WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Tuesday he was surprised to be told his lawyers had found government documents in his former office in Washington. He was asked about the issue after the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee demanded that US intelligence conduct a “damage assessment” of potentially classified documents.
Speaking to reporters in Mexico City, Biden said his lawyers “did what they had to do” when they immediately called the National Archives about the discovery at the Penn Biden Center offices. He held an office there after stepping down as vice president in 2017, shortly before the start of the 2019 presidential campaign.
The White House confirmed that the Justice Department is reviewing a “small number of classified documents” found in the office.
“I was informed of this discovery and I was surprised to learn that there were any government documents that were taken there to that office,” Biden said in his first comments since news of the discovery broke on Monday. document dated November 2, 2022. He added that “I don’t know what’s in the documents” and that his lawyers had advised him not to ask.
Earlier on Tuesday, Representative Mike Turner sent a request to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes, saying Biden’s retention of the documents puts him in “potential violation of laws protecting national security, including the Espionage Act and the Presidential Documents Act.”
Regardless of the federal probe, the revelation that Biden potentially mishandled classified or presidential records could be a political headache for the president, who called former President Donald Trump’s decision to store hundreds of such records at his private Florida club “irresponsible.” »
“Those entrusted with access to classified information have a duty and obligation to protect it,” Turner said in the letter to Haynes. “This matter requires a full and careful review.”
On Tuesday, Rep. James Comer, the new chairman of the Republican House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to the White House counsel’s office asking for copies of documents found in Biden’s office, notices of the find and a list of those who may have had access to the office, where they were found. The White House did not immediately respond to a request.
In September, Haynes agreed to conduct a “risk assessment” rather than a “harm assessment” in the Trump case.
There are significant differences between Trump’s and Biden’s situations, including the seriousness of the ongoing grand jury investigation into the Mar-a-Lago case. The intelligence risk assessment of the Trump documents involves examining the seized records for classification as well as “the potential risk to national security that could arise from the disclosure of the relevant documents.”
Sen. Mark Warner, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for a briefing on the documents.
“Our classification system exists to protect our most important national security secrets, and we expect to receive information about what happened at both Mar-a-Lago and Biden’s office as part of our constitutional oversight responsibilities.” , he said. “From what we know so far, the latter involves finding and handing over the marked documents, which is certainly different from the months-long effort to preserve material that the government is actively seeking. But again, that’s why we need to be informed.”
Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said Monday that after Biden’s lawyers found the records, they notified the National Archives and Records Administration, which retrieved the documents the next day.
“Following this discovery, the president’s personal attorneys are working with the archives and the Department of Justice to ensure that any records of the Obama and Biden administrations are properly housed in the archives,” Sauber said.
A person familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly said Attorney General Merrick Garland asked U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Loesch to review the matter after the archives referred the matter to the department. Lausch is one of the few U.S. attorneys to have been suspended by the Trump administration.
Trump weighed in on his social media site on Monday, asking: “When is the FBI going to raid a lot of Joe Biden’s homes, maybe even the White House?”
Republicans have just taken control of the House of Representatives and are promising to launch a sweeping investigation into the Biden administration.
The revelations could also complicate the Justice Department’s consideration of whether to indict Trump, who is trying to win back the White House in 2024 and has repeatedly said the department’s investigation into his own conduct amounted to “corruption.”
The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Spokesmen for Garland and Lausch declined to comment.
Comer also sent a letter to the National Archives asking for documents and correspondence related to the discovery of the Biden documents, arguing that NARA’s “contradictory attitude toward recovering classified documents held by former President Trump and President Biden raises questions about political bias at the agency.”
His Democratic counterpart, Representative Jamie Raskin, said Biden’s lawyers “appear to have taken immediate and appropriate action.”
“I am confident that the Attorney General has taken appropriate steps to ensure that the circumstances surrounding the possession and discovery of these documents are carefully investigated and that an impartial decision is made on any further action that may be necessary,” he added.
Representative Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, said Monday that the American public deserves to know about classified documents sooner.
“They knew it a week before the election, maybe the American people should have known it,” Jordan told reporters. “Of course they knew about the Mar-a-Lago raid 91 days before the election, but it would be nice if the country knew on November 2nd that the Biden Center had classified documents.”
Jordan is one of the House Republicans pushing for a “select subcommittee on federal weapons development” within the Judiciary Committee.
It was not immediately clear why the White House did not disclose the discovery of the documents or the Justice Department’s review earlier. CBS first reported the discovery of the potentially classified documents on Monday.
The Justice Department has been investigating for months the preservation of approximately 300 documents that were classified as classified and were found at Trump’s Florida estate. In that case, prosecutors said, Trump officials refused requests to return the entire stockpile of classified documents and failed to fully comply with subpoenas demanding their return.
In August, FBI agents executed a search warrant on the Mar-a-Lago property, seizing 33 boxes and containers.
Special prosecutor Jack Smith is leading the investigation. Prosecutors interviewed a number of Trump associates and used a grand jury to hear evidence.
Democrats made a similar request to the director of national intelligence in August after the Mar-a-Lago search. Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Adam Schiff, who then chaired the House Oversight and Intelligence committees, asked Haynes to “immediately conduct a review and assessment of the damage,” arguing that Trump “potentially put our national security at serious risk.”
According to public statements by lawmakers, intelligence officials have not briefed Congress on their assessment over the past four months. In her letter, Haynes noted that any risk assessment would not “unduly interfere” with the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.
Associated Press writers Noman Merchant, Eric Tucker and Farnoosh Amiri in Washington, Colin Long in Mexico City and Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed.
This story was first published on January 9, 2023.
Biden was “surprised” by the government documents found in the old office
Source link Biden was “surprised” by the government documents found in the old office