The Curious Case of the Non-Binary Biden Official and the Stolen Vera Bradley Bag

A Biden administration official appears to have blown up their career over a stolen piece of luggage in one of the more bizarre political stories in recent years.


Sam Brinton, who as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy managed spent nuclear fuel for the Biden administration, has been charged with felony theft after allegedly stealing someone else’s luggage from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).

  • Brinton was captured on MSP security footage on Sept. 16 taking a Vera Bradley bag from a luggage carousel that matched the description of a bag that a woman reported missing in September.
  • Law enforcement said the footage captured Brinton taking the bag, removing a luggage tag, and then leaving the baggage claim area “at a quick pace.” Brinton did not check a bag on their trip.
  • The Biden administration official was later seen using the bag on at least two occasions, including on their flight back to DC from MSP, the alleged scene of the crime.
  • According to Insider, “the 26-inch navy blue hard-sided roller bag and its contents were estimated to be worth $2,325.”
  • Brinton initially denied taking the bag, telling police, “If I had taken the wrong bag, I am happy to return it, but I don’t have any clothes for another individual. That was my clothes when I opened the bag.” They subsequently called the officer back two hours later to apologize for not being “completely honest.”
  • Felony theft is punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine under Minnesota law. Brinton’s hearing is scheduled for Dec. 19.
  • Brinton, who identifies as non-binary and uses “they/them” pronouns, was considered a “trailblazing White House employee” before the incident as one of the first openly non-binary federal officials.
  • After the incident was made public, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) sent a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm urging the immediate revocation of Brinton’s security clearance and for the department to initiate a review of its security clearance procedures.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Brinton has been on leave from the Department of Energy for at least a month, according to the Daily Beast.
  • The Independent noted that several of Brinton’s claims did not pass muster, including their claim that they left the clothes from the purloined luggage in a hotel room in St. Paul. No clothing was recovered from the hotel according to the police complaint.
  • The Los Angeles Blade highlighted Brinton’s credentials – dual degrees from MIT, extensive experience in nuclear waste management, and LGBTQ activist – which, frankly, makes the decision to pilfer a Vera Bradley suitcase all the more perplexing.



  • The New York Post reported Brinton allegedly used the stolen suitcase for a month after the incident despite telling police that the bag was taken by accident.
  • As Fox News noted, DOE announced that Dr. Kim Petry would be taking over Brinton’s duties a month ago after they were placed on leave, but the administration did not explain why Brinton took leave until this week.
  • The Washington Examiner emphasized the “weird” aspects of the incident, including the fact that Brinton did not actually check any luggage on the day of the alleged theft and Brinton’s argument that it would be “weirder” to leave a bag than the clothes in it, which have never been recovered.


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© Dominic Moore, 2022