More classified documents found at Biden’s home
White House says five additional pages with classified markings were discovered at the president’s Delaware home.
Lawyers for United States President Joe Biden have found five additional pages with classified markings at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and handed them over to the Department of Justice.
White House lawyer Richard Sauber said in a statement on Saturday that he found the additional pages on Thursday during a visit to the president’s home to facilitate the handover of a document with classified markings that was found there earlier.
“While I was transferring it to the DOJ officials who accompanied me, five additional pages with classification markings were discovered among the material with it, for a total of six pages,” Sauber said. “The DOJ officials with me immediately took possession of them.”
The latest disclosure is in addition to the discovery of documents found in December in Biden’s garage and in November at his former offices at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, DC, from his time as vice president during the Obama administration.
The apparent mishandling of classified documents and official records from the Obama administration is under investigation by a former US attorney, Robert Hur, who was appointed as a special counsel on Thursday by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Sauber has previously said that the White House was “confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the president and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake”.
Sauber’s statement did not explain why the White House waited two days to provide an updated accounting of the number of classified records. The White House is already facing scrutiny for waiting more than two months to acknowledge the discovery of the initial group of documents at the Biden office.
Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, DC, said Sauber was called in after the president’s personal lawyers were going through his things and saw a “document marked classified”.
“Because they [lawyers] didn’t have clearance to look at any secret or top secret information, they shut the box, shut the room, notified the Department of Justice,” Culhane explained.
She said Sauber had the clearance to look at the classified documents and he went to Biden’s home on Thursday to hand over the documents to the department.
During the visit, they “found five additional documents with those classification marks”, Culhane said.
What Sauber did not say was what type of classification marks the documents carried, she said, noting that there are three levels of classification in the US — confidential, secret and top secret.
Sauber’s statement said that lawyers for Biden acted “immediately and voluntarily” to hand over all the documents found to the proper authorities.
“We have now publicly released specific details about the documents identified, how they were identified, and where they were found. The appointment of the special counsel in this matter this week means we will now refer specific questions to the special counsel’s office moving forward,” he said.
Sauber added that the White House would cooperate with Hur’s investigation.
The issue is an unwelcome distraction for Biden as he prepares to announce whether he will seek a second term.
“It’s not like they’re sitting out in the street,” the president told reporters on Thursday. “People know I take classified documents and classified material seriously.”
Bob Bauer, Biden’s personal lawyer, said his 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”.
Republicans, newly in control of the House of Representatives, have promised to launch an inquiry to be headed by James Comer, a conservative from Kentucky who chairs an oversight committee.
“The Biden White House’s secrecy in this matter is alarming. Equally alarming is the fact that Biden aides were combing through documents knowing there would be a Special Counsel appointed,” Comer said in a statement.
“Many questions need to be answered but one thing is certain: oversight is coming,” he said, condemning what he called “President Biden’s three strikes against transparency”.
Republicans have also sought to compare the probe of Biden’s handling of classified documents with the continuing investigation into how former President Donald Trump handled classified documents after his presidency.
But the White House has underscored that the two cases are different as Biden and his team are cooperating with the authorities and had turned over the classified material while Trump had resisted doing so until an FBI search at this Florida home in August.
In Trump’s case, special counsel Jack Smith is investigating whether anyone sought to obstruct their investigation into the retention of classified records at the Palm Beach estate. Justice Department officials have said Trump’s representatives failed to fully comply with a subpoena that sought the return of classified records, prompting agents to return to the home with a search warrant so they could collect additional materials.