Biden says “there’s no there there” on classified documents. Here’s what that means.

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While answering questions on his handling of classified documents, President Biden told reporters on Thursday: “There’s no there there.” But what does the saying mean?

The phrase originates from author Gertrude Stein’s 1937 autobiography, “Everybody’s Autobiography.” Describing her childhood home, Stein wrote:

“…what was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about it if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there.”

Stein used the words to explain that the home she grew up in was physically no longer there and that the landscape around it had changed. But these days, it has taken on a different meaning.

The expression is now used to indicate that there is nothing of interest or importance regarding a particular subject or issue. It is somewhat similar to another often-used expression when discussing would-be political scandals: nothingburger.

When asked Thursday why the White House didn’t disclose the existence of the documents in November before the midterm elections, President Biden said:

“We found a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place. We immediately turned them over to the Archives and the Justice Department. We’re fully cooperating, looking forward to getting this resolved quickly. I think you’re gonna find there’s nothing there. I have no regrets. I’m following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. That’s exactly what we’re doing. There’s no there there.”

The idiom has often been used in the political arena, including a notable utterance from former President Trump’s attorney during Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020. Former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile also used the phrase on “Face the Nation” in 2016 when referencing leaked Hillary Clinton emails.





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