Tuesday, 10 January 2023 – Several classified documents from US President Joe Biden’s time as vice president were discovered last fall in a private office, Biden’s lawyers have acknowledged.
Biden’s lawyers say they found the government materials in November while closing out a Washington, DC-based office – the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement – that Biden used as part of his relationship with the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an honorary professor from 2017 to 2019.
According to a CNN report on Monday night, January 9, fewer than a dozen classified documents were found at Biden’s office. It is unclear what the documents pertain to or why they were taken to Biden’s private office as federal officeholders are required by law to relinquish official documents and classified records when their government service ends.
“The White House is cooperating with the National Archives and the Department of Justice regarding the discovery of what appear to be Obama-Biden Administration records, including a small number of documents with classified markings,” Richard Sauber, special counsel to President Biden, said in a statement Monday night.
“The documents were discovered when the President’s personal attorneys were packing files housed in a locked closet to prepare to vacate office space at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C. The President periodically used this space from mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 campaign. On the day of this discovery, November 2, 2022, the White House Counsel’s Office notified the National Archives. The Archives took possession of the materials the following morning.”
“The discovery of these documents was made by the President’s attorneys,” Sauber added.
“The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives. Since that discovery, the President’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives.”
According to CNN, US Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked the US attorney in Chicago to investigate the matter and congressional Republicans who plan impeachment proceedings against Biden are also taking notice.
The classified materials included some top-secret files with the “sensitive compartmented information” designation, 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 started looking into the matter, the source said. Biden’s team cooperated with NARA, which later came to view the situation as a mistake due to lack of safeguards for documents, the source said.
The discovery of the materials come as special counsel Jack Smith is investigating former President Donald Trump for potentially mishandling classified records at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Federal investigators have recovered at least 325 classified documents from Trump as part of their inquiry.
Republicans are already asking questions of the discovery.
New House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy didn’t say whether he believes the new Republican Congress should investigate Biden, but said the reaction to Trump holding onto classified documents has been driven by politics.
“I just think it goes to prove what they tried to do to President Trump overplayed their hand on that,” McCarthy said.
“They’ve been around even longer,” McCarthy said of Biden’s team. “President Trump had never been in office before and had just left, came out. Here’s an individual (who) spent his last 40 years in office.”
McCarthy added: “It just shows that they were trying to be political with President Trump.”
The news about classified records turning up at Biden’s private office was capitalized by Trump, who has already announced his 2024 presidential bid.
On Truth Social, Trump wrote: “When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House? These documents were definitely not declassified.”