Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate the presence of classified documents found in an unsecured office in Washington, D.C., and his home in Wilmington, Delaware, from his time as vice president.
Former U.S. attorney, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, Robert Hur, will lead the investigation and is planning to begin his work soon. Hur’s appointment is the second time in only a few months that the AG has appointed a special counsel representing the Department of Justice’s efforts to conduct high-pressure probes in a political environment that has become increasingly heated.
Both investigations, the one into Biden’s handling of classified documents and Trump’s documents seized during a raid on the former president’s Mar-a-Lago Florida estate, are tied to documents labeled ‘classified.’
The attorney general’s decision comes at the end of a tumultuous week for the Biden administration. The president and his team began the year hoping to celebrate the release of more robust economic news before an expected announcement of a reelection campaign. However, Biden’s administration was confronted with a new challenge when it acknowledged sensitive documents found in the office of the president’s former institute in D.C.
The already-tense situation intensified Thursday morning when Biden’s attorney said more classified documents were found in the president’s personal library in his Delaware home and other classified documents in his garage.
President Biden’s attorney general also revealed that his lawyers told the Justice Department about the latest discovery on Thursday morning after FBI agents seized documents from his garage in December.
The president told reporters at a White House briefing that he was “cooperating fully and completely” with the investigation by the Justice Department into how government records and classified information were stored.
“We have cooperated closely with the Justice Department throughout its review, and we will continue that cooperation with the special counsel,” said a lawyer for the president, Richard Sauber. “We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced and the president and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake.”
Garland: ‘Extraordinary circumstances’ mandated special counsel’s appointment
Attorney General Garland said the “extraordinary circumstances” of the situation mandated Hur’s appointment and added that the special counsel is authorized to research whether any entity or person violated the law.
Federal law requires strict procedures for the handling of classified information. Official records from the now-president Biden’s time as vice president are government property under the Presidential Records Act.
“This appointment underscores for the public the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law,” said Garland.
In a statement, Hur said, “I will conduct the assigned investigation with fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment. I intend to follow the facts swiftly and thoroughly, without fear or favor, and will honor the trust placed in me to perform this service.”
The president’s attorneys located the first set of official and classified documents on November 2 in a locked closet as they cleared out his Penn Biden Center office. His attorneys notified the National Archives, who gathered the documents the following day and passed the matter on to the Justice Department.
After the president’s attorneys searched other locations where documents may have been stored after Biden left office as vice president, including his homes in Rehoboth Beach and Wilmington, Delaware, the Justice Department was informed on December 20 that official records and classified documents were located in the president’s Wilmington garage, near his Corvette. FBI agents took possession of the records shortly after.
The most recently unearthed documents were found in Biden’s personal library at his Delaware home. Garland said the Justice Department was notified Thursday.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted the president and his administration are handling the matter correctly, despite public omissions.
“There was transparency in doing what you’re supposed to do,” said Jean-Pierre, who declined to answer questions about when the president was briefed on the documents discovered and whether or not he would agree to submit to interviews with investigators.
California Republican Kevin McCarthy, the newly-elected Speaker of the House, said, after hearing the latest news, “I think Congress has to investigate this.”
“Here’s an individual that sat on ’60 Minutes’ that was so concerned about President Trump’s documents … and now we find that this is a vice president keeping it for years out in the open in different locations.”