Updated Jan 10, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Classified docs from Biden's VP days found in private office

Photo of Joe Biden speaking from the podium

President Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden's special counsel confirmed Monday that classified documents from his time as vice president were discovered in a private office space and turned over to the National Archives in November.

Driving the news: The documents were found while Biden's personal attorneys were packing files housed in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center, which Biden periodically used from mid-2017 until the start of his 2020 campaign, according to special counsel Richard Sauber. The White House is cooperating with the National Archives and Department of Justice, Sauber noted.

  • "On the day of this discovery, November 2, 2022, the White House Counsel’s Office notified the National Archives. The Archives took possession of the materials the following morning."
  • "The discovery of these documents was made by the President’s attorneys, Sauber added in the statement. "The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives."
  • "Since that discovery, the President’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives."
  • CBS News first reported the story.

The big picture: Classified documents were similarly found outside the National Archives last summer when the FBI seized boxes of records from former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.

  • The Department of Justice is investigating Trump for his handling of classified information, though Trump has claimed that presidents can declassify documents "even by thinking about it."
  • It’s unclear if any investigation will be launched based on the discovery of records in the private office Biden used.
  • The National Archives declined to comment and the Department of Justice did not immediately return a request for comment.

What they're saying: "President Biden has stated that taking classified documents from the White House is 'irresponsible,'" House Committee on Oversight and Accountability chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said in a statement.

  • "Under the Biden Administration, the Department of Justice and National Archives have made compliance with the Presidential Records Act a top priority. We expect the same treatment for President Biden, who has apparently inappropriately maintained classified documents in an insecure setting for several years."
  • "WHERE is the FBI? WHERE is the dramatic raid?" Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) tweeted. "We have two systems of justice in this country: one for them and one for us."
  • Donald Trump Jr. echoed the rhetoric. "When will the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team storm one of Biden’s many vacation homes bought and paid for somehow by a lifetime of being a humble public servant?" he tweeted.

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, said in a statement Monday night that Biden's attorneys "appear to have taken immediate and proper action to notify the National Archives about their discovery ... so [the records] could be returned to federal government custody. "

  • "I have confidence that the Attorney General took the appropriate steps to ensure the careful review of the circumstances surrounding the possession and discovery of these documents and make an impartial decision about any further action that may be needed."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include reactions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as Donald Trump Jr. and to reflect that the National Archives declined to comment.

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