The Justice Department is looking into how a handful of classified documents from President Biden’s time as vice president ended up at the DC think tank that bears his name, the White House confirmed Monday night.
“A small number” of sensitive documents from the 80-year-old Biden’s time as Barack Obama’s No. 2 were located less than a week before last year’s midterm elections at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
The material was discovered by Biden’s personal lawyers on Nov. 2, 2022 while they “were packing files housed in a locked closet to prepare to vacate office space,” according to a statement from Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president.
Sauber said that Biden used the office space from “mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 campaign” in April 2019.
CBS News reported that Attorney General Merrick Garland has tasked Chicago US Attorney John Lausch, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, to review the materials and the FBI is also involved in the investigation.
The documents were reportedly stored in a folder inside a box of other unclassified papers. It is unknown what the classified documents are about or what their level of classification is, but CBS reported that the papers did not contain nuclear secrets.
Sauber said that the White House counsel’s office informed the National Archives about the documents on the same day they were found and the agency took possession of the materials the next day.
“The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives,” he said. “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.”
All presidential and vice-presidential documents must be turned over to the National Archives at the conclusion of a presidency, according to the Presidential Records Act of 1978.
A special counsel could be appointed to probe the matter further after Lausch’s preliminary review.
During a “60 Minutes” interview with Scott Pelley in September of last year, Biden ripped Trump as “totally irresponsible” for keeping classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago club and residence.
“When you saw the photograph of the top-secret documents laid out on the floor at Mar-a-Lago, what did you think to yourself? Looking at that image,” Pelley asked Biden.
“How that could possibly happen,” the president answered. “How one – anyone could be that irresponsible. And I thought what data was in there that may compromise sources and methods? By that I mean names of people who helped or – et cetera. And it just – totally irresponsible.”
Federal authorities have recovered some 300 classified documents from the Trump presidency at Mar-a-Lago and other storage sites since January 2021, spurring a federal criminal investigation into violations by Trump and his associates of the Presidential Records Act.
The Penn Biden Center think tank was founded in 2018 and is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania. The center purports to be “completely independent of the Biden administration.”
Biden earned nearly $1 million from the University of Pennsylvania to be an honorary professor from 2017 to 2019, despite appearing rarely at the Ivy League school.
The school has raked in millions in anonymous donations from China since putting Biden’s name on the think tank, including $15.8 million in Chinese gifts in 2017 and one staggering $14.5 million donation in May 2018, records show.
The University of Pennsylvania has received a total of $54.6 million in donations from China between 2014 and 2019.
A spokesman for the institution denied that any anonymous Chinese money had gone to the Penn Biden Center.
The incoming GOP head of the House Oversight Committee called Biden’s handling of classified materials “ironic,” given the commander-in-chief’s criticism of Trump.
“President Biden has been very critical of President Trump mistakenly taking classified documents to the residence or wherever and now it seems he may have done the same,” Rep. James Comer of Kentucky told CNN, adding, “How ironic.”
Comer noted that the National Archives falls under the Oversight Committee’s jurisdiction but said the agency wasn’t forthcoming with information related to Trump’s handling of classified documents, referring questions from the committee to the DOJ.
“Maybe they’ll answer our questions now because it pertains to two presidents,” Comer said.
The Kentucky Republican also told reporters on Monday that he plans to send a letter to the White House counsel and the National Archives asking for information into Biden’s handling of classified materials, but that he thought it was unlikely the president did anything wrong.
“In our research, every president accidentally took some documents that may or may not be classified, and they were never raided by the FBI. So now we find out that Biden did the same thing for six years? I wonder is the White House going to be raided tonight by Archives or the FBI?” said Comer.
In a tweet on Monday, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee flagged the report of Biden’s possible mishandling of classified material with more than a dozen sirens.
Like Comer, Rep. Tony Nehls (R-Texas) also asked, “When will the FBI raid his home?”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called for “nonstop” investigations into Biden and his family upon learning of the discovery of the documents at the Penn Biden Center.
“Oh, my gosh. I think we need to investigate the Bidens nonstop. I’ve been very vocal on impeaching Joe Biden and hopefully we can get that done this Congress,” Greene told Fox News.