Attorney General Garland appoints special counsel to probe Biden documents

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday named Robert Hur to serve as special counsel in an investigation into classified records recovered from President Joe Biden’s former office and one of his homes in Delaware.

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White House officials confirmed Thursday that documents with classification markings had been found in storage at Biden’s home in Wilmington. The records, from Biden’s time as President Barack Obama’s vice president, were discovered after separate records were found in November at the president’s former office at the Penn Biden Center.

Garland said Thursday that he appointed a special counsel to review the circumstances surrounding the recovered documents for possible violations of the law.

“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,” the attorney general said. “I am confident that Mr. Hur will carry out his responsibilities in an even-handed and urgent manner, and in accordance with the highest traditions of this department.”

Garland said authorities launched an investigation in November after they were contacted by the National Archives’ Office of Inspector General. The White House had notified officials that documents bearing classification markings had been found at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington. Biden said Tuesday that the documents were found in an office he used and that he wasn’t sure what the records contained.

John Lausch, U.S. attorney for the District of Illinois, was tasked with determining whether it would be appropriate to appoint a special counsel to review the situation. He later deemed such an appointment was warranted.

In December, attorneys for Biden told Lausch that documents bearing classification markings had been found in the garage of Biden’s home in Wilmington. Attorneys on Wednesday told authorities that another document with classified markings was found in the Wilmington home, Garland said.

Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, said in a statement that a “small number” of records were found in storage inside a garage at Biden’s home and that a single document was found in storage in an adjacent room.

Republicans criticized Biden following the discovery, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Thursday calling for a congressional investigation of the situation. Rep. James Comer, who became chair of the House Oversight Committee after Republicans took the majority in the chamber earlier this month, said he planned to hold hearings on the president’s handling of classified records.

“The National Archives and Records Administration, the White House, and the Department of Justice were aware of the classified documents stashed in a closet at the Penn Biden Center before the election, and now we’ve learned classified documents kept in President Biden’s garage were found in December,” he said in a statement. “There are many questions about why the Biden Administration kept this matter a secret from the public, who had access to the office and the residence, and what information is contained in these classified documents.”

Republicans questioned why it was not made public that classified records were discovered at the Penn Biden Center until after the midterm elections. Biden said Thursday that he and his attorneys were “cooperating fully and completely with the Justice Department’s review.”

“People know I take classified documents and classified materials seriously,” the president said.

Sauber said later Thursday that the president and his attorneys will cooperate with the special counsel investigation.

“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,” he said.

Hur served as U.S. attorney in Maryland from 2018 to 2021 after being nominated by former President Donald Trump. He earlier served in the Justice Department’s criminal division, and as principal associate deputy attorney general.

“I will conduct the assigned investigation with fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment,” Hur said Thursday in a statement. “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.”

Last year, Garland appointed a special counsel to review the handling of classified records found at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Since Trump left office, authorities have recovered about 300 documents with classification markings from the former president, according to The Associated Press.

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