White House aides are privately scrambling to prevent President Biden's classified document scandal from overshadowing his 2024 re-election kickoff, which is expected in the coming days.
While the administration publicly insist that everything is under control, insiders are bracing for more unexpected document discoveries, and Biden is said to be downcast over a sudden burst of critical media coverage, CNN reported.
Officials privately concede the controversy poses "a challenge… in anticipation of an expected announcement that he [Biden] is seeking reelection," CNN reported.
“Behind the scenes, sources said Biden’s grown frustrated at how the saga has played out, particularly the way his administration’s handling of the story has overtaken what had been a positive stretch,” CNN reported.
Democrats have generally downplayed the scandal by insisting that President Trump's handling of classified documents, which prompted an unprecedented FBI raid last year at Mar-A-Lago, is somehow categorically different.
The timing could not be worse, with Biden expected to announce a re-election bid as soon as February.
And yet, despite the flat-footed White House response, it would be inaccurate to say Biden and those closest to him have been taken by surprise.
While the documents weren't publicly disclosed until last week, Biden's lawyers knew of them as far back as November, when the first set was discovered at the Penn Biden Center, a think tank in Washington.
The White House is now facing unusually sharp questioning from ordinarily friendly media and some Democratic politicians as more documents have continued to surface, despite repeated pledges of "transparency" from the administration.
"Once you make a statement, once you have the facts, you have to be full and complete. They weren’t full and complete," Former Alabama Democratic Senator Doug Jones told CNN.
It remains to be seen whether Biden is just experiencing turbulence, or if the scandal will prove a fatal lightning strike to his political ambitions.
Former Obama strategist Axelrod characterized the scandal as a "huge gift to Trump" after Biden criticized his predecessor's handling of classified documents, but Axelrod cautioned that the storm clouds over the White House may clear up sooner than expected.
"My guess is when this thing shakes out that it's going to be less than it appears today, but right now it's a huge pain."