Classified documents found in Biden’s garage as president says he’s ‘cooperating fully’

Joe Biden’s personal lawyers discovered more classified documents stored among papers and items in the garage of president’s home, the White House has said.

Special Counsel to the President Richard Sauber said on Thursday that Mr Biden’s attorneys have completed a search of the president’s two Delaware residences – his primary home in Wilmington and a vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware – in consultation with the Justice Department.

The latest search follows the 2 November discovery of Obama-era records at a think tank office used by Mr Biden during his time away from government service.

Mr Sauber said the search was completed on Wednesday night, and involved Mr Biden’s homes because they were “the other locations where files from his Vice-Presidential office might have been shipped in the course of the 2017 transition”.

He added that Mr Biden’s attorneys discovered “a small number of additional Obama-Biden Administration records with classified markings” in “storage space in the President’s Wilmington residence garage,” along with a single one-page document found “among stored materials in an adjacent room”.

No documents were found in Mr Biden’s Rehoboth Beach property, which Fox Business Network reported cost him and first lady Jill Biden approximately $2.74m when they purchased it in 2017.

Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home. (Google Maps)
Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home. (Google Maps)

“As we stated previously, we are fully cooperating with the National Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in possession of the Archives,” he said, adding later that the Department of Justice was “immediately notified” about the records by Mr Biden’s lawyers, who arranged for the department to take possession of the records.

He said the White House would continue to cooperate with the ongoing DOJ review.

Mr Biden also addressed the situation directly when he took questions following brief remarks on the US economy Thursday morning.

“People know I take classified material seriously. I also said we’re cooperating fully and completely with the Justice Department’s review,” he said.

The discovery of records with classification markings at the president’s home and his former office comes as a Department of Justice special prosecutor, Jack Smith, is considering whether to seek criminal charges against Mr Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, for allegedly hoarding national defence information at his Palm Beach, Florida mansion after the end of his term, refusing to return it when asked, and obstructing a probe into whether he’d returned all the government-owned documents he had been required to return when he left office in January 2021.

Republicans have called for Mr Garland to name a second special counsel to probe the discovery of documents at locations linked to Mr Biden, though there is no indication that the department has opened a criminal investigation into the matter.

On Thursday, Mr Garland said he would, in fact, appoint a special prosecutor to supervise the investigation into what happened to the documents found in Mr Biden’s home and former office. Mr Garland announced the appointment of Robert Hur, a a partner in the Washington DC office of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm, who served as the US Attorney for Maryland from 2018 to 2021.

“This appointment underscores for the public the department's commitment to both independence and accountability and particularly sensitive matters and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law. 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,” he said.

In a statement attributed to Mr Sauber following Mr Garland’s announcement, the White House said it is “confident” that the Justice Department probe would find the documents at issue were “inadvertently misplaced,” and show Mr Biden and his legal team “acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake”.

“We have cooperated closely with the Justice Department throughout its review, and we will continue that cooperation with the Special Counsel,” he added.

Congress also appears to be set to get involved in the same investigation under the new House Republican majority. At a press conference at the Capitol, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he thinks Congress “has to investigate” the matter of how the documents ended up at Mr Biden’s home because the president criticised his predecessor in an interview on CBS News’ 60 Minutes programme.

Mr McCarthy downplayed the seriousness of Mr Trump’s conduct and suggested the twice-impeached ex-president had cooperated with prosecutors because his attorneys heeded a request to put a lock on the storage room where he’d stashed boxes containing government-owned documents he’d taken from the White House.

He also claimed, without evidence, that the federal criminal probe into Mr Trump’s conduct amounts to political persecution.

“This is what makes America not trust their government. You cannot have one form of law because somebody philosophically has a different opinion you and you can't use the Justice Department to go after people that are politically different as well,” he said.