records that relate to the allegation,” the letter continues.

On Monday, however, a spokesperson for the Secretary of the Senate told Insider that any records of such a harssment complaint are sealed by law. The “Senate Legal Counsel advises that the Secretary has no discretion to disclose any such information as requested in Vice President Biden’s letter of May 1,” the spokesperson said in a statement

The office cited “the law’s strict confidentiality requirements… and the Senate’s own direction that disclosure of Senate Records is not authorized if prohibited by law,” in making their decision.

—Nicole Einbinder (@NicoleEinbinder) May 4, 2020

Biden spoke publicly for the first time last week about the sexual assault allegation lodged against him by the former staffer, Tara Reade, telling MSNBC that “it never happened.” 

Reade first came forward on a podcast in March to detail her allegations against the former vice president. Since then, she has told multiple outlets, including Insider, that Biden pushed her up against a wall, reached under her skirt, and penetrated her with his fingers in spring or summer 1993. Last week, Reade’s former neighbor Lynda LaCasse told Insider that Reade had discussed the assault allegations with her in the mid-’90s.

Reade has said that she believes Biden’s Senate papers, housed at the University of Delaware, could contain notes and personnel records that corroborate her harassment claims against the former senator. While Biden refuses to open his papers to the public, his campaign operatives have accessed those documents in the past year, Insider reported last week.

Reade told Insider that in addition to raising complaints internally within Biden’s office, she also filed a formal sexual harassment complaint — without mentioning the assault allegation — with the Senate. Though she said she could not recall which office within the Senate’s bureaucracy she approached, a complaint like the one Reade described would most likely have been filed with the Senate Office of Fair Employment Practices, which was established to handle labor issues. It subsequently became known as the Office of Compliance, and is now called the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights.

Under Senate rules, records of complaints to the Fair Employment Practices Office are to remain sealed for 50 years, meaning that if Reade indeed filed one about her treatment in Biden’s office, it won’t become public until 2043 — more than twenty years from now.

It’s also possible that the complaint has been destroyed. According to a 2007 records retention schedule for the Senate Office of Compliance, all “confidential requests for advice/information, counseling, mediation, [and] administrative hearings” are designated “temporary” records and ordered destroyed after 10 years.

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