Biden Was Shocked to Find Official Records, Including Sensitive Ones, in His Private Office
Biden Was Shocked to Find Official Records: Joe Biden, the current president, claimed on Tuesday that he had no idea that federal data from his tenure as VP had been moved to his private office after he left public service and included certain secret materials.
In answer to a query from a reporter in Mexico City, where Biden was attending a trilateral meeting with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, Biden remarked, “I was astonished to find there were any government records that were carried there to that location.”
Biden stressed that he has no idea what was found in his office at the University of Pennsylvania’s honorary professorship at a building in Washington, DC. According to two sources familiar with the situation, CNN reported earlier in the day that neither Biden nor his White House legal staff knows what is in the classified documents because they had not reviewed them.
According to a separate person familiar with the case, CNN reported on Tuesday that among the secret documents are memoranda and briefing materials from US intelligence covering themes like Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
One source familiar with the situation told CNN that Biden didn’t know the records were there and didn’t find out until his personal lawyers contacted the White House counsel’s office. A source close to the president said to CNN that Biden does not know what is in the documents because the president’s team is afraid of appearing to interfere while the Justice Department is still investigating the situation.
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According to the White House, the president’s personal attorneys stumbled upon the records in November while packing files, and the counsel’s office then informed the National Archives and Records Administration of the discovery. According to the White House, Biden’s attorneys turned over the records to the National Archives the day after they were discovered and are continuing to cooperate with the US attorney in Chicago as they investigate the case.
President Trump claimed his legal team “did what they should have done” by contacting the National Archives straight away.
In addition, Biden stated that the records were discovered in “a box, locked cabinet – or at least a closet,” indicating that he takes sensitive materials and information seriously.
President Joe Biden said he was surprised when informed that government records were found by his attorneys at his former office space in Washington. https://t.co/V4HG9X6wW8
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) January 11, 2023
According to another CNN source, there were fewer than a dozen secret files discovered in the workplace. There was no apparent reason for their visit to President Biden’s office. Some of the confidential documents were marked as “sensitive compartmented information,” or SCI, the code name for the most secret intelligence. Former federal officials are obligated to turn over sensitive files and data upon leaving office.
A spokesman for the White House counsel’s office, Ian Sams, responded to reporters’ questions about the discovery of classified documents in President Joe Biden’s private office in November by saying that the White House is “limited in what we can say” at this time while the Justice Department investigates the matter and that “further details” may be shared in the future.
Given that the Department of Justice is still investigating this, we can only say so much for now. But we are dedicated to doing this the correct way, and we will share additional facts as and as they become available,” Sams said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Documents are downplayed by the White House
The White House has called in its closest friends in an effort to defuse the increasing anger and questions about the discovery by providing an update on the inquiry into the missing secret materials.
Two persons with knowledge of the call report that a White House official described the documents as “fewer than a dozen,” adding that they are “not extremely sensitive” and “not of high interest to the intelligence community.”
The conversation was meant to elaborate on the White House’s explanation published on Monday night, but no written talking points were sent to administration allies ahead of time, as is customary in the event of a growing political crisis or another moment of critical importance.
A senior official on the call reiterated that NARA was informed promptly by the president’s legal counsel.
Given the ongoing investigation and delicate nature of these papers, the White House is still working out how much they can and will reveal. According to aides, only an extremely small group of people knew about this before it was reported in the media on Monday.
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Biden tries to keep his mind on the summit at hand
Biden was beginning a highly anticipated bilateral discussion with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as the story of the sensitive documents swiftly dominated attention back home.
An administration official told CNN that President Biden had been in meetings all afternoon in preparation for the lengthy bilateral discussion with his counterpart as events unfolded.
The official stated, “His itinerary has not changed.” He’s planning on going to the summit and talking to our neighbors there.
This individual stated that, to their knowledge, Biden’s advisors have not yet brought up the topic of the sensitive materials during Biden’s travel to Mexico.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, who sat to Biden’s left during his conversation with the Mexican president, has reportedly asked the US attorney in Chicago to evaluate the matter, according to a source familiar with the situation who spoke with CNN.
