US President Joe Biden departs Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15, 2023. – Biden spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on the eve of the national holiday honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. King was co-pastor of the church from 1960 until his assassination in 1968.
Brendan Smialowski | Afp | Getty Images
The White House counsel’s office reiterated on Tuesday President Joe Biden’s commitment to cooperating with the Justice Department’s investigation into the discovery that he improperly removed and stored classified documents from the White House that he obtained while serving as vice president under former President Barack Obama.
“It’s important to really understand the distinction here: President Biden is committed to doing the responsible thing and acting appropriately,” White House counsel’s office spokesman Ian Sams said on a call with reporters. The White House disclosed Saturday that Biden’s lawyers turned over new classified documents that were discovered at Biden’s Delaware home. “His team acted promptly to disclose information to the proper authorities and is cooperating fully.”
Last week the White House disclosed that classified government documents from the Obama administration were found in Biden’s possession on four separate occasions. Documents marked as classified were first discovered in November by lawyers for Biden in a locked closet in an office Biden used as a private citizen at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, D.C.
Though the documents were found on Nov. 2, the White House did not make the news public until last Monday. The documents were turned over to the National Archives. Other classified documents were found in Biden’s possession at other locations in searches on Dec. 20, Jan. 12 and Jan. 14, according to the White House.
When pressed on why the White House withheld the discovery of the documents until last week, Sams said officials were working within the constraints of the Justice Department investigation.
“Information is going to develop that’s a natural part of any investigation,” Sams said. “As soon as the searches were underway looking for additional documents to be properly handed to the government, we wanted to be respectful to provide as complete information as we could, trying to balance with the need to provide information to you all consistent with the investigation.”
On Thursday the White House confirmed more documents were discovered in a storage space in the garage of Biden’s Delaware home. The same day, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he was appointing a special counsel to investigate the discovery. Lawyers for Biden announced over the weekend that additional documents had been uncovered.
Garland tapped Robert Hur to serve as special counsel. Garland previously had assigned John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for Chicago, to handle the inquiry after the first batch of records were discovered in November.
By law, government records must be given to the National Archives when a president or officials in their administration leave office. Sams declined to answer questions about the total number of documents found to date and the content of the documents because they had already been handed over to the Justice Department.
The discovery of documents in Biden’s possession in early November came just three months after FBI agents raided former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, seizing more than 100 classified government documents and hundreds of additional records federal prosecutors say belong to the U.S. government.
Trump is the focus of a criminal probe by the DOJ for his removal of the records from the White House in January 2021.
Sams on Tuesday contrasted Republicans’ response to the news of Biden’s documents from their response to the discovery of Trump’s.
“They’re interested in making this political theater and political stunts,” Sams said. “In the last few days we’ve seen an eagerness among House Republicans to make their lack of credibility known. They’re focusing on things that they did not focus on in previous circumstances, they’re making contradictory claims on television about the underlying purposes of their inquiries.”
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