Investigators seize more classified documents from Biden’s home
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a news conference in Washington on Thursday,
Jan. 12, 2023.
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and KATIE ROGERS
Investigators for the Justice Department on late last week seized more than a half-dozen documents, some of them classified, at President Joe Biden’s residence in Wilmington, Delaware, after conducting a 13-hour search of the home, the president’s personal lawyer said Saturday evening.
The remarkable search of a sitting president’s home by federal agents — at the invitation of Biden’s lawyers — dramatically escalated the legal and political situation for the president, the latest in a series of discoveries that has already led to a special counsel investigation.
During Friday’s search, six more items with classified markings — including some documents from his time as a senator and others from his time as vice president — were taken by investigators, along with surrounding materials, according to the statement from Bob Bauer, Biden’s attorney.
Bauer did not indicate what had prompted the search, saying only that the president’s lawyers had offered to provide access for a search “in the interest of moving the process forward as expeditiously as possible.” Justice Department investigators coordinated the search with Biden’s lawyers in advance, Bauer said, and the president’s personal and White House lawyers were present at the time.
“The FBI on Friday executed a planned, consensual search of the president’s residence in Wilmington,” said Joseph D. Fitzpatrick, an assistant U.S. attorney in Illinois who is serving as a spokesperson for the special counsel investigating the Biden documents case.
The search agreement with Biden’s legal team was negotiated by John R. Lausch, a federal prosecutor picked to lead the initial inquiry last year. His replacement, Robert K. Hur, who was appointed to serve as the permanent special counsel in the case earlier this month, is expected to take over “shortly,” Fitzpatrick said.
Bauer said the Justice Department had requested that the search not be made public before it was conducted, “in accordance with its standard procedures, and we agreed to cooperate.” He did not provide any more detail about the nature of the documents that were taken or what level of classification had been stamped on them.
The search underscored the seriousness of the investigation into Biden’s handling of documents and, while not a surprise raid, in some ways resembled the extensive search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last summer, with agents looking for classified documents they believed were in Trump’s possession.
Biden and his aides have repeatedly argued that the two cases are very different because the president has cooperated fully with authorities, while Trump and his lawyers resisted efforts by the National Archives and the Justice Department to return documents.
Trump — who at one point claimed that he had declassified all the documents in question just by thinking about doing so — and his advisers are also under investigation for obstructing the inquiry into the classified information.
But since the discovery of Biden’s documents, Trump has complained that Justice Department investigators were treating his successor differently.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump wrote in a statement on his social media site earlier this month.
The results of Friday’s search follow a series of discoveries by the president’s own lawyers of classified documents at the president’s Wilmington home and the Washington office Biden used before moving into the White House. The lawyers quickly turned the documents over to the National Archives and, later, to the Justice Department.
Biden did not reveal the discovery of some of those documents for nearly two months, after initially finding them Nov. 2. He has said that it would eventually be revealed that he did nothing wrong.
“There is no there there,” Biden told reporters Thursday evening during a trip to California.
Regarding Friday’s search, Bauer said in his statement on Saturday: “Yesterday, DOJ completed a thorough search of all the materials in the president’s Wilmington home. It began at approximately 9:45 a.m. and concluded at around 10:30 p.m. and covered all working, living and storage spaces in the home.”
“DOJ had full access to the president’s home, including personally handwritten notes, files, papers, binders, memorabilia, to-do lists, schedules, and reminders going back decades,” he added, referring to the Justice Department.
News of the lengthy search and the discovery of more classified materials is certain to provide new ammunition to Biden’s critics, including Republican members of the House, who have already demanded information about the documents and their potential impact on national security.
In a letter this past week to Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., demanded that Biden and his lawyers provide more information to Congress.
“It is troubling that classified documents have been improperly stored at the home of President Biden for at least six years, raising questions about who may have reviewed or had access to classified information,” Comer wrote.
On Saturday, after news of the latest discovery was reported, Comer tweeted: “Biden’s White House claimed all classified documents were turned over. Now the Justice Department found more. Is the scavenger hunt over? Americans need answers now.”
Comer, chair of the House Oversight Committee, has not demanded similar transparency from Trump regarding the classified documents found at his home.