Biden’s classified documents as vice president discovered in a private office

(CNN) — Multiple classified documents from President Joe Biden’s tenure as US vice president were discovered last fall in a private office, a source with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked the US attorney in Chicago to look into the matter, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, and congressional Republicans are also closely watching the situation.

President Biden was unaware that the classified documents were in the office, and did not become aware of them until his personal lawyers reported their existence, a source close to the situation told CNN. Biden is still unaware of what the specific documents are, and his team — wary of it being seen as interference in any way — is keeping its distance, according to the source.

Biden’s lawyers say they found the government materials last November as they were closing a Washington-based office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, which the now-president used as part of his relationship. with the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an honorary professor from 2017 to 2019.

Fewer than a dozen classified documents were found in Biden’s office, another source told CNN. It is unclear who the documents belong to or why they were taken to Biden’s private office. The law requires federal officials to turn over official documents and classified files when they leave the government.

“The White House is cooperating with the National Archives and the Department of Justice in connection with the discovery of what appear to be Obama-Biden administration documents, including a small number of documents with classified marks,” said Richard Sauber, Senior Counsel. special from President Biden, in a statement. “The documents were discovered as the president’s personal lawyers were packing up files from a locked cabinet to prepare to vacate office space at the Penn Biden Center in Washington. 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 Office of Legal Counsel 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 lawyers,” Sauber added. “The documents were not the subject of any prior request or investigation by the Archives. Since that finding, the President’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama administration records- Biden is properly in possession of the Files.”

CBS News first reported on the documents.

The classified material included some top-secret files with the designation “compartmentalized sensitive information,” also known as SCI, which is used for highly sensitive information obtained from intelligence sources.

Following the discovery, Biden’s lawyers immediately contacted the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which began investigating the matter, the source said.

In November, NARA sent a referral to the Justice Department to investigate the matter, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

Biden’s team cooperated with NARA, which later came to regard the situation as a mistake due to a lack of safeguards for the documents, the source said.

political fallout

The discovery of the materials comes as special counsel Jack Smith is investigating former President Donald Trump for possible mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Federal investigators have recovered at least 325 classified Trump documents as part of their investigation of him.

At the news, former President Trump posted on his Truth Social platform: “When is the FBI going to raid Joe Biden’s many homes, maybe even the White House? These documents were definitely not declassified.” In addition, Trump’s legal team is closely watching how the Justice Department handles the matter related to the classified documents found in Biden’s private office.

For their part, Republicans have already begun to ask questions about it.

“President Biden has been highly critical of President Trump mistakenly bringing classified documents into the residence or anywhere, and now it appears he may have done the same thing,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Kentucky, who will become the Chairman of House Oversight. “How ironic.”

Comer noted that the National Archives falls under the oversight jurisdiction of his commission, but said that when they, though a minority, sent questions to NARA related to former President Trump, NARA referred the Republicans to the Justice Department.

“Maybe they’ll answer our questions now because it’s about two presidents,” Comer said. And he added that he plans to request more information from the archives later this week.

Since the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago in August, where it uncovered dozens of additional classified files, Trump has promoted wild and unsubstantiated accusations about the alleged mishandling of government records by his predecessors. The news of the appearance of classified files in Biden’s private office will undoubtedly provide new arguments for Trump, who has already announced his presidential aspiration for 2024.

Biden criticized Trump when he saw the photograph taken by the FBI showing a series of documents found on Trump’s property last summer.

“How can that happen? How can someone be so irresponsible?” Biden said. “And I thought, what data was there that could compromise sources and methods? By that I mean names of people who helped or, etc. … totally irresponsible.”

Sara Murray, Annie Grayer, Zachary Cohen and Manu Raju, all for CNN, contributed to this report.

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