Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel on Thursday to investigate President Joe Biden’s handling of classified information before he took office.
Garland chose as special counsel Robert Hur, a former federal prosecutor, to investigate “whether any person or entity violated the law” in connection with the possible mishandling of classified documents from the Obama administration found at Biden’s Washington, D.C. office and Delaware residence.
“The extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special counsel for this matter,” Garland said at a press conference on Thursday. “This appointment underscores for the public the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters.”
The decision came on the recommendation of a U.S. attorney, who conducted an initial investigation into the matter, Garland explained, leading the attorney general to conclude that “it was in the public’s best interest to appoint a special counsel,” notably ahead of reports that began surfacing this week about the documents.
The development comes after the White House confirmed on Thursday that a second set of classified documents was found from his time as vice president at one of his Delaware homes on Wednesday night, after documents were found at his Washington, D.C., office in November.
The “small number” of additional records were found in a storage space in Biden’s garage at his Wilmington residence, according to a statement from Biden’s special counsel, Richard Sauber, while a one-page document was discovered in an adjacent room.
The president’s lawyers immediately notified the Justice Department, which is set to take possession of the documents.
Biden reiterated to reporters on Thursday that he takes classified documents and materials “seriously,” adding that “we’re cooperating fully, completely with the Justice Department’s review as part of that process.”
Earlier this week, Biden expressed surprise after news of the first discovery. But that didn’t stop Republicans from hurling a litany of accusations against the president, drawing equivalencies between the situation and the discovery of classified materials at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate earlier this year.
But beyond the discovery of sensitive documents in the possession of both former presidents, the cases differ in the subsequent handling, recovery and disclosure of the materials.
Nevertheless, Garland’s announcement on Thursday comes as the attorney general just months ago also appointed a special counsel to lead the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s handling of the documents found at his Florida residence.