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Biden’s legal team finds another set of classified documents

(CNN) — President Joe Biden’s legal team has found another set of classified documents, following the initial discovery of records found in his former Washington office last fall.

According to people with knowledge of the matter, the additional classified documents were found in a second place during searches that were carried out after the lawyers found the initial classified documents. That effort led to the discovery of additional documents of interest to federal officials reviewing the matter, one of the sources said.

NBC first reported on the new batch of documents and said they included classified documents.

The discovery of the classified documents in November set off alarm bells inside the White House, where only a small circle of advisers and lawyers knew about the matter. An effort has been launched to search other places where documents from Biden’s time as vice president have been stored.

The White House declined to comment on the matter.

Earlier on Wednesday, the White House declined to answer a series of critical questions about classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president discovered inside a private office last fall, citing an ongoing Justice Department review.

Biden talks about the documents found in his office 0:40

The documents were discovered on November 2, just six days before the midterm elections, but the president’s lawyers only publicly acknowledged the discovery of the documents on Monday, when news of the discovery broke.

The government materials were found while closing down a Washington-based office: The Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. The items discovered include 10 classified documents, including US intelligence memos and briefing materials covering topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The Differences Between Biden and Trump’s Classified Documents 3:39

Biden said Tuesday that he was unaware that some classified documents had been taken to his private office after he left the vice presidency and that his lawyers “did what they should have done” by immediately contacting the National Archives and Records Administration after that the documents were found in November.

The documents, the president said, were found in “a box, a locked cabinet, or at least a cupboard.”

Still, key questions about the situation remain unanswered.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to answer a series of questions about the documents, citing the Justice Department’s ongoing review of the matter. She could not say who brought the documents to the office or if any other documents were found. She was also unable to say if an audit was being conducted to locate other possible documents or when the discovery of the documents was reported to the president.

It also could not guarantee that there were no additional classified materials in any other offices.

“This is being reviewed by the Department of Justice. I am not going to go further than what the president shared yesterday,” Jean-Pierre said, repeating the explanation during the course of Wednesday’s press conference. “I’m not going to go beyond what my colleagues on the White House council also shared with all of you.”

The situation has drawn criticism from Republicans, who argue that the federal government has established a political double standard in its approach to mishandled documents. But there is a stark contrast between the emerging scenario with Biden and the ongoing saga with former President Donald Trump, who, for example, resisted handing over documents in his possession. Trump’s legal team now believes he will benefit from the disclosure that Biden had classified documents in his possession after leaving office, multiple sources say.

The Differences Between Biden and Trump's Classified Documents

On Wednesday, Jean-Pierre was unable to answer critical questions about why Biden or his lawyers did not disclose the discovery to the public sooner, especially given the timing leading up to the 2022 election.

Jean-Pierre said that he had spoken with Biden about the development of what happened while they were traveling through Mexico earlier this week. But she said that she had not spoken to the president about the documents themselves.

Pressed on whether the way the situation has played out has undermined the president’s long-standing public commitment to transparency, Jean-Pierre responded: “When his lawyers realized these documents were there, they turned them over to the Archives. . They did the right thing.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland has assigned a prosecutor, the US Attorney in Chicago, to review the documents, a source familiar with the matter previously told CNN, a process that is still in a preliminary stage.

That US federal prosecutor, John Lausch Jr., has already completed the initial part of his investigation, a source familiar with his work told CNN. He has provided preliminary findings on him to Garland, the source said.

That means Garland now faces a critical decision on how to proceed, including opening a full criminal investigation. Garland was also personally involved in some of the key decisions related to the investigation of the Trump documents and the decision to send the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago.

Trump’s legal team has privately argued that the disclosure of documents in Biden’s possession puts Garland in a difficult position to decide whether to appoint a special counsel.

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks to the press at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2022. (Nicholas Kamm/POOL/AFP)

While Republicans and Trump allies have drawn comparisons between the two, Trump had several hundred documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence and resisted government efforts to recover them, while Biden’s lawyers turned over the documents. documents the day after finding them. However, Trump’s legal team has discussed the matter internally and ultimately believes it will help his legal case, including his argument about how easy it is for former presidents to take documents labeled classified when they leave office.

“This is huge for us,” a source close to the legal team told CNN.

The White House also faces bipartisan scrutiny from the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose leaders sent a letter to DNI Avril Haines requesting access to documents found in the private office of Biden, a spokesperson for Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN.

The letter from Rubio and the committee’s chairman, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, also requests that the DNI provide an assessment of the damage, as well as a briefing on the documents found in Biden’s office and those recovered from the residence. of Trump at Mar-a-Lago, the spokesperson added.

Warner and Rubio filed a nearly identical information request after the Mar-a-Lago raid.

CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Katie Bo Lillis, Jamie Gangel, Marshall Cohen, Evan Perez, Phil Mattingly, MJ Lee and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.

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