FBI Searches Biden's Home; Harris Speaks Out For Abortion Rights : The NPR Politics Podcast The White House said FBI agents searched President Biden's Delaware home on Friday, finding more items with classified markings. The search took place voluntarily, and without a search warrant.

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Florida on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Her speech came alongside new announcements in White House policy concerning reproductive rights.

This episode: White House correspondent Scott Detrow, politics reporter Deepa Shivaram, and national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

This episode was produced by Elena Moore and Casey Morell. It was edited by Casey Morell. Our executive producer is Muthoni Muturi. Research and fact-checking by Devin Speak.

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FBI Searches Biden's Home; Harris Speaks Out For Abortion Rights

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JULIO: Hi. This is Julio (ph) in St. Paul, Minn. I am cross-country skiing on Pike Island where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers meet with gorgeous woods, tame deer and breathtaking views. It's just me, my skis and, of course, your podcast. This episode was recorded at...


I feel like our podcast is intruding on that tranquil scene.


DETROW: It's 11:58 Eastern on Monday, January 23.

JULIO: Things may have changed by the time you hear this, but NPR will always be with me on the trails during the Twin Cities' fabulous winters. The deer say, hi and good job, by the way. OK. Here's the show.


MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Pretty nice - that's a really good time stamp.

SHIVARAM: Hi to the deer.

DETROW: So I feel like you shouldn't listen to a podcast in that nice, quiet setting. I don't know.

LIASSON: Yeah, it would wreck the vibe.

DETROW: (Laughter) And we care about the vibe, don't we?

LIASSON: That's right. We do.

SHIVARAM: We love the vibes.

DETROW: Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Scott Detrow. I cover the White House.

SHIVARAM: I'm Deepa Shivaram. I cover politics.

LIASSON: I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent.

DETROW: It's good to be back on the podcast after parental leave - first podcast in six months.

SHIVARAM: Welcome back.

LIASSON: Yeah, glad to have you back.

DETROW: I'm happy to be here. I don't know if President Biden is that happy this morning because his document dilemma took another major turn this weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The FBI searched President Joe Biden's home in Delaware on Friday and discovered six more documents that contained classified markings. Some of those documents dated back to Biden's time in the Senate. Agents also took some of Biden's handwritten notes from his years as vice president. Biden's personal...

DETROW: A few things to note before we talk about it - the search was, as you heard, voluntary. Biden's lawyer said they cooperated. So this was not the FBI showing up with a subpoena - you know, as happened in Mar-a-Lago this summer. President Biden does say that there's no there there. He said that late last week. But, Mara, the FBI searching the home of a sitting president for 13 hours, whether or not it was coordinated beforehand, that sure feels pretty substantial to me.

LIASSON: Yes. And it's why Democrats are exasperated with Joe Biden and worried about this story. This is a classic Washington tick, tick, tick story. Ah, FBI searches his house. We don't know what's there. We don't know what these documents are. And, of course, since something similar, but not exactly the same, happened with former President Trump - he resisted a subpoena, didn't want to turn over documents - there's going to be a lot of political equivalence drawn, and it's just bad politics.

DETROW: And speaking of the vibe, Deepa, you were traveling with the vice president this week - and we're going to talk more about that in the second half of this podcast - but you were with a lot of people in the Biden administration the day after this major development broke. What was the mood and feeling there?

SHIVARAM: Yeah. The vibe from the Harris side of things is almost like the opposite in a way. And as this story was kind of developing and unfolding and we were finding out, you know, what information we have so far, Harris was outside of the Washington bubble entirely. She was traveling all over the West Coast. She was in Arizona, California and then, obviously, in Tallahassee for this major speech on Roe that we'll talk about later. But it was almost like this two parallel things - right? - where she's out there talking about drought and climate change and abortion rights, and, meanwhile, this is all unfolding with these documents with the president back in D.C. while he spent the weekend in Rehoboth. And so it was kind of interesting to see that they were kind of on two very separate planes here, if that makes sense. And she hasn't commented at all. You know, she didn't stop for questions with reporters on this trip. And this is not something I think they're, you know, eager to have her dive into by any means. But I'm positive that this is something that she'll be having to answer for in the coming days as well.

DETROW: So there's the investigation front here, whatever the Department of Justice - and it's worth pointing out again that a special prosecutor is taking charge of this investigation - whatever the Department of Justice finds. We know that there have been documents at the Penn Biden Center in D.C., documents in Biden's house in Wilmington, these additional documents that were turned up on Friday during the search in Wilmington. There's also the political aspect, the public relations aspect, how this is or isn't hurting the president politically. Mara, I thought it was pretty notable that you had a lot of Democratic allies of Joe Biden criticizing him in interviews this week and not rallying around him, saying this is nothing at all, but saying, yeah, this isn't great.

LIASSON: Yeah, that's serious. They're worried. They're exasperated that this happened to Biden. They're worried that it has political impact. At the very least, it makes it impossible for them to criticize former President Trump for mishandling classified documents. And they're worried because Biden doesn't have a lot of margin for error. He's about to announce his reelection campaign. And this kind of story is - goes on and on and on.

DETROW: Yeah. And the White House criticizes reporters for going back to this criticism and pointing this out. But it is relevant when it comes to the politics of this, and that is the defensive, and at times pretty evasive, messaging we've gotten from the White House throughout this entire investigation. It's just one example here. Here's Ian Sams, the White House spokesperson who's taking the lead on this issue, speaking this morning to MSNBC's "Morning Joe."


IAN SAMS: I'm going to stress this again - and I understand that there's a desire for public disclosure of information, that there's a desire for facts to come out - but it's important that the full set of facts be gathered by the Justice Department and then presented publicly so that people can understand all of these details. That is the job of the Justice Department - an independent, strong Justice Department - to do. And so we're going to be fully cooperative with that process to ensure that they have all the information they need to define the full set of facts. And then we'll be able to talk publicly more about the conclusion of that investigation and what it uncovered.

