Personal lawyers for President Biden discovered "a small number of documents with classified markings" in the locked closet of an office Biden used at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington from 2017 to 2019, White House special counsel Richard Sauber said Monday. The roughly 10 documents were discovered Nov. 2 and handed over to the National Archives and Records Administration on Nov. 3, Sauber said.
The National Archives referred the matter to the Justice Department, and Attorney General Merrick Garland assigned U.S. Attorney John Lausch in Chicago to review what's in the potentially classified documents and how they ended up in the Penn Biden Center, CBS News reports.
Lausch is one of two U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Donald Trump that Biden kept on after his inauguration. ("The other is Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who is leading an investigation into the president's son, Hunter Biden," CBS News notes.) His review is reportedly near completion, and then Garland will decide whether the incident merits a criminal investigation.
Jack Smith, a special counsel appointed by Garland, is investigating some 300 classified documents found in Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence last August. "While the Biden case has obvious echoes of the Mar-a-Lago investigation, the details provided by Biden's lawyer on Monday suggest key differences that could factor heavily in whether the Biden documents become a criminal matter," The Washington Post reports.
The main difference is that the Mar-a-Lago files were seized in a raid months after the National Archives had requested, and a federal grand jury had subpoenaed, documents Trump had improperly retained from his presidency. Smith is looking into obstruction of justice and destruction of records charges along with ones pertaining to mishandling of classified material.
In Biden's case, "the documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives," Saubert said. "Since that discovery, the president's personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives."
House Republicans nevertheless vowed to investigate the matter and criticized the White House for not informing voters of these documents before the November midterm elections.