News that dozens of classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president had been found in his personal office in Washington last fall broke minutes after the president’s motorcade entered. National Palace in Mexico CityIn a visit that marks the first visit to Mexico by a US president since 2014.
Biden’s attorneys say they discovered the government materials in November while shutting down a Washington, DC-based office Biden used as part of his relationship with the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an emeritus professor from 2017 to 2019.
Less than a dozen classified documents were found in the office, another source told CNN. It’s unclear what the documents were about or why they were taken to Biden’s private office. The classified materials include 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.
Federal office holders must discard official documents and classified records when their government service ends.
As news of the classified documents quickly returned home, Biden was busy starting a much-anticipated bilateral meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Immigration was expected there should be one of the main issues discussed.
As the moment unfolded, a senior administration official traveling with the president told CNN that Biden had been in meetings all afternoon ahead of an extended bilateral meeting with his opponent.
“Nothing has changed in his schedule,” the official said. “He is focused on the summit and meeting with our closest neighbors.”
Asked whether advisers have discussed the issue of classified documents so far during Biden’s visit to Mexico, the official said, as far as they know, it has not come up.
Meanwhile, when reporters in the room before the two-party meeting demanded answers to classified documents, Biden remained silent, at one point smiling as reporters stormed out of the room. Seated to Biden’s left during the meeting with the Mexican president: Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked the U.S. attorney in Chicago to review the matter, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, which is still in its early stages.
John Lash Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago, was appointed in 2017 by former President Donald Trump.
A source familiar with the matter told CNN that Biden still doesn’t know what the actual documents contain. White House officials, who have gone to great lengths to avoid any real or perceived attempt to influence the judiciary, are likely to maintain that posture through this particular review.
Biden didn’t know the classified documents were in the office, and he didn’t learn about them until his personal lawyers notified the White House counsel’s office, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.
The White House is cooperating with the National Archives and the Department of Justice, Biden’s special counsel Richard Saber said in a statement.
“These documents were discovered while the president’s personal attorneys were packing files that had been kept in a locked cabinet in preparation for vacating office space at the Ben Biden Center in Washington, DC,” Sauber said in a statement. “From mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 campaign, the president used this space sporadically. 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. “These documents are not the subject of any previous request or investigation by the Archives. Since its discovery, the president’s personal lawyers 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.
The episode has echoes of corruption Trump shut down in late 2021 A search by the FBI uncovered several classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. However, the Biden team says there are some key differences between the two scenarios.
Saber said Biden’s personal attorneys quickly turned over a small number of classified documents once they were discovered in a locked location. With Trump, the National Archives was forced to negotiate with Trump for months over the return of government documents when it realized key records were missing.
The documents found in Biden’s office were not requested or solicited by NARA or any other government agency.
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. He is currently under investigation Mishandling of confidential documents by special counsel Jack Smith.
Since the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago in August — a search that turned up 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.
It quickly became a sticking point on Capitol Hill for House Republicans eager to exercise their new oversight powers on the Biden administration.
Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, plans to press the National Archives for information about classified documents that were removed during Joe Biden’s tenure as VP, CNN reported. He said he would send a letter to the archive — which his team oversees — within the next 48 hours.
“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,” Comer said. “How ironic.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did not say whether he believed House Republicans should investigate Biden’s possession of classified documents, but said the reaction to Trump’s possession of classified documents was politically motivated.
“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 spent his last 40 years in office.
McCarthy added: “It shows they’re trying to play politics with President Trump.”
Representative Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, pointed to what Biden described as key differences between the two cases, saying that Biden’s lawyers “appeared to have taken immediate and appropriate action to notify the National Archives of their discovery. A small number of classified documents were found in a locked cabinet at the Ben Biden Center, They may therefore be returned to the custody of the Central Government.
Ruskin, of Maryland, said he was confident Garland had taken the appropriate steps to “make an unbiased decision about any action that may be required.”
However, some members of Biden’s own party also expressed concern about classified documents being found in an improper location.
The two senior Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee — Reps. Adam Schiff and Jim Himes — both told CNN that classified documents must be handled securely, giving their first reaction to news that President Biden may have mishandled classified documents from his time as vice president.
While the two men said they had not yet read the facts of the stories on the matter, Schiff said, “Obviously if there are classified documents somewhere, that shouldn’t be a problem and a deep concern.”
Asked if Congress should take up the matter, Schiff said: “I don’t want to say yet until I have had a chance to read the article. But if classified information isn’t where it’s supposed to be, I don’t think it should concern anyone.
Himes told CNN, “Look, classified information has to be in secure places. So, we’ll wait to see the facts, but you know, confidential information should be in a safe place.