Obama defense secretary blasts Biden's handling of classified documents, Ukraine war

Gates said Biden should educate the public about why supporting Ukraine is necessary.

Updated: January 30, 2023 - 4:24pm

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Obama administration Defense Secretary Robert Gates is criticizing President Joe Biden's response to Ukraine and his mishandling of classified documents from his time as vice president.

"This is basically the responsibility of the president to educate people about why this is necessary," Gates said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

He stressed that Biden needs to tell the American public why the U.S. needs to "confront" Russian President Vladimir Putin for waging war on Ukraine "so we don't end up confronting him somewhere where our own forces are directly involved."

Gates said the message needs to be "repeated over, and over, and over again," including by members of Congress in their home districts. 

Biden, who was President Obama's vice president, should have acted more quickly to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine, as the current timeline is six months to a year or more before the equipment arrives, Gates also said.

"A lot of this could've been done sooner," he added.

When asked about the classified documents discovered in Biden's home and former office, Gates said the Pentagon's rule is "basically don't take anything" and that it should be up to individuals to act appropriately. 

"I think it's about people being more responsible. I think there's an element of carelessness," he said. "In some cases there may be intent to take the documents. I think maybe we ought to look at the way transitions take place, so that there's a more orderly process for these classified documents."

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