President Joe Biden’s legal team found another batch of classified government records after the initial discovery of classified documents in his former Washington think tank office last fall, people familiar with the matter told CNN on Wednesday.
The searches for additional documents came after Biden’s lawyers found the initial classified documents in early November, the people said. One of the sources told CNN that the effort led to the discovery of additional documents of interest to federal officials looking into the matter.
NBC News first reported on the new batch of classified documents.
The discovery of the classified documents in his former office in November set off alarm bells inside the White House, where only a small circle of advisers and lawyers were aware of the matter. An effort was made to look for other places where documents from Biden’s time as vice president may have been kept.
The White House declined to comment on the matter.
CNN previously reported that the initial batch discovered when Biden’s personal lawyers were packing files in his former private office contained 10 classified documents, including US intelligence materials and information memos on Ukraine, Iran and the UK.
Some of the classified documents were “top secret”, the highest level. They were found in three or four boxes that also contained unclassified papers that fall under the Presidential Records Act, CNN reported.
Classified records must be stored in secure locations. And under the Presidential Records Act, White House records must go to the National Archives when the government ends.
It is unclear at this time how many documents were in the second batch of documents or what the documents were about. It’s also unclear exactly where the new batch of materials was located.
Ahead of new reports of the second batch of government materials on Wednesday, the White House declined to respond to a series of critical questions about classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president discovered inside a private office in the fall. past, citing an ongoing Justice Department review. .
The documents were discovered on Nov. 2, just six days before the midterm elections, but the president’s lawyers only publicly acknowledged the discovery of the documents on Monday – when news broke about the discovery.
The government materials were found during the closure of an office based in Washington, DC – the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. Items discovered include 10 classified documents, including US intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Biden said Tuesday that he was unaware that some confidential documents were taken to his private office after he left the vice presidency and that his lawyers “did what they should have done” by immediately contacting the National Archives and Records Administration. after the documents were found in November.
The documents, the president said, were found in “a box, locked cupboard – or at least a cupboard”.
Still, key questions about the situation remain unanswered.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to respond to a number of questions about the documents, citing the Justice Department’s review of the matter. She couldn’t say who brought the documents to the office or if other documents were found. She also couldn’t say whether an audit was under way to locate other possible documents or when the president had been informed about the discovery of the documents.
She also could not provide assurances that there was no additional confidential material in any other office.
“This is under review by the Department of Justice. I will not go beyond what the president shared yesterday,” Jean-Pierre said, repeating the explanation in several words during Wednesday’s press conference. “I will go no further than what my colleagues on the White House board have shared with all of you as well.”
The situation has drawn criticism from Republicans, who argue that the federal government has set a political double standard in its approach to mishandled documents. But there is a stark contrast between the emerging scenario with Biden and the ongoing saga with former President Donald Trump – who, for example, resisted handing over the documents in his possession. Trump’s legal team now believes it will benefit from the revelation that Biden had confidential documents in his possession after he left office, multiple sources say.
On Wednesday, Jean-Pierre was unable to answer critical questions about why Biden or his lawyers did not release the discovery to the public sooner, especially given the timing ahead of the 2022 election.
Jean-Pierre said he spoke with Biden about the story unfolding as they traveled through Mexico earlier this week. But she said she had not spoken to the president about the documents themselves.
Asked whether the way the situation unfolded weakened the president’s long-standing public commitment to transparency, Jean-Pierre replied: “When his lawyers realized these documents were there, they turned them over to the Archives. They did the right thing.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked the US Attorney General in Chicago to review the matter, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, a process that is still at a preliminary stage.
That US attorney, John Lausch Jr., has already completed the initial part of his inquiry, a source familiar with his work told CNN. He provided Garland with his preliminary findings, the source said.
This means Garland now faces a critical decision on how to proceed, including whether to open a full criminal investigation. Garland was also personally involved in some of the major decisions related to the investigation of the Trump documents and the decision to send the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago.
Trump’s legal team has privately argued that the disclosure of documents in Biden’s possession puts Garland in the difficult position of deciding whether to appoint a special counsel.
While Republicans and Trump allies have drawn comparisons between the two, Trump had several hundred documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence and resisted government efforts to retrieve them as Biden’s lawyers turned over the documents a day after meeting them. However, Trump’s legal team has discussed the matter internally and believes it will help their legal case, including their argument about how easy it is for former presidents to pick up documents labeled confidential when they leave office.
“This is huge for us,” a source close to the legal team told CNN.
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is asking Garland to appoint a special counsel to look into the matter.
“I think if you believe that special counsel is needed to assure the public about Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, you should apply special counsel to the mishandling of documents classified by President Biden when he was vice president,” he said. Graham on Fox News the previous Wednesday.
The White House also faces bipartisan scrutiny from the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose leaders sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines asking for access to documents found in Biden’s private office, a spokesman for Senator Marco told CNN. Ruby.
The letter from Rubio and the chairman of the committee, Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, also requests that the DNI provide a damage assessment, as well as a summary on documents found in Biden’s office and those recovered from Trump’s residence in Mar-a-Lago, added the spokesperson.
Warner and Rubio filed an almost identical request for information after the Mar-a-Lago attack.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
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