Several classified documents from President Joe Biden’s time as vice president were discovered in a private office last fall, Biden’s lawyers acknowledged Monday.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked the U.S. attorney in Chicago to investigate the matter, a source familiar with the matter told CNN., And congressional Republicans are taking note.
Biden’s lawyers say they found the government materials when they closed the Washington, DC-based office in November. Ben Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement – used by Biden as part of his relationship with the University of Pennsylvania Honorary Professor 2017 to 2019.
Less than a dozen classified documents were found in Biden’s office, another source told CNN. It’s unclear what the documents were about or why they were taken to Biden’s private office. Federal office holders must discard official documents and classified records when their government service ends.
“The White House is cooperating with the National Archives and the Department of Justice on the release of Obama-Biden administration records, including a small number of documents with classified identities,” said Richard Saber, special counsel to President Biden. In a statement. “The president used the space sporadically from mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 campaign, when the president’s personal lawyers were packing files in a locked cabinet in preparation for vacating office space at the Ben Biden Center in Washington, DC. . On the day of the discovery, November 2, 2022, the White House Counsel’s Office notified the National Archives. The next morning the archives seized the material.
“The discovery of these documents was made by the president’s lawyers,” Saber added. “The documents were not the subject of a previous request or investigation by the Archives. Since that discovery, the President’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in the process of ensuring that Obama-Biden administration records remain in the Archives’ possession.
CBS News First reported in the papers.
At a summit in Mexico City on Monday evening, Biden ignored reporters’ shouted questions about the classified documents. Garland, who attended the summit, sat to the left of the president.
A senior administration official traveling with Biden says the issue won’t be a distraction.
“Nothing has changed in his schedule,” the official said. “He is focused on the summit and meeting with our closest neighbors.”
The classified material includes some top-secret files with the designation “Sensitive Compartmentalized Information,” also known as SCI, which is used for highly sensitive information obtained from intelligence sources.
After the discovery, Biden’s lawyers immediately contacted the National Archives and Records Administration, which began looking into the matter, the source said. Biden’s team cooperated with NARA, which later deemed the situation a mistake because the documents were not protected, the source said.
In November, NARA sent a recommendation to the Justice Department to look into the matter, a source familiar with the situation told CNN.
U.S. Attorney John Lash Jr. in Chicago is prosecuting the case. Lash is one of the rare Trump-term holders not to have been asked to resign after Biden’s inauguration. He was appointed by Trump in 2017 and confirmed unanimously by the Senate. Illinois’ two Democratic senators said they wanted Lash to remain in his post in 2021 to “complete sensitive investigations,” though they did not reveal what investigations he was involved in.
The items were discovered as special counsel Jack Smith investigates former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified records at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Federal investigators have recovered at least 325 classified documents Trump as part of their investigation.
Republicans are already asking Biden questions.
“President Biden has been very critical of President Trump improperly taking classified documents home or anywhere, and now it appears he may have done the same,” said GOP Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the incoming House Oversight Leader. “How ironic.”
Gomer pointed out that his committee’s oversight of the National Archives falls under his committee’s jurisdiction, but while they were in the minority, NARA referred Republicans to the Justice Department when NARA sent questions related to former Trumps.
“Maybe they’ll answer our questions now because it’s about two presidents,” Gomer said, adding that he plans to ask the archives for more information later this week.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did not say whether he believed the new GOP Congress should investigate Biden, but said the reaction to Trump’s possession of classified documents was driven by politics.
“I think that proves what they’ve tried to do to President Trump,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said of Biden’s team: “They’ve been around for a long time. “President Trump has never been in office before and just got out and got out. Here an individual (he) spent his last 40 years in office.
McCarthy added: “It shows they’re trying to play politics with President Trump.”
However, the Trump dossier saga unfolded differently than the Biden situation.
According to Biden’s lawyers, they turned over the classified materials and notified NARA as soon as they were found. With Trump, NARA realized that key records were missing, and NARA officials negotiated with Trump’s team over the return of government documents.
Trump eventually gave 15 boxes of the stuff to NARA. But federal investigators later rightly suspected he was in possession of dozens of additional classified files. So, DOJ lawyers obtained a grand jury subpoena and then got a judge’s permission to search Mar-a-Lago to find the documents.
Since the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago in August — a search that revealed dozens of additional classified files — Trump has encouraged wild and unsubstantiated allegations of his predecessor’s mishandling of government records. News of secret recordings in Biden’s private office is sure to provide new fodder for Trump, who has already announced his 2024 presidential bid.
On that day True communityTrump wrote: “When is the FBI going to raid Joe Biden’s multiple homes, maybe even the White House? These documents are definitely not classified.
Biden criticized Trump after seeing a photo taken by the FBI that showed a series of documents found on Trump’s property last summer.
“How could that happen? How could someone—anyone—be so reckless? Biden said. “I thought what data could compromise the sources and methods? The names of the people I helped with it or, and so on. … Totally irresponsible.”
CNN contributor and former Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who served on the House Select Committee that conducted the investigation on Jan. 6, said Monday that the hearing could take some of the political headlines away from Trump.
“The only thing the former president needs now is to be able to cast doubt and say, ‘Look, this happened,'” Kinzinger told Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “So from a political perspective, it’s really, really bad. Not just for the president, but for the idea of actually getting justice through the political system,” he said.
Kinsinger speculated that the investigation into Biden will come down to who the former vice president’s staff handled the documents and whether the possession of the documents was deliberate or an accident.
“There will be subtleties,” Kinsinger said. “I tell you, the U.S. attorney in Chicago is a very honest man, Mr. Lash, so I think we can take his word for it.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
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