• Joe Biden has emphatically denied an allegation of sexual assault by a former Senate staffer, Tara Reade, telling MSNBC on Friday that “it never happened.”
  • Reade has said that she complained to Biden’s Senate staff at the time about harassment she experienced while working in his office in the 1990s, and claims that documents corroborating her account might be found at the University of Delaware’s archive of Biden’s documents.
  • Biden said in a statement that the university would not have the relevant documents, and that they could only be found at the National Archives. “The National Archives is where the records are kept at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices,” Biden said, and called for the records to be released.
  • But the Archives told Insider that such documents wouldn’t be kept there, and it’s not entirely clear where the records would be. Documents from the Senate’s Office of Fair Employment Practices are governed by a Senate resolution that bars their release for 50 years.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facing an allegation of sexual assault dating from his time in the Senate, Joe Biden has called for the National Archives to release any records that might shed light on whether a complaint was ever filed against him for sexual misconduct.

There’s an issue though: The National Archives says it probably wouldn’t have them. Rather, they’d be controlled by the Senate, whose rules would bar their release until 2043, nearly two decades from now.

On Friday, Biden spoke publicly for the first time about a sexual assault accusation made against him by a former Senate staffer, Tara Reade, telling MSNBC that “it never happened.” His campaign has previously said that the allegations are not true.

Reade has said she believes Biden’s Senate papers, housed at the University of Delaware, could contain notes and personnel records that would back up her claims. Biden, however, denies the relevant records would be housed there.

In a statement released before his television appearance, Biden called for the release of personnel files that might shed light on any complaints that Reade would have made about any alleged misconduct, but said they were not at the University of Delaware:

“There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be – the National Archives,” Biden said. “The National Archives is where the records are kept at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices. I am requesting that the Secretary of the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document. If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there.”

A spokesman for the archives told Insider said they do not hold records from the Office of Fair Employment Practices that Biden has referenced.

—Nicole Einbinder (@NicoleEinbinder) May 1, 2020

Records from the Senate’s Fair Employment Practices Office, where Reade would likely have directed her complaint, and which today is known as the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights, are governed by a Senate resolution mandating that “records containing personal privacy, information closed by statute, and records of executive nomination are closed for 50 years.”

That means that if Reade’s complaint was filed to the Fair Employment Practices office, the record would remain closed until 2043, more than two decades from now.

Filing a complaint to the Office of Fair Employment practices was a complicated, multi-step process, and not all initial complaints resulted  in formal inquiries. A total of 479 people contacted the office between 1992 and 1995 seeking assistance, according to congressional testimony from 1995. Only 102 entered the office’s five-step “dispute resolution” process, which included a formal complaint and hearing, records showed.

It’s also not clear where any Office of Fair Employment Practices records involving Reade might have ended up. Senate rules require all “noncurrent” records to be transferred to the General Services Administration at the end of each Congress, but GSA did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

A spokesperson for the office of the secretary of the Senate could not say where the Fair Employment Practices records might be located or when they would become public.

Biden’s campaign did not respond to Insider’s questions and request for comment.

The confusion around the location of Biden’s relevant documents, and the elaborate process for both filing and locating any complaint Reade says she made, could complicate efforts to corroborate Reade’s assertion that she had complained to superiors about her treatment in Biden’s office.

Reade alleges that when she was serving as a staffer for Biden in 1993, he pushed her up against a wall in a Senate building, put his hand up her skirt, and digitally penetrated her. She has also alleged that she faced harassment while working in the office during instances where she was told she dressed too provocatively, and was asked to serve drinks at a fundraiser because Biden liked the appearance of her legs.

Reade told Insider that while she never filed a complaint about the assault allegations, she complained to supervisors in Biden’s office about harassment and being made to feel uncomfortable. To address the situation, she said she met with Biden’s chief of staff, Ted Kaufman, who Reade says took notes during the meeting.  Kaufman told Insider that he had no recollection of Reade or any such meeting.

Reade told Insider that Biden’s archive at the University of Delaware could shed light on any reports she filed and any circumstances that led to her firing, but Biden told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that his papers did not include personnel records. 

Michael Crespin, the director of the Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma, which houses the archives of more than 60 former members of Congress, told Insider that it is normal for universities to refuse to accept personnel records with congressional archives, because they contain too much personal information. “Our collection policy restricts the collection of personnel files. We wouldn’t take them,” he said. “These days personnel files would be filled with so much information that can’t be made public that it is easier to just not accept them.”

Asked if the University of Delaware had such a policy when it accepted Biden’s papers, a spokesperson said the school “received the Biden Senatorial Papers as a gift from Vice President Biden. The document related to that gift is a gift agreement. Gift agreements are not public documents.”

The University of Delaware website says that the documents are sealed until Biden retires from public life, though it does not define what they mean by “public life.”

Biden’s campaign has resisted calls to open up the sealed university archives to public scruntiny, but Insider learned that his campaign had dispatched operatives to comb through the documents on at least one occasion.

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