Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed a special counsel to lead an investigation into classified Obama-era documents found in President Joe Biden’s home and former private office.
The Special Counsel Robert HarrHe was nominated by then-President Donald Trump to be the US attorney in Maryland in 2017 and served in that position until his resignation in 2021. He was most recently in private practice in Washington, DC.
“I am confident that the department’s normal processes can handle all inquiries with integrity. But under the regulations, the extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special counsel for the matter,” Garland said. “This appointment underscores the department’s commitment to independence and accountability to the public, and particularly to making decisions that are unquestionably guided by the facts and law alone, especially on important matters.”
Harr will get “all the resources he needs to do his job,” he said.
“I will conduct the assigned hearing with fair, impartial and dispassionate judgement. I intend to pursue the facts promptly and thoroughly without fear or favour, and I will respect the trust placed in me to perform this service,” Harr said in a statement.
The appointment marks a landmark moment for Biden and a unique moment in American history with special counsel investigating the current president and his immediate predecessor simultaneously. Garland appointed a special prosecutor in November To oversee criminal investigations into the possession of national security information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6, 2021 rebellion.
A special counsel investigation, coupled with a radical new Republican-led House of Representatives, could put Biden on the defensive for the next two years.
The appointment comes hours after the White House Counsel’s Office He said in the statement Biden’s aides found documents with classified markings in two locations inside his home in Wilmington, Delaware. The documents were located in a storage area in Biden’s garage and in an adjoining room, the statement said. Biden often spends weekends at a home on a lake in an affluent, wooded area.
Speaking on Thursday, Biden said the documents were in a “locked garage” and that he was cooperating fully with the Justice Department.
“It’s not like they’re sitting on the street,” he insisted when asked by a reporter why he would store the classifieds next to a sports car.
“God willing, we will soon have an opportunity to talk about all this,” the president said.
The special counsel announcement significantly expands the existing investigation, which began as a preliminary review by the U.S. attorney in Chicago. It also increases potential legal exposure for Biden, his aides and lawyers who have handled important government material since his time as vice president. By bringing in a special counsel, Garland is isolating himself from the politically charged case, although he will have the final say on whether to press charges. When that decision comes, whatever the outcome, it will surely become a major flashpoint in the 2024 presidential election.
The development puts the Justice Department and the FBI where they don’t want to be — in the middle of a presidential election for the third straight cycle. Since 2015, FBI investigations into presidents and major candidates have continued: Hillary Clinton’s emails; Trump’s ties to Russia; his efforts to subvert the 2020 election and his hoarding of classified material; Now handling Biden’s classified files.
Biden’s special counsel, Richard Saber, said in a statement: “We believe that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and that the president and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovering this mistake.”
During his news conference, Garland laid out a timeline of events in the case.
Garland said Thursday that the National Archives notified a DOJ attorney on Nov. 4 about documents with classified markings found in Biden’s think tank.
The archivist informed the prosecutor that the documents were secured in an archival facility. The FBI began an initial assessment five days later, on November 14, with U.S. Attorney John Lash leading that initial investigation. The following month, on December 20, according to Garland’s account, White House counsel disclosed to Lash a second batch of classified documents found at Biden’s Wilmington home. On Thursday morning, Biden’s personal attorney called Losse and informed him that an additional document marked classified had been found at Biden’s home.
Additional documents were discovered following raids on the president’s homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The statement said there were no classified documents on the Rehoboth property. The documents were found in “Personal and Political Papers”.
Biden’s attorneys completed their review of the Delaware homes Wednesday evening.
“As was done in the case of the Penn-Biden Center, the Department of Justice was immediately notified, and attorneys arranged to take these documents to the Department of Justice,” the statement said.
In the case of classified documents initially discovered at the Ben-Biden center, Biden lawyers first notified the National Archives — not the Justice Department — a person familiar with the situation said after the report was released. .
Biden’s lawyers followed “due process” and first notified the archives with the first set of classified documents, but the Justice Department later got involved and the president’s lawyers were in contact with them, and on a second occasion, lawyers informed the Justice Department.
But key questions remain unanswered about the stash of classified items, including who brought them to Biden’s private homes and what specifically was in them.
Several people associated with Biden have been interviewed as part of a Justice Department investigation that uncovered classified documents from his time as vice president, two people explained on the matter.
The group includes former aides from his time as Biden’s vice president. Ben Biden Center for Diplomacy and Engagement, People said.
The names of the interviewees are not clear. More interviews may be conducted going forward, though it’s a fluid process, one of the people said.
The Biden issue exploded into the public eye in January when news reports revealed that a Biden lawyer had discovered 10 classified documents while cleaning out one of Biden’s private offices in Washington, D.C. The discovery occurred in November, days before the midterm elections, but Biden’s team kept the matter under wraps and did not acknowledge anything publicly until it emerged in the press.
CNN reported Wednesday Biden’s legal team found another trove of classified documents in a search that began in early November following the discovery of classified documents in his former think tank’s office in Washington.
The discovery raised alarm bells in the White House, where only a small circle of advisers and lawyers knew about the matter. An effort was launched to search for other locations where documents from Biden’s tenure as vice president may have been stored.
CNN previously reported The initial package, discovered when Biden’s personal lawyers were packing files in his former private office, contained 10 classified documents, including US intelligence material and references to Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom.
Some classified documents are “Top Secret”, the highest level. They were found in three or four boxes, which also contained unclassified documents covered by the Presidential Records Act, CNN reported.
Classified records should be stored in secure locations. Under the Presidential Records Act, White House records must go to the National Archives when an administration ends.
Ahead of Wednesday’s new reports on a second batch of government materials, the White House declined to answer several critical questions about classified documents from the Biden era, citing an ongoing judicial review when the vice president was found in a private office last fall. .
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre declined to answer several questions about the documents Wednesday, saying the Justice Department was continuing to review the matter. She could not say who brought the documents to the office or whether other documents were found. She could not say whether an audit was underway to uncover other possible documents or when the president was informed of the document’s discovery.
“It is under judicial review. I am not going to go beyond what the president shared yesterday,” Jean-Pierre repeated the explanation in as many words during a press conference on Wednesday. “I’m not going to go beyond what my colleagues in the White House counsel have shared with all of you.”
This is a breaking story and will be updated.