Those are the words of Lanny Davis, the Clinton confidante and crisis manager, who wrote a whole book called Truth to Tell on how to handle a public crisis.
Davis’ advice is the exact opposite of the approach of the Biden White House to date around the discovery of classified documents in his possession.
They didn’t tell it early – they waited two months.
They didn’t tell it all – in fact, a statement released on Monday and the President’s words on Tuesday – were almost dishonesty by omission.
As for “tell it yourself,” instead of the President telling the full story, it has fallen to Karine Jean-Pierre to face the press and repeat on a loop that the President takes the matter “seriously.”
But of course, just saying he takes it seriously doesn’t make it so.
It seems like a series of unforced errors, turning what might be a benign situation into something that will surely be the focus of the subpoena power that Republicans now possess after winning the house. Here’s how we got here.
On November 2, Biden lawyers discovered classified documents in an office that the former Vice President used in Washington D.C., associated with the University of Pennsylvania. The National Archives were notified.The Justice Department alerted. However, the public was none the wiser.
The midterm elections were on November 8. On December 20, another discovery was made, this time at Biden’s home in Wilmington. Again, the Justice Department was told – but not the public.
This past Monday, CBS broke the story of the documents found on November 2. The White House released a statement acknowledging that discovery – but not the fact that more documents were found on December 20.
On Tuesday, the President said he was “surprised” to learn of the discovery at the Penn office – making no mention of what was found in Wilmington.
As Howard Baker famously asked about Nixon and Watergate, what did the President know and when did he know it?
It would be curious if he was told about the November 2 discovery – but not the one on December 20.
And if he did know, why didn’t he say so on Tuesday – or a lot sooner?
So far we know that among the documents were a memo from Biden to President Barack Obama, as well as two briefing memos preparing the then-Vice President for phone calls – one with the British Prime Minister, the other with the President of the European Council. It’s unclear how much of this material remains sensitive.
Friday, Judiciary Committee Member Jim Jordan announced an investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents, and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is asking the White House for more documents for his committee’s probe.
Comer pointed out that the address of President Biden’s home where the additional documents were found was the one listed on Hunter Biden’s driver’s license in 2018 – the same year he was conducting business deals with foreign countries.
There is no reason to believe that Biden’s conduct rises to the recklessness exhibited by Trump at Mar-a-Lago. However, Biden is not helping himself. Maybe he’s following bad advice.
Best for him and for the country is that he gets out in front of this immediately. Put down the notes, and explain to the nation what the documents are, why he had them, what led to their discovery, and why two months elapsed before there was public disclosure.
This is what I know for sure: we will learn all those things. Best for the president that it comes from his lips, and not a drip-drip-drip of news leaks.
Mr. President: Tell it early, tell it all and tell it yourself.