Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to take over the investigation of classified documents found in the home and former private office of President Joe Biden.
The special counsel is Robert Hur, who was appointed U.S. Attorney for Maryland by then-President Donald Trump in 2017 and held the position until his resignation in 2021. He has recently worked in private practice in Washington, DC.
“I firmly believe that this department’s normal processes can handle all investigations with integrity. But according to the regulations, the extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special lawyer for this matter”, said Garland. “This appointment reinforces to the public the department’s commitment to independence and accountability, and to particularly sensitive matters and to making decisions unquestionably guided only by the facts and the law.”
He said Hur will be given “all the resources it needs to carry out its work”.
The appointment is a momentous moment for Biden and marks a unique moment in American history with special counsel investigating the current president and his immediate predecessor at the same time. The special counsel’s investigation, along with the aggressive new Republican-led House of Representatives, means Biden could be on the defensive for the next two years.
The appointment comes hours after the White House Counsel’s office said in a statement that Biden aides located documents with classified marks in two locations inside his home in Wilmington, Delaware. The documents were located in a storage area in Biden’s garage and in an adjacent room, the statement said. Biden often spends his weekends at the house, located in a wealthy, wooded lakeside enclave.
Speaking on Thursday, Biden said the documents were in a “locked garage” and that he was cooperating fully with the Justice Department.
“It’s not like they’re sitting on the street,” he insisted when a reporter asked why he was stashing classified material next to a sports car.
The president said he would “get a chance to talk about all this, God willing, soon.”
The special counsel’s announcement significantly enhances the existing inquiry, which began as a preliminary review conducted by the US Attorney in Chicago. It also increases potential legal exposure for Biden and his aides and lawyers who have handled classified government materials since his time as vice president. By bringing in a special lawyer, Garland is isolating herself from the politically sensitive case, although she still has the final say on whether to bring any charges. When that decision comes, no matter the outcome, it will surely become a major tipping point in the 2024 presidential race.
The development also puts the Justice Department and FBI where they don’t want to be – right in the middle of a presidential election for the third straight round.
Since 2015, there have been almost constant FBI investigations of presidents and major candidates: Hillary Clinton’s emails; Trump’s ties to Russia; his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his backlog of classified materials; and now the handling of files classified by Biden.
The documents were located after a search of the president’s homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. No confidential documents were located on Rehoboth’s property, the statement said. The documents were found “among personal and political papers”.
Biden attorneys completed their review of Delaware homes on Wednesday night.
“As was done in the Penn-Biden Center case, the Department of Justice was immediately notified and attorneys arranged for the Department of Justice to take possession of these documents,” the statement reads.
A person familiar with the situation said after the release of the release that, in the case of the classified documents initially discovered at the Penn-Biden Center, Biden’s lawyers first notified the National Archives – not the Department of Justice – which, in turn, notified the Department of Justice.
Biden’s attorneys followed “proper protocol” by first notifying Archives with the first batch of classified documents, the person said, but as the Justice Department later became involved and the president’s attorneys contacted them, on appeal, the lawyers informed the Department of Justice.
But key questions remain unanswered about the stash of classified material, including who brought them into Biden’s private homes and what specifically was contained in them.
Several people associated with Biden were interviewed as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into the discovery of classified documents from his time as vice president, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The group includes former aides from Biden’s time as vice president who may have been involved in the packing and closing of his records and personal items, and extends to some individuals who may have knowledge of how the documents discovered on Nov. from Biden’s office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Engagement, the people said.
The names of the interviewees are not yet clear. It’s possible more interviews will be conducted going forward, one of the people said, although it remains a fluid process.
The Biden issue came to a head in January when news broke that a Biden lawyer had discovered 10 confidential documents while cleaning out one of Biden’s private offices in Washington, DC. The discovery came in November, days before the midterm elections, but Biden’s team kept the matter quiet and didn’t publicly acknowledge anything until it came out in the press.
CNN reported Wednesday that Biden’s legal team found another batch of classified documents in a search that began after classified documents were found in his former Washington think tank office in early November.
The discovery 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.
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.
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. .
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday declined to answer a series 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.
“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.”
This is a recent story and will be updated.
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