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Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden addressed the sexual assault allegation made against him for the first time on MSNBC.

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The secretary of the Senate does not have the authority to comply with former Vice President Joe Biden’s request to release any record of Tara Reade’s alleged harassment complaint from 1993, her office said Monday.

“Based on the law’s strict confidentiality requirements… and the Senate’s own direction that disclosure of Senate Records is not authorized if prohibited by law…, Senate Legal Counsel advises that the Secretary has no discretion to disclose any such information as requested in Vice President Biden’s letter of May 1,” Secretary Julie Adams’ office told Biden, according to a statement to USA TODAY.

Biden had called on the National Archives to look for any complaint by Reade, who now alleges that Biden also sexually assaulted her when she worked for his Senate office in the early ’90s. Biden denies the allegation and has said he does not know of any complaint ever filed against him from that time.

“This, never, ever happened,” Biden said. “I don’t know what is motivating her. … But it’s irrelevant. It never happened. It never happened. Period.”

Reade told the Associated Press she filed a report with a Senate personnel office about harassment, not assault, but that she did not receive a copy of it. She also said she brought it up with supervisors in Biden’s office at the time, but former employees interviewed by media outlets say they have no recollection of any such conversation.

What we know: Former staffer Tara Reade says Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993

“There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be – the National Archives,” Biden said in a statement Friday. “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 spokesperson for the National Archives told USA TODAY on Friday that any such record would have remained under the control of the Senate. Now, the Senate secretary’s office says she has no discretion to comply with Biden’s request.

‘This never happened’: Joe Biden denies sexual assault allegation, calls on National Archives to release records

Under the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991, records related to any alleged violation are held under strict confidentiality requirements. The secretary’s office also cited a provision of a Senate resolution against disclosing records when they are not authorized by law.

The Biden campaign, through attorney Bob Bauer, replied to the Senate secretary’s office on Monday asking for further clarity on three points: whether the existence of any such records is also confidential; if any such record could be lawfully disclosed to anyone such as Reade herself; and whether the Senate could release procedures, forms or instructions that would have been used in 1993 by the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices when processing such complaints.

Critics have also called upon Biden to allow access to his archive of Senate papers held at the University of Delaware. The documents will not be made public until two years after Biden retires from public life.

Biden’s archives: Joe Biden questioned about University of Delaware archives, where he donated Senate records

The former vice president was pressed on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last week about why he would not make the same request for his Delaware papers to be searched as he did for the Archives. Reade has said she believes her complaint may be in the university’s library. 

“My archives do not contain personnel files,” Biden said. He expressed concern about files being “taken out of context” during his presidential run and wondered who would be tasked with going through them.

Analysis: Biden’s denial was unequivocal. That doesn’t mean he’s put this issue to rest.

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