Biden is surprised by classified documents as Hill demands more information



President Biden said Tuesday that he was surprised that classified documents were brought into his office after serving as vice president and that he did not know what was in the files as Democratic and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill demanded more information. The news prompted a Justice Department investigation.

In all, about 10 classified documents were found at the Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the Penn Biden Institute in downtown Washington, which Biden founded after leaving the White House in 2017. Biden’s personal attorneys found the documents on November 2 and immediately returned them. Submitted to the National Archives and Documents Administration. The White House confirmed Monday that it would cooperate with the Justice Department.

“I was made aware of this news and I was surprised to learn that there were government documents that were brought into this office,” Biden said at a press conference in Mexico City on Tuesday evening. “But I don’t know what’s in the documents. My lawyers did not offer to ask what kind of document it was. I handed over the boxes — they handed over the boxes to the Archives. We are fully co-operating – we are fully co-operating with the review, which I hope will be completed soon and we will have more details at that time.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has requested from the White House and the National Archives all documents and communications between NARA, the White House, the Justice Department and Biden’s attorneys. regarding confidential documents. While raising concerns about potential political bias in the National Archives.

“NARA launched an unprecedented public raid by the FBI on former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home to obtain presidential records. NARA’s inconsistent handling of the recovery of classified records belonging to former President Trump and President Biden raises questions about political bias at the agency,” Comer wrote in a letter to Acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall.

In addition, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-WV), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, requested a briefing on the Biden documents while renewing his request for classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. , which is at the center of a Justice Department criminal investigation.

“Our classification system exists to protect the most sensitive national security secrets, and we expect to receive information about what happened at Mar-a-Lago and Biden’s office as part of our constitutional oversight duties,” Warner said.

Biden’s files were mixed with other personal documents, including those related to funeral planning for the president’s son, Beau Biden, who died in 2015, said a person familiar with the investigation who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity. has the right to speak in public.

At a press conference in Mexico City, Biden detailed how the documents were found, saying his lawyers cleaned out his office at the Penn Biden Center and found the documents in a box and in his possession. called a “locked cupboard or at least a cupboard”.

“They realized that there were some classified documents in that box,” he said. “And they did what they had to do. They immediately called the archive, immediately called the archive and handed it over to the archive.

Biden’s special counsel, Richard Sauber, said in a statement Monday that the White House is cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation and that Biden’s attorneys quickly turned over the documents to the National Archives, which is processing the records. Presidency, after finding them.

“Since this disclosure, the president’s personal attorneys have been cooperating with the archives and the Department of Justice to ensure that all Obama-Biden administration records are properly archived,” Sauber said.

There are key differences between the Justice Department’s investigation into Biden’s handling of the dossier and the agency’s ongoing criminal investigation into the former Trump’s mishandling of classified documents. According to state court documents, the FBI recovered more than 300 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago last year.

In addition to the volume discrepancy, Biden voluntarily returned the classified documents to the National Archives because Trump repeatedly refused to hand over the documents, and then his lawyers falsely assured him that he had returned them all. confidential information in his possession.

The nature of the documents is also different, people familiar with the two investigations said. Biden’s files have been labeled “classified classified information,” or SCI, while documents recovered from Trump include documents designated as SCI and “special access programs,” or SAP — a category restricted to a very small group of senior military and intelligence officials. A document found at Mar-a-Lago describes a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, The Washington Post previously reported.

“Some SCI programs have hundreds and thousands of people accessing them, but SAP programs are much more limited,” said a person familiar with the surveys. “I don’t want to minimize the fact that some are SCI, but it’s amazing that Trump’s documents include SCI and SAP programs.”

Although the documents were discovered two months ago, the White House only acknowledged the discovery of classified documents on Monday and handed them over to the Archives.

“This is a process that the DOJ is reviewing, so we are limited in what we can say at this time,” said Ian Sams, a senior adviser in the White House Office of Legal Counsel. , asked about the delay. “But we are committed to doing it the right way and will provide more details as needed.”

However, White House officials did not explain exactly how the classified documents ended up in Biden’s private office or whether additional searches were conducted to ensure that classified material was not present. additionally owned by Biden.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, who accompanied Biden to Mexico, was appointed by Trump, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John R. Loush Jr. was assigned to oversee the review of Biden’s documents, two of the people said. problem, one of them said the FBI was also involved in the investigation. Spokesmen for the Justice Department, FBI and Laush declined to comment.

The documents were discovered at the Penn Biden Center in early November, before Attorney General Merrick Garland called in special counsel Jack Smith to lead the agency’s criminal investigation into possible wrongdoing by Trump. Hundreds of secret documents brought to Mar-A. – After Lago’s presidential term ends. However, Trump’s investigators are looking into possible obstruction of justice or destruction of documents in addition to mishandling state secrets. In the case of Biden, such an allegation was not made even at an earlier stage.

In a September interview, Biden called Trump’s handling of classified documents “absolutely irresponsible” and asked, “How could that happen?” He asked. »

Republicans have placed Mar-a-Lago’s research at the heart of their calls for an audit or overhaul of the Justice Department and have pointed to Biden’s documents as further evidence of alleged political bias in its processes. GOP lawmakers and potential presidential candidates to challenge Biden all said there was a double standard in the government and the media’s handling of the Trump and Biden situation.

“When will the FBI raid many of Joe Biden’s homes, even the White House?” Former President Donald Trump wrote on the social media platform Truth Social on Monday night. “These documents are certainly not declassified.”

The filing comes as Biden retires from politics and opens new private offices for the first time in decades at the end of a long political career. He signed lucrative speaking and dissertation contracts across the country and established relationships with the University of Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania.

In February 2018, Biden opened the Penn Biden Center as a think tank at the University of Pennsylvania in Washington, D.C. Many of Biden’s top aides have held senior positions at the center, including current Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Steve Ricchetti, now a senior White House adviser to Biden.

Biden previously donated a large trove of papers from his 36-year career as a U.S. senator to the University of Delaware. The collection, which filled 1,875 boxes and contained 415 gigabytes of electronic records, arrived in 2012, but the university says it won’t be released for “two years.” [Biden] withdrawal from public life.

Peter Bothum, a spokesman for the University of Delaware, said Biden only donated documents from his 36 years in the Senate, and that the university does not have documents from his years in the Senate. as vice president.

The records of the Vice President are governed by the Presidential Records Act of 1978 and are preserved in the National Archives. All records made or received by the Vice President or others in the offices must be filed with the National Archives and treated the same as presidential records.

A repository for vice presidential records generally does not exist, such records are often found in the official presidential libraries of that administration or through inquiries to the National Archives.

“There really is no free vice presidential library,” said Joel Goldstein, a law professor at St. Louis University who has done extensive research on the vice presidency.

Hannah Knowles, Devlin Barrett, Perry Stein and Shane Harris contributed reporting.

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