An Illinois-based federal prosecutor has been tasked with investigating the presence of potentially classified documents found at a Washington, DC think tank by President Joe Biden’s personal lawyers.
In a statement, the special adviser to the president Richard Sauber said Mr Biden’s lawyers found the documents on November 2 while they were “packing files placed in a locked cabinet in preparation for leaving office space at the Penn Biden Center” – a think tank affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, where Mr. Biden held an honorary professorship and where he “periodically” used an office from 2017 to 2020, when they discovered a folder containing classified documents.
Sauber added that Mr. Biden’s lawyers had immediately notified the National Archives and Records Administration, which took possession of the documents and informed the Justice Department of what had happened.
“The discovery of these documents was made by the president’s lawyers,” he said. “The documents were not the subject of any prior request or request from the Archives. Since this discovery, the President’s personal attorneys have been cooperating with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that all Obama-Biden administration documents are appropriately in the Archives’ possession.”
It is not known how the documents got there or what they pertain to, but Attorney General Merrick Garland has ordered U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, to look into the case and issue a report. Sauber said the documents appeared to date back to the Obama administration, during which Biden served as vice president.
Sauber said the White House is “cooperating” with both the Justice Department and the National Archives “regarding the discovery of what appear to be Obama-Biden administration records, including a small number of documents with classified markings.”
The discovery of classified documents at a think tank bearing the president’s name comes as a Justice Department special counsel considers seeking criminal charges against Trump, who has admitted taking highly classified documents to his home in Palm Beach, Florida, and keeping them despite for requests. to return them to the National Archives, allegedly obstructing a DOJ investigation into whether he had returned the documents as required by law.
An Aug. 8 search of Trump’s home and office at his Mar-a-Lago club by FBI agents turned up more than 11 boxes of documents, with some classified at levels as high as “top secret.”
The search followed months of back-and-forth between Trump and the National Archives, which asked the Justice Department to open an investigation in January 2022 after retrieving 15 boxes from Trump’s estate and discovering classified material inside. Trump’s lawyers also turned over more documents to the Justice Department in June after receiving a subpoena from a grand jury in Washington, DC, but prosecutors sought the search warrant after developing evidence showing Trump had not returned all of the classified documents in his possession.
In total, the government has recovered more than 300 classified documents from Trump in the two years since his term — and his ability to legally possess classified information — ended.
The twice-indicted ex-president has repeatedly claimed in public statements that the documents were his property and has demanded their return. Under US law, the documents are the property of the US government.
With additional reporting from agencies