Belated revelation classified documents found in private Biden office turns legal, political tables

Office where documents found was part of a think tank at Ivy League university that got significant Chinese funding.

Published: January 9, 2023 11:40pm

Updated: January 10, 2023 12:40pm

When Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Nov. 18 that he had named a special prosecutor to investigate former President Donald Trump's handling of classified documents found at the Mar-a-Lago compound, the government harbored a fresh secret: The current president, Joe Biden, had a similar problem.

Just two weeks earlier, Biden's lawyers disclosed to government lawyers on Nov. 2 — just six days before the midterm elections — that they had found sensitive government documents with classified markings inside an office that Biden used at the Penn Biden Center think tank in Washington after he left office as Barack Obama's vice president.

The public was kept in the dark about the startling discovery until Monday, when the White House confirmed it was cooperating with an investigation launched by the Justice Department at the request of the same National Archives that has tussled with Trump over the last year.

The belated disclosure turned the political tables on Biden, who sharply criticized Trump for his document debacle last fall, while also raising troubling new questions that will be need to be answered by a U.S. Attorney in Illinois and Congress.

Those questions include:

  • Are there any other documents missing from Biden's government document collection from his time as vice president?
  • Are there any other locations — insecure or secure — where Biden might have kept sensitive government secrets?
  • Did the government delay notifying the public for political or other purposes, such as sparing Biden from criticism or to keep voters in the dark before Election Day?
  • Did any foreign powers have access to the office space where the documents were found?

The latter question took on added significance Monday night because it has been known for years that the University of Pennsylvania received extensive Chinese funding — estimated in some media reports at $54 million — around and after the time Biden announced his policy think tank was going to be part of the university's Washington program.

Republicans who chafed for months at the Biden Justice Department's records battle with Trump immediately seized on the revelation and vowed a vigorous investigation.

"Under the Biden Administration, the Department of Justice and National Archives have made compliance with the Presidential Records Act a top priority," Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the new chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, told Just the News. "We expect the same treatment for President Biden, who has apparently inappropriately maintained classified documents in an insecure setting for several years."

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), a former White House physician, went even further to suggest Biden was a hypocrite, his administration guilty of a double standard and the whole episode possibly a national security risk.

"Biden knew for YEARS that he's been storing HIGHLY CLASSIFIED documents in his personal office," Jackson tweeted. "He KNEW it when FBI agents were raiding Mar-a-Lago, and he KNEW it when he appointed a partisan special counsel. HE KNEW THE WHOLE TIME BUT STILL HAD HIS DOJ GOONS PERSECUTE TRUMP!!"

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said the connection of Chinese money to the university added a troubling aspect.

"This think tank received $54 million in funding from the CCP," Biggs wrote on the Truth Social platform. "The Biden family highly concerns me."

Trump himself was glad to turn the tables Monday night on his rival.

"When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?" Trump asked in a post on Truth Social. "These documents were definitely not declassified."

For now, the first line of business — to determine whether crimes were committed or other documents are missing — will fall to U.S. Attorney John Lausch, a Trump holdover in Illinois who has been asked by Garland to lead a review of the Biden documents.

A senior government official directly familiar with the discovery told Just the News that the National Archives asked the Justice Department to open an investigation in November after a small number of classified documents — some marked top secret — were found in a closet in the Penn Biden Center in Washington, where Biden worked after he left the Obama administration.

The White House released a statement Monday evening confirming the discovery and the investigation, saying Biden's lawyers self-disclosed the existence of the documents when the office previously used by the president was being vacated for another party.

"The White House is cooperating with the National Archives and the Department of Justice regarding the discovery of what appear to be Obama-Biden Administration records, including a small number of documents with classified markings," White House special counsel Richard Sauber said in a statement after the discovery was reported by CBS and CNN. "The documents were discovered when the President's personal attorneys were packing files housed in a locked closet to prepare to vacate office space at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C."

Biden "used this space from mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 campaign," Sauber said. "On the day of this discovery, November 2, 2022, the White House Counsel's Office notified the National Archives. The Archives took possession of the materials the following morning."

He added: "The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives. 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."

Tom Fitton, president of the Judicial Watch watchdog group, told Just the News the Biden disclosure will have both a political and legal boomerang.

"The Biden operation hid from the American people the discovery of classified records in VP Biden's office just before November elections," he said. "Will there now be a raid of Biden's home? 

"This development highlights the absurdity and lawlessness of the raid on Trump's home, as Biden is implicated in the very same conduct and yet is being protected by the agencies hounding Trump."

After the FBI found classified documents at Trump's Mar-a-Lago office during a raid in August, Garland named a special prosecutor to investigate the 45th president. And Biden ridiculed Trump as "totally irresponsible" for his handling of the materials. 

"How that could possibly happen? How anyone could be that irresponsible?" Biden asked a few months ago. "And I thought what data was in there that may compromise sources and methods?"

House Republicans pounced on the revelations, vowing a vigorous investigation and noting Biden's prior comments.

"President Biden has stated that taking classified documents from the White House is 'irresponsible,'" Comer said.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) told Fox News' Tucker Carlson that "Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice, they have to be held accountable if they don't treat Joe Biden exactly the same way they're treating President Trump."

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