U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department to announce the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the discovery of classified documents held by President Joe Biden at an office and his home on Jan. 12, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Garland announced that former U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert Hur was appointed as special counsel for the investigation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The White House revealed Thursday morning that more classified documents from President Joe Biden’s time as vice president were discovered outside of secure government facilities, this time in the garage at his Wilmington, Delaware, home.
The files have since been turned over to the U.S. Justice Department, which opened a special counsel investigation into the matter. Another set of documents with classified markings also dating to the Obama administration were discovered earlier at a think tank associated with Biden.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaking Thursday afternoon, said he’d appointed former federal prosecutor Robert Hur to lead the investigation to determine if Biden had mishandled classified material.
“This appointment underscores for the public the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law,” Garland said. “I am confident that Mr. Hur will carry out his responsibility in an even-handed and urgent manner, and in accordance with the highest traditions of this department.”
Hur was appointed in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump to lead the federal prosecutor’s office in Maryland and joined the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in April 2021.
Biden expanded on the developments during brief remarks Thursday morning following a speech on the economy, saying his lawyers “discovered a small number of documents with classified markings in storage areas and file cabinets in my home and in my personal library.”
Biden added, while being questioned by reporters, that the garage, where he also stores his classic Corvettes, was locked.
“By the way, my Corvettes [are] in a locked garage. It’s not like they’re sitting out on the street,” Biden said.
The finding of additional classified documents was announced in a written statement by Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president. The disclosure came after documents with classified markings were found at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., in November 2022, and the president’s lawyers began searching his residences in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Those lawyers found “a small number of additional Obama-Biden Administration records with classified markings,” according to Sauber.
“All but one of these documents were found in storage space in the President’s Wilmington residence garage,” Sauber said. “One document consisting of one page was discovered among stored materials in an adjacent room. No documents were found in the Rehoboth Beach residence.”
The lawyers immediately contacted the Department of Justice and arranged to turn over the documents, Sauber said.
Following Garland’s remarks, Sauber said Biden and his legal team “will continue that cooperation with the Special Counsel.”
“We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake,” Sauber added.
The Justice Department received notice from Biden’s personal attorney on Dec. 20 that the additional classified documents had been found, Garland said.
Biden in his remarks reiterated that he respects the federal government’s classification process.
“As I said earlier this week, people know I take classified documents and classified materials seriously,” Biden said. “I also said we’re cooperating fully with the Justice Department’s review.”
Garland laid out a timeline of when the department learned of the classified documents. The National Archives Office of the Inspector General first notified the Justice Department on Nov. 4 that documents were stored at the Penn Biden Center, Garland said.
The discovery of classified documents in Biden’s private residence, not just an office he used after his time as vice president, immediately drew comparisons to the classified documents found inside Trump’s private residence at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
Those documents were, however, only recovered by the government after the FBI secured a search warrant for parts of his property amid an ongoing struggle by the National Archives to get back all of the classified documents.
Federal authorities are investigating Trump for possible Espionage Act violations because of classified documents he took from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. The FBI executed a search of his residence in August, finding about 100 classified documents out of 11,000 total documents, the Justice Department said.
The search followed Trump’s return to the National Archives of documents, including 184 with classified markings, that had been held at Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House.
Still, Republicans seized upon the Biden revelations. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, rebuked Biden for keeping the documents with classified markings at an office and his personal residence in Delaware.
“I think Congress has to investigate this,” McCarthy said. “Here’s an individual that’s been in office for more than 40 years, here’s an individual that said on ‘60 Minutes’ that [he] was so concerned about President Trump’s documents.”
McCarthy added: “I do not think any American believes that justice should not be equal to all.”
Biden answered questions about the documents just after a speech on the U.S. economy, where he was hoping to focus on low unemployment and reduced inflation.
“The data is clear, even though inflation is high in major economies around the world, it is coming down in America month after month,” Biden said.
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