DETROW: And one other thing along these lines, on Friday, Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary, was asked directly, you know, the president's going to his Rehoboth Beach house this weekend. It's mid-January. That seems unusual. Does this have anything to do with the investigation? And she said, well, the president often travels to Delaware. I don't have anything else to add. That's almost a direct quote, a little bit of a paraphrase. But, Deepa, one more time to the vibes. The vibes in the...

SHIVARAM: (Laughter).

DETROW: ...Pressroom are pretty hostile right now, and I have to imagine that's going to continue this week.

SHIVARAM: Yeah, the vibes are off, Scott, and it's just one of those things where you see them sort of like spinning in circles a little bit. And, like, Ian from the counsel's office has been doing a number of press appearances and hits and sort of trying to get ahead on this, but they're not exactly answering our questions, and there's still a lot of questions that remain. And so, yeah, you're sort of seeing this merry-go-round, if you will.

LIASSON: But that's a conscious strategy. You know, Karine Jean-Pierre has been told, we can't answer these questions right now. And you heard Ian Sams say that at some point in the future the Department of Justice will lay everything out and explain everything at once. Well, they have to hope that that moment comes as soon as possible because, basically, every day is torture until that happens.



DETROW: All right. Let's take a quick break. When we're back, what the White House did to mark the anniversary of the Roe. v. Wade decision.

And we're back. Sunday was the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Of course, that decision was overturned last summer in another landmark Supreme Court case. Democrats are now on the offensive to try to use this as a political issue. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at an event in Tallahassee, Fla., this weekend to mark the occasion.


VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: And can we truly be free if so-called leaders claim to be, quote - I quote - "on the vanguard of freedom" while they dare to restrict the rights of the American people and attack the very foundations of freedom?


DETROW: Deepa, as we mentioned, you were there. Let's start with this. Tallahassee, so-called leaders - not that subtle to me, is it?

SHIVARAM: No, it's really not that subtle. And she pretty much took Ron DeSantis' words there and threw it back at him in Tallahassee, the city where the governor's mansion is. He used that phrase, freedom's vanguard, in an address. And she sort of took that and kind of her whole speech yesterday was kind of taking this idea of freedom that Ron DeSantis talks about often and using it to her benefit and to say, you know, that how can we have all of these freedoms and, you know, the land of the free, the home of the brave is the phrase that she kind of used. And she said, you know, how can we be free if women don't have control of their own bodies?

And so I think her role in this moment was to be a morale booster. People were saying that the morale amongst people who are, you know, fighting for abortion access is really low, especially in a place like Florida where the state legislature is meeting in the next couple weeks to try and pass even more abortion restrictions. They wanted someone to kind of come in from the White House, who they see as an ally, to sort of be someone who they can get excited about and remind them that - you know, one person I talked to said that it feels like Florida is a lost cause on reproductive rights. And so having someone like Harris there was really energizing for them.

DETROW: But I think that gets to the question. And, you know, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is considering a run for president. Democrats right now do see abortion access as a powerful political issue. They feel like that played a big role in how the midterms turned out. But at the same time, the Biden administration can't change the Supreme Court right now. Republicans control the House. So codifying Roe v. Wade feels like a political nonstarter. So what was the message in terms of substantive action over the next two years from Harris?

SHIVARAM: The only new thing that Harris announced yesterday was this memorandum that the president signed, which essentially urges, nudges departments in this administration, like HHS and the Department of Justice, to make sure that medicated abortions are accessible. And that's kind of the thing that you have to keep in mind in the big picture of all of this is, as all of these Republican legislatures around the country are trying to limit abortion access, they're doing it in different ways now that Roe was overturned, and medicated abortions are kind of the next topic that people are coming to. And so that was something that Harris talked about yesterday in her speech and what the memorandum that Biden signed was about. But like you said, it's not like there are big, sweeping actions coming from the White House.

DETROW: Mara, for years the Roe anniversary was a big rallying point for people who oppose abortion rights. I guess it makes political sense that the momentum here would shift and that it would be the side that lost the big ruling that's the one with the motivation to show up and hold big rallies and big political messages on these anniversaries.

LIASSON: That's how it works. The anti-abortion movement began when Roe was decided way back in the 1970s. But the interesting thing about the politics of this issue is that the anti-abortion forces won the legal battle before they won the battle for public opinion. They didn't win the battle for hearts and minds. The majority of Americans still believe that abortion should be, in the old phrase that Bill Clinton used, safe, legal and rare. That was Roe. Roe was the consensus - legal abortion up to the point of viability, which they defined at around 23 weeks.

Now they're kind of like the dog that caught the car. The anti-abortion forces have to reconsider their strategy. Where are they going to draw the line? How are they going to define pro-life? When Ron DeSantis signs a law that makes abortion legal up to 15 weeks, do they want to pressure Republicans for a more complete ban on abortion? Do they want to pressure Congress for a national ban? These are questions that they haven't answered yet. And what kind of dynamic will that create inside the Republican presidential primary? That's what Ron DeSantis is thinking about right now. He's not thinking about majority public opinion. And for Democrats, it's an opportunity. They've been on the defensive for many, many years. But Dobbs helped them keep their losses to a minimum in the midterm election. Donald Trump has even said that Dobbs hurt Republicans in the midterms.

DETROW: All right. That is it for today. It is great to be back in the podcast with everybody. I'm Scott Detrow. I cover the White House.

SHIVARAM: I'm Deepa Shivaram. I cover politics.

LIASSON: And I'm Mara Liasson, national political correspondent.

DETROW: Thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.


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