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Special counsel to probe Biden storage of classified documents

A lawyer acknowledged that documents were found at the Penn-Biden Center in Washington and the president's home

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland names an independent special counsel to probe President Joe Biden's alleged mishandling of classified documents Thursday at the Justice Department.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland names an independent special counsel to probe President Joe Biden's alleged mishandling of classified documents Thursday at the Justice Department. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland named a special counsel Thursday to investigate storage of classified documents at places President Joe Biden worked before his return to the White House.

Former federal prosecutor Robert Hur, who previously served as U.S. attorney in Maryland, will have the authority to probe the document retention of Biden’s office after he served as vice president under President Barack Obama.

The Biden administration has acknowledged that attorneys found classified documents at two locations where Biden worked following his tenure as vice president.

Garland previously had tasked John R. Lausch Jr., the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Chicago, with reviewing the documents and assessing the situation. That was before the revelation of more classified documents found in the garage of Biden’s Wilmington, Del., residence.

“I strongly believe that the normal processes of this department can handle all investigations with integrity,” Garland said at a news conference Thursday. “But under the regulations, the extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special counsel for this matter.”

This week’s revelations also caused Republicans to draw parallels to the criminal probe of former President Donald Trump’s possession of classified information at his private club, Mar-a-Lago. Last year, Garland named John L. “Jack” Smith to serve as special counsel over that probe after Trump announced his reelection run.

In two statements released Thursday, Richard Sauber, a lawyer for Biden, acknowledged that classified documents were found at the Penn-Biden Center in Washington as well as Biden’s home in Delaware.

“We have cooperated closely with the Justice Department throughout its review, and we will continue that cooperation with the Special Counsel,” Sauber said in one statement released by the White House. “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.”

Sauber said the documents with classified markings came from the Obama administration and were located in a “process to ensure that any Obama-Biden administration records were appropriately in possession of the Archives.”

Thursday’s announcement from Garland followed calls from numerous prominent lawmakers, including Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to appoint one. In an interview with Fox News, Graham drew a comparison to the Trump probe.

“The point is, you need a special counsel to investigate the Biden mishandling episode if you’re going to do the same for Trump,” Graham said.

Earlier Thursday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., argued the president must have known his office contained sensitive information.

“So, I think he has a lot of answers to the American public. The good thing about that is the American public has a Congress that can get the answers,” McCarthy said.

In the days since the first report on the documents from The New York Times, Republicans have folded the revelations into their broader oversight efforts of the Biden administration.

Rep. Michael R. Turner, chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Tuesday to request an assessment of damage to national security that may have been caused by the documents.

House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chair Rep. James R. Comer, R-Ky., requested information from the National Archives and Records Administration about its effort to secure the documents and cover up their existence after their initial discovery in November.

“For months, NARA failed to disclose to Committee Republicans or the American public that President Biden—after serving as Vice President—stored highly classified documents in a closet at his personal office,” Comer’s letter said.

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