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Take a comprehensive look at Tara Reade's claims against Biden

If former Vice President Joe Biden does not want the accusations of sexual assault to follow him throughout his campaign for president, he needs to provide access to any records that may provide information about the claim raised by his former staff assistant, Tara Reade.

It is also the right thing to do.

Reade claims that in the spring of 1993 then Senator Biden, acting without any hint of consent on her part, cornered her in a deserted hallway, backed her against a wall and penetrated her with his fingers.

“They aren’t true,” said Biden of the accusations. “This never happened.”

Reade’s story has changed over time. She has been complimentary in the past to the man she now accuses of assaulting her many years ago. Reade has talked of filing a complaint at the time, but says she did not retain it and now says it did not explicitly allege sexual assault. Reporting from the New York Times and Washington Post found no pattern of similar accusations by other women associated with the senator’s long time in office.

All of this goes to witness credibility. None of it means an assault could not have happened. Given the trauma and stigma associated with a sexual assault, given the relative power difference between a senator and a staffer, it is not surprising that a woman would not feel the courage to speak up for many years, or that her story would become confused.

More women are speaking up because of the #MeToo movement. And that’s a good thing.

The fact is that the truth will likely never be clear.

But what is true is that between the two parties it is the Democrats who have led the way on the need to take seriously allegations raised against powerful men who have used their positions to try to get away with sexual assault or harassment. The party would surrender the high ground on this issue if it did not treat Reade’s claims with the utmost seriousness.

To his credit, Biden has not verbally attacked his accuser, not sought to discredit her or tried to speculate on her motives. He has simply asserted that he did not do what she alleges.

What is also true is that Republicans would love the opportunity to spend the campaign trumping up allegations that the Biden campaign is hiding something. Yes, that would be hypocritical, given that Republicans have shown no interest in demanding more information about the many allegations of sexual misconduct, including rape, that two dozen women have made against President Trump. But the Republicans will do it, just as in 2016 they kept alluding to hidden secrets in Hillary Clinton’s emails, just as in 2004 they spuriously attacked John Kerry’s Vietnam War service, suggesting facts were being hidden.

Biden should not afford his opponents that chance.

He has instructed the secretary of the Senate to search and release any documents or complaints that relate to the allegation, saying he is confident there are none. This is an appropriate step.

Biden should do the same for any relevant records that surfaced during the vetting process when he was considered, and ultimately chosen, as the vice-presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in 2008.

Then there are the voluminous records of Biden’s Senate service donated to the University of Delaware and sealed until Biden retires from public life. Biden said they do not include personnel files and so could not shed any light on the matter. And he is understandably reluctant to simply open them and let his opponents dig for nuggets that could be manipulated to damage his candidacy.

But if he provides no access to these records the accusations will continue that Biden has something to hide.

Why not appoint a small panel of legal experts in the field of sexual misconduct in the workplace, paid for by the Democratic National Committee but given full independence, to review the records and release only information — if any — pertinent to the matter at hand. Reade worked for the senator for a relatively short time and narrowing the review to around that period should not be too difficult.

If damaging information is found, Biden and the party would have to reassess his candidacy.

If not, Biden, having done that much to be fully transparent, can credibly challenge his opponent to do likewise, and release his tax returns while he is at it.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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