Justice Department finds more classified documents during search of Biden home

The removal of handwritten notes dating back to Mr Biden’s time as Vice President indicates that the Department of Justice probe may be moving beyond how Obama-era documents ended up at his former office and home

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Sunday 22 January 2023 00:30 GMT
Biden (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Department of Justice personnel removed six documents from President Joe Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home during a search of the premises on Friday, his attorneys said Saturday in a statement.

Mr Biden’s personal attorney, Robert Bauer, said the president “offered to provide prompt access to his home to allow DOJ to conduct a search of the entire premises for potential vice-presidential records and potential classified material” in order to move the investigation of how classified documents ended up in his home and former office “forward as expeditiously as possible”.

Mr Bauer said the department was granted “full access to the President’s home” and its’ contents, including “personally handwritten notes, files, papers, binders, memorabilia, to-do lists, schedules, and reminders going back decades” and noted that the search was not publicised beforehand at the department’s request, “ in accordance with its standard procedures”.

“DOJ took possession of materials it deemed within the scope of its inquiry, including six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials, some of which were from the President’s service in the Senate and some of which were from his tenure as Vice President,” Mr Bauer said, adding that officials also removed “personally handwritten notes” from Mr Biden’s time as Vice President “for further review”.

The president’s attorney said the search began at approximately 9.45 am on Friday and concluded at 10.30 pm the same day after officials searched “all working, living and storage spaces in the home”.

While Mr Biden’s personal attorneys and lawyers from the White House Counsel’s Office were present during the search, Mr Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were not. The president spent most of his day on Friday at the White House and is spending the weekend at his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Mr Bauer said the president’s legal team has “attempted to balance the importance of public transparency where appropriate with the established norms and limitations necessary to protect the investigation’s integrity” and pledged to “continue to do so” while cooperating with the Justice Department.

Richard Sauber, an attorney with the White House Counsel’s Office who serves as Special Counsel to the President, said in a separate statement that Mr Biden has directed his personal legal team to be “fully cooperative” with the department’s investigation, and stressed that cooperation has been the rule since “a small number of materials” were found at Mr Biden’s former office at the Penn Biden Centre in Washington.

“His team voluntarily and promptly disclosed the initial discovery to the Archives and subsequent discoveries to DOJ, as is the proper protocol. Since the beginning, the President has been committed to handling this responsibly because he takes this seriously,” he said. “The President’s lawyers and White House Counsel’s Office will continue to cooperate with DOJ and the Special Counsel to help ensure this process is conducted swiftly and efficiently”.

The search by Justice Department personnel comes just one week after the White House and Mr Bauer revealed the discovery of five additional pages bearing classification markings at Mr Biden’s longtime residence.

Last week, Mr Sauber said Mr Biden’s personal attorneys had discovered a single page with such markings while searching a box of documents in a “room adjacent to the garage” where Mr Biden keeps his prized 1967 Corvette Stingray.

He added that the attorneys, who lack security clearances, stopped looking through the documents after discovering the initial page, and said he found the additional pages while supervising the transfer of the initial page to Justice Department officials who he’d accompanied to Wilmington.

The discovery of materials dating back to Mr Biden’s service as the First State’s senior senator raises the possibility that the investigation now being supervised by Special Counsel Robert Hur is examining Mr Biden’s handling of classified material in general, not just how documents bearing classified markings ended up at his former office and private residence.

The removal of handwritten notes dating back to his time as Vice President may also indicate that Mr Biden or his staff could have failed to properly account for notes taken during meetings at which classified information is discussed. Generally, notes taken in classified meetings are also considered classified and must be stored and handled in the same manner as printed documents with formal classification markings.

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