The US Justice Department is reviewing a batch of potentially classified documents found in the Washington office space of President Joe Biden’s former institute, the White House said Monday.
Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered as Biden’s personal attorneys were clearing out the offices of the Penn Biden Center, where the president kept an office after he left the vice presidency in 2017 until shortly before he launched his 2020 presidential campaign in 2019.
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The documents were found on November 2, 2022, in a “locked closet” in the office, Sauber said.
Sauber said the attorneys immediately alerted the White House Counsel’s office, who notified the National Archives and Records Administration - which took custody of the documents the next day.
“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,” Sauber said.
A person who is familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly said Attorney General Merrick Garland asked US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch to review the matter after the Archives referred the issue to the department.
Lausch is one of the few US attorneys to be held over from former President Donald Trump’s administration.
Irrespective of the Justice Department review, the revelation that Biden potentially mishandled classified or presidential records could prove to be a political headache for the president, who called Trump’s decision to keep hundreds of such records at his private club in Florida “irresponsible.”
Trump weighed in Monday on his social media site, asking, “When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?”
The revelation comes as Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives and are promising to launch widespread investigations of Biden’s administration.
It also may complicate the Justice Department’s consideration on whether to bring charges against Trump, who has launched a repeat bid for the White House in 2024 and has repeatedly claimed that the department’s inquiry of his own conduct amounted to “corruption.”
The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Spokespeople for Garland and Lausch declined to comment.
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