Updated January 14, 2023 at 2:20 PM ET
President Biden faces a Justice Department probe after his attorneys found classified documents at his Delaware home and a Washington, DC office
They were found in multiple cases, with a White House attorney announcing Saturday that five other pages had been found in Biden’s home.
On Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former Justice Department official Robert Hur to lead the DOJ investigation.
“This appointment underscores to the public the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability on particularly sensitive matters and to making decisions that are undeniably guided only by facts and the law,” Garland said Thursday.
The announcement came just days after it was revealed that classified documents had been found in Biden’s private office less than a week before the November midterm elections — a discovery that prompted the DOJ to launch an initial investigation.
The White House has said it cooperated with the DOJ during its review and plans to continue to cooperate with Hur’s special counsel investigation.
“We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced and the President and his attorneys acted immediately upon discovering this error,” Richard Sauber, a White House counsel, said in a statement.
Here’s what we know so far about the Biden documents:
On four occasions, classified documents have been found in Biden’s private residence and a DC office he used before becoming president.
Early last November, Biden’s personal attorneys were packing files from an office he had in Washington for his work at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a think tank founded by the University of Pennsylvania.
There, in a “locked closet,” the White House said, they discovered some classified files that shouldn’t have been there. The documents were handed over to the National Archives.
Then, on November 4, the Inspector General of the National Archives notified the Justice Department of the discovery. By mid-November, Garland had hired John Lausch, a Trump-appointed US attorney in Chicago, to oversee an evaluation of the materials.
On December 20, Biden’s personal attorney, Robert Bauer, informed Lausch that another set of documents had been found in the garage of Biden’s private home in Wilmington, Delaware, that day. These documents were soon seized by the FBI.
On Jan. 11 — two days after CBS News ran a story about the documents — Biden’s personal attorneys searched his homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach. They found a classified document in Biden’s home in Wilmington.
On Thursday, the White House called the review complete. “The search is complete,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
But on Saturday, White House Attorney Sauber said he found five more pages in Biden’s Wilmington home Thursday as he worked with DOJ officials to turn over what he days earlier described as one final page of classified material had described.
The White House says it was unintentional and they will fully cooperate.
Biden said he takes the handling of classified information seriously and is “fully cooperating” with the Justice Department.
The White House said Biden was unaware of the contents of the documents.
Still, the White House made little comment on the existence of a second set of documents. When it confirmed the first discovery at the DC office, the second batch recovered in Delaware was not mentioned. It was only after news reports revealed the subsequent discovery that the White House confirmed it.
On Saturday, Sauber stated that Biden’s personal attorneys — led by Bob Bauer — conducted the searches of Biden’s home. These attorneys had no security clearance. When they found a classified document on Wednesday, they stopped searching that area, he said.
It wasn’t until Thursday night when Sauber, who has a security clearance, went to Wilmington with DOJ officials to give them the final document, did they find five additional pages of classified material, he said.
We don’t know what the documents said or how many were found.
The documents are classified, meaning they have not been publicly described, and are records of Biden’s time as vice president during the Obama administration.
A special counsel will oversee the investigation.
On Thursday, Attorney General Garland appointed a special counsel to lead the Justice Department’s investigation, describing the events as “extraordinary circumstances.” The investigation is being conducted under Department rules, but the Special Counsel is working independently of the Justice Department’s day-to-day oversight – an arrangement aimed at avoiding even the appearance of interference.
Hur, the Special Counsel, is a longtime prosecutor who served on the appointment of then-President Donald Trump as U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland from 2018 to 2021. He has previously worked on a variety of national security, public corruption and corporate fraud cases.
Hur’s appointment follows Garland’s decision last November to appoint former war crimes prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel in two cases involving Trump, including his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.
Critics have accused Biden of hypocrisy and say he should have acknowledged the discovery sooner.
Biden’s critics, including many Republicans, have seized on the revelations to fuel fresh complaints about the Biden administration’s handling of the Trump-secret document saga, including the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago.
“Another faux pas by the Biden administration by treating the law differently based on your political beliefs. Treats President Trump one way, but treats President Biden a very different way,” Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said in a news conference Thursday.
McCarthy and others have also said that Biden should have disclosed the discovery sooner: The first documents were discovered on November 2, just six days before last fall’s midterm elections.
Republicans have already vowed to use their new majority in the House of Representatives to investigate Biden’s handling of the classified documents and the federal authorities’ response.
On Friday, members of the Republican House Judiciary sent a letter to the Attorney General announcing their investigation into the handling of the documents and Hur’s appointment. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La, called for “all documents and communications” between the Justice Department, the FBI and the White House related to the “misuse of classified information.” “. Documents” and the appointment of the Special Counsel.
Trump himself has hammered Biden over the documents on his social media page, Truth Social.
There are parallels to the Trump secret document saga, but the two situations are not identical.
The Presidential Records Act requires all Presidential (and Vice Presidential) documents to be turned over to the National Archives at the end of a term of office. Other rules regulate the storage of classified information.
Now both presidents have broken those rules.
But from what we know so far, there are already important differences between the way the two have handled their respective situations.
In Trump’s case, the National Archives were the first to identify the missing documents and request their return.
Trump initially refused to return them, and his attorneys at times misled federal investigators. After months of back-and-forth between the administration and Trump aides, 15 boxes of documents were returned in January 2022. According to the FBI, the boxes contained 184 classified documents, including 25 marked “Top Secret” and others marked with labels indicating they contained national security information such as “FISA.” But more documents remained at Mar-a-Lago, and eventually, in August, the FBI raided the resort to recover the rest.
In contrast, Biden’s team appears to have found a smaller number of documents and promptly returned them to the federal government.
Still, the revelations about improperly kept documents and the appointment of a special counsel are an “embarrassment” for the Biden administration, said Leon Panetta, who was White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration and secretary of defense under President Obama.
“It’s both embarrassing and damaging to the credibility of the White House because the President has obviously been critical of former President Trump and his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago,” Panetta said in an interview with NPR.
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