John Lausch Jr. was selected by then-President Trump to serve as the United States Attorney in Chicago in 2017. According to those in the know, Garland chose Lausch to lead the inquiry into the Biden documents because he is one of the two remaining US attorneys chosen by Trump and thus avoids the appearance of a conflict of interest because he was not appointed by Biden.
A CNN source said that Lausch has finished the first phase of his investigation. Sources say he has already shared his preliminary findings with Garland.
Garland must now make a decisive choice about how to move forward, maybe including launching a full-scale criminal probe. The decision to dispatch the FBI to examine Mar-a-Lago and the probe into Trump’s paperwork both engaged Garland directly.
The contrast between the probes against Trump and Biden
There are parallels between this and the issue that engulfed Trump in late 2021 after the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and discovered dozens of secret documents. According to the Biden team, however, there are important distinctions between the two scenarios.
In response to the discovery of a small number of secret documents, Sauber said Biden’s personal counsel promptly turned up the materials. The National Archives had to negotiate with Trump for months to get back crucial records after they discovered they were missing.
NARA or any other government agency had no need to look for or request the files they found in Biden’s office.
Eventually, Trump returned 15 boxes of documents to NARA. It was only later that federal agents realized he was likely still in possession of dozens of additional secret documents. In order to obtain these records, the DOJ obtained a grand jury subpoena and a judge’s warrant to search Mar-a-Lago. Jack Smith, the special counsel, is looking into whether or not he improperly handled sensitive information.
Since the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago in August, during which scores of additional secret files were discovered, Trump has promoted wild and baseless charges about his predecessors’ apparent mismanagement of federal records. The revelation about secret data coming up at Biden’s private office is expected to provide more fuel to Trump, who has already started his 2024 presidential run.
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Trump’s lawyers see the revelation of the documents in Biden’s private office as a huge asset to their ongoing case related to his handling of classified documents after he left office, believing it showcases how easy it is to unknowingly take documents that are supposed to be in the possession of the federal government.
Trump refused to return the records he had taken, thus there is a clear distinction between the two occurrences. However, his team aims to emphasize the fact that these documents were discovered days before the midterm election, yet no public announcement was made.
The Republicans have promised a probe
The issue has rapidly become a flashpoint on Capitol Hill for House Republicans eager to use their new oversight powers on the Biden administration.
House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer told CNN he will be pressing the National Archives, which he controls, for answers regarding the secret files.
President Biden, who has been harshly critical of President Trump for bringing secret papers to the White House by accident, “may have done the same,” as Comer put it. “That’s so ironic!”
The White House Counsel’s Office and the Archives both received letters from the Kentucky Republican on Tuesday evening. By January 24, he wanted all requested materials turned over, and by January 17, he wanted NARA General Counsel Gary Stern and NARA Director of Congressional Affairs John Hamilton available for transcribed interviews with committee staff.
Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House, has said that the response to Trump’s retention of classified documents has been “driven by politics,” but he has not said whether or not he thinks House Republicans should investigate Biden’s retention of classified documents.
McCarthy argued that this showed the Trump administration had been “overplayed” when it came to the dossier.
“They’ve been around even longer,” McCarthy said of Biden’s crew. “President Trump had never been in office before and had just departed, came out. Here’s an individual spending his past 40 years in office.”
They were trying to be political with President Trump,” McCarthy continued.
Biden’s lawyers “appear to have taken immediate and proper action to notify the National Archives about their discovery of a small handful of classified documents found in a locked cabinet at the Penn Biden Center so that they could be returned to federal government custody,” as noted by Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight panel.
Some members of Biden’s own party have expressed alarm over the possible discovery of classified materials in an unsuitable location.
Upon hearing that President Biden may have mishandled secret records from his tenure as president, two prominent Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, Reps. Adam Schiff and Jim Himes told CNN that confidential documents must be handled securely.
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Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, indicated Tuesday that he plans to get briefed on the secret materials soon.
Warner said in a statement that the committee is expecting to be briefed on what happened at Mar-a-Lago and the Biden office as part of their constitutional oversight duty and that this briefing would include covering Trump’s retention of confidential documents.
Rep. Mike Turner, the incoming Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has written to DNI Avril Haines, requesting an “urgent examination and damage assessment” of the secret information. When secret paperwork was found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, members of the House Intelligence Committee made a similar request to Haines.
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