On Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate the presence of classified documents that were discovered at the home of President Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, as well as at an unsecured office in Washington, dating back to his time serving as vice president. The documents were found at both locations.
Robert Hur, a former United States Attorney who was nominated to his position by former President Donald Trump, will be leading the inquiry and has stated his intention to go to work as soon as possible. An extraordinary fact that reflects the Justice Department’s efforts to independently conduct high-profile investigations in an extremely charged political environment is that Garland has appointed a special counsel for the second time in a matter of months.
His appointment marks the second time in a few months that Garland has been appointed a special counsel. Both of those investigations, including the earlier one involving Trump and documents recovered from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, related to the handling of classified information. Even though there are notable differences between those cases, both of those investigations are currently ongoing.
The decision made by Garland brings to a close a turbulent week at the White House, where Vice President Biden and his team began the year with the expectation of praising improved economic news in advance of the commencement of an anticipated reelection campaign.
On Monday, however, the administration was presented with a fresh obstacle when it admitted that confidential records had been discovered at the Washington headquarters of the institute that Biden had previously directed.
A further classified document was discovered in a room in Biden’s Wilmington home, which the vice president later revealed to be his library, in addition to other classified documents found in his garage. This brought the situation to a head on Thursday morning, when Biden’s attorney announced the discovery.
After FBI investigators initially seized documents from the garage in December, Biden’s attorneys contacted the Justice Department on Thursday morning to alert them of the fresh discovery made at the president’s home. The attorney general disclosed this information.
During an interview with reporters at the White House, Vice President Biden stated that he was “cooperating fully and completely” with the investigation being conducted by the Justice Department into how secret material and public records were kept.
A lawyer for the president, Richard Sauber, said, “We have worked closely with the Justice Department during its review, and we will continue to do so with the special counsel.” “We are sure that a thorough review will show that these documents were accidentally lost, and when the president and his lawyers found out about this mistake, they acted quickly.”
Garland said that Hur was needed because of the “extraordinary circumstances” of the case. He also said that the special counsel is allowed to look into whether anyone or anything broke the law. Federal law has strict rules about how to handle classified information, and the Presidential Records Act says that official records from Biden’s time as vice president are government property.
Garland said, “This appointment shows the public that the department is committed to both independence and accountability in matters that are especially sensitive, and to making decisions based on facts and the law.”
Hur said in a statement, “I will handle the investigation with fairness, objectivity, and without bias. I plan to look into the facts quickly and thoroughly, without fear or favor, and I will do my best to live up to the trust that has been put in me to do this job.”
Garland said that Biden’s personal lawyers told the Justice Department as soon as each set of classified documents was found. However, the White House told the American people about the discoveries late and with only part of the story.
Biden’s personal lawyers found the first set of classified and official documents in a locked closet on November 2. They were cleaning out his office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, where he worked from 2017 when he stepped down as vice president until 2019 when he started his campaign for president. The lawyers told the National Archives, which found the documents the next day and told the Justice Department about the problem.
Sauber said that after Biden left as vice president, his lawyers looked for other places where documents could have been moved, such as his homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Garland said that on December 20, the Justice Department was told that classified documents and official records were found in Biden’s garage in Wilmington, near his Corvette. Shortly after that, FBI agents took possession of the documents.
Garland said that the most recent classified document was found in Biden’s personal library at his home on Wednesday night. The Justice Department was told on Thursday.
The White House didn’t say anything about the search of Biden’s homes and the discovery of the garage tranche until Thursday morning, shortly before Garland announced Hur’s appointment. This was because the news asked about the Penn Biden Center documents on Monday. Biden didn’t say anything about the new documents when he talked about the issue for the first time on Tuesday in Mexico City.
Even though the public didn’t know everything, Biden’s press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted that the situation was being handled correctly. “There was transparency in doing what you’re supposed to do,” she said, but she wouldn’t answer repeated questions about when Biden was told about the documents and whether he would let investigators talk to him. When asked if Biden could promise that a new search wouldn’t turn up any more classified documents, Jean-Pierre said, “You should assume that it’s been done.”
The Justice Department has spent months looking into why Trump kept more than 300 classified documents found at the former president’s Florida estate. The appointment of yet another special counsel to look into how classified documents were handled is a surprising legal and political turn of events.
Even though the facts and the law are different, the discovery of classified documents at two different places connected to Biden and the appointment of a new special counsel would almost certainly make it harder for the department to prosecute Trump.
The new Republican Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy of California, said, “I think Congress needs to look into this.” “Here’s a person who went on ’60 Minutes’ and talked about how worried they were about President Trump’s papers. Now we find out that this is a vice president who has kept it out in the open for years in different places.”
He said, “We don’t think there needs to be a special prosecutor,” which was different from what several other Republicans had said. The most powerful Republican on the House Intelligence Committee has asked intelligence agencies to do a “damage assessment” of documents that might be classified. On Thursday, Ohio Rep. Mike Turner also asked Garland and Avril Haines, who is in charge of national intelligence, to give him updates on their reviews by January 26.
Turner wrote to the officials, “The fact that classified information is in these different places could make the President look bad for mishandling, misusing, or leaking classified information.”
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