National Archives asks DOJ to investigate classified documents found in private office Biden used

Biden's lawyers discovered the materials in November and self-reported them, and some were classified at the top secret level, officials said.

Updated: January 9, 2023 - 10:59pm

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The issue of handling of classified documents boomeranged Monday on President Joe Biden, just months after the FBI raided Donald Trump's Florida home, as officials confirmed a small number of classified documents were found in a private office once used by the current president at his think tank.

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 locked closet in the Penn Biden Center in Washington, where Biden worked after he left the Obama administration.

The official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked a U.S. attorney in Illinois -- a holdover from the Trump administration -- to oversee the investigation with NARA and the FBI. The documents appear to be from 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."

Sauber said Biden "used this space from mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 campaign. 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."

The stunning announcement is certain to have political consequences since Biden criticized Trump after the FBI found classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago office during a raid in August and Garland named a special prosecutor to investigate the 45th president.

Biden ridiculed Trump as "totally irresponsible" for his handling of the materials. 

"How that could possibly happen? How anyone could be that irresponsible?" Biden said. "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,'" Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the new chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, told Just the News.

"Under the Biden Administration, the Department of Justice and National Archives have made compliance with the Presidential Records Act a top priority. We expect the same treatment for President Biden, who has apparently inappropriately maintained classified documents in an insecure setting for several years," Comer said.