President Joe Biden’s headache over the discovery of classified documents from his time as the vice president has worsened after aides found a second batch of materials in one of his residences, fueling a torrent of Republican attacks and complicating the optics of a Justice Department investigation into former President Trump.
The White House Counsel’s Office confirmed in a statement Thursday that lawyers had found a “small number” of documents from the Obama-Biden administration with classified markings in Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, residence. Most of the documents were found alongside personal and political papers in a storage space in Biden’s garage, while an additional document was found in an adjacent room, the statement said.
Biden’s lawyers immediately notified the Justice Department, which is set to take possession of the documents.
Biden briefly addressed the second discovery during a press conference on the economy Thursday, reiterating that he took classified information “seriously” and that he was fully cooperating with the Justice Department. He said his garage – which houses his Corvette – was locked, and appeared to imply that the document found in a different location was found in his personal library.
“People know I take classified documents, classified materials seriously,” Biden said.
“You’re going to see all this unfold, I’m confident,” he said.
The discovery came during a search of Biden’s Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, residences that was triggered after lawyers in November found a small batch of classified documents in a locked closet in a Washington office Biden used from 2017 until the beginning of the 2020 campaign. The White House said Thursday that the searches were now complete.
Political Cartoons on Joe Biden
News of the first discovery came just Monday, and Biden said Tuesday that he was “surprised” and that he was cooperating with federal entities.
The news Monday set off an immediate firestorm among Biden’s critics that is likely to intensify with confirmation of the second discovery.
Republicans have been quick to draw equivalencies between the discovery and Trump’s handling of classified documents after he left office – despite significant differences between the two situations and how they were handled.
The Justice Department is investigating Trump for retaining classified documents after he left office and for possible obstruction of the government’s repeated attempts to repossess those documents.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that “Congress has to investigate” the discoveries, and accused Biden of hypocrisy and of weaponizing the Justice Department. He also questioned why Biden did not disclose the discovery before the November election.
“He knowingly knew this happened going into elections, going into interviews. This is what makes America not trust their government,” McCarthy said during a press conference. “You cannot have one form of law because someone philosophically has a different opinion than you, and you cannot use the Justice Department to go after people who are politically different as well. It has to be equal across.”
The White House said Monday that Biden’s team immediately notified the National Archives and Records Administration of the first discovery, which was made as lawyers were cleaning out an office at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington. The National Archives took possession of the documents the following day, and the White House emphasized that they were cooperating with that agency and the Justice Department over the find. Early reporting does not contradict the White House’s version of events, though questions remain about the timing of his disclosures.
Attorney General Merrick Garland then appointed John R. Lausch Jr., a U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump-appointee, to look into the matter, according to several reports.
Democrats have said they support Biden and how he has handled the discoveries.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat, said Thursday he has “full faith and credit in President Biden.”
“I believe that he’s doing everything to take the appropriate steps to determine what happened and how to move forward in a responsible fashion,” Jeffries said. “And I’m confident that he will continue to do so.”
Biden’s handling of the discoveries stands in stark contrast to Trump’s treatment of classified documents after he left the White House.
Trump repeatedly failed to fully comply with several requests from the National Archives, which was seeking the return of caches of classified documents. Despite months of notifications, personal meetings and the apparently selective and incomplete, partial return of some materials, Trump’s ultimate lack of compliance prompted the National Archives to alert federal authorities to the situation. That eventually culminated in a grand jury and a search warrant signed by a federal judge that authorized the FBI to search Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in August.
Investigators seized thousands of documents, including dozens of classified materials. Some of the documents were strewn in with everyday papers and objects, and at least a dozen were stored in a box in a room where Trump entertained guests.
Garland last fall appointed Jack Smith, a career government prosecutor, as special counsel to lead the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s handling of the documents and possible obstruction of the federal investigation. More classified documents have since been found, as Trump and his lawyers continue to fight the Justice Department in court over the probe.
Trump had admitted keeping the documents after he left office. He and his supporters have routinely said that the president has the power to declassify any material, but his lawyer has offered no evidence that Trump actually did so.