No classified documents found during ‘planned’ search of Biden’s beach house, lawyer says

Mr Biden’s personal lawyer says the search ‘is a further step in a thorough and timely DOJ process we will continue to fully support and facilitate’

Andrew Feinberg
Wednesday 01 February 2023 19:27 GMT
Biden confirms second batch of documents found in 'locked garage'

President Joe Biden’s personal attorney said agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation found no documents with classified markings during a “planned” search of Mr Biden’s Rehoboth Beach, Delaware vacation home on Wednesday.

The search by the FBI was part of continuing efforts by the Department of Justice to determine if any documents with classification markings have been stored at Mr Biden’s personal residences.

Bob Bauer, the former White House counsel who serves as Mr Biden’s personal attorney, said the Department of Justice’s “planned search” of the beach house took place from 8.30am to 12pm. Earlier in the day, he said the search was being conducted “with the president’s full support and cooperation”.

“Under DoJ’s standard procedures, in the interests of operational security and integrity, it sought to do this work without advance public notice, and we agreed to cooperate,” Mr Bauer said. “The search today is a further step in a thorough and timely DOJ process we will continue to fully support and facilitate”.

In a statement released following the search, Mr Bauer said the justice department took “some materials and handwritten notes that appear[ed] to relate” to Mr Biden’s service as vice president, for “further review”. He added that the search of the Rehoboth Beach property, which Mr Biden bought following his departure from government service, was “conducted in coordination and cooperation with the President’s attorneys”.

The department’s taking of handwritten notes was “consistent” with the process in place during last month’s search of Mr Biden’s primary residence, he added.

A spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s Office, Ian Sams, told reporters the White House has been “fully transparent from the beginning” about the process of searching for classified documents at the locations connected with Mr Biden, which he said has been “fully coordinated with the Justice Department” and “respectful of the integrity of the ongoing investigation”.

He also pushed back on suggestions that the White House has not been totally forthcoming about the matter.

“I think it’s important to understand that as these things develop and as information develops throughout an investigation, we are trying to get you guys access to as much information as we can,” he said during an impromptu press availability outside the West Wing on Wednesday.

Mr Sams would not commit to having Mr Biden sit for an interview with prosecutors, but stressed that the president has cooperated with the probe and has directed his team to do the same.

“We are not going to speculate about potential things that may happen in the future in this investigation but we have been fully cooperative, the president has been fully cooperative, his lawyers are in direct discussions with the Justice Department and that’s going to continue,” he said.

This latest search of one of the 46th president’s two Delaware residences comes less than two weeks after FBI special agents conducted a daylong search of the Wilmington, Delaware home that has been Mr Biden’s primary residence for many years.

According to Mr Bauer, that “thorough search” of Mr Biden’s home included “full access” to the property and its contents, “including personally handwritten notes, files, papers, binders, memorabilia, to-do lists, schedules, and reminders going back decades”.

At the time, agents took possession 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,” as well as “personally handwritten notes” from Mr Biden’s two terms as vice president.

The FBI has also reportedly conducted a separate search of the Washington DC office suite used by the Penn Biden Center, a think tank affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania where Mr Biden kept office space during his time away from government service.

It was at that office where Mr Biden’s lawyers first discovered documents bearing classification markings as they were packing the contents of that space in early November.

Both the White House and Mr Biden’s lawyers have repeatedly stressed that they are cooperating fully with the probe, which is currently being overseen by a Department of Justice special counsel, Robert Hur.

The search of Mr Biden’s beach house also comes roughly a week after representatives of former vice president Mike Pence discovered and arranged for the return of documents with classification markings from Mr Pence’s home in Carmel, Indiana.

In a letter to the National Archives and Records Administration, Mr Pence’s representative and former White House lawyer, Greg Jacob, said there had been a “small number of documents bearing classified markings” that were inadvertently boxed and transferred to Mr Pence’s home after he left office in January 2021.

Mr Pence addressed the matter during a speaking engagement at Florida International University last week when he said the documents “should not have been in [his] personal residence”.

“Mistakes were made, and I take full responsibility, and I’ve directed my counsel to work with the National Archives with the Department of Justice, and with the Congress to fully cooperate in any investigation,” he said. “Our national security depends on the proper handling of classified and sensitive materials, and I know that when errors are made, it's important that they be resolved swiftly and disclosed”.

Mr Pence added that his “only hope” is that the American people see that he and his attorneys “acted above politics and put the national interest first”.

The discoveries of documents with classification markings at Mr Pence’s and Mr Biden’s homes followed a series of revelations regarding former president Donald Trump’s alleged unlawful retention of classified materials that he’d taken to the Palm Beach, Florida beach club where he maintains his primary home and post-presidential office.

A separate probe into Mr Trump’s conduct is being overseen by a different DOJ special prosecutor, Jack Smith. That investigation has been ongoing since early 2022, when Nara officials notified the DoJ that they’d found classified materials in a group of 15 boxes of government-owned records which they’d retrieved from Mr Trump’s property.

A Washington DC grand jury later issued a subpoena compelling Mr Trump to return all classified documents in his possession, but after the FBI developed evidence showing Mr Trump was defying the subpoena, agents obtained a search warrant for his property which was executed on 8 August of last year.

Unlike Mr Pence and Mr Biden, the twice-impeached former president has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has claimed that the documents in question were lawfully his personal property.

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