Among the items from Joe BidenHis time as vice president in a private office last fall included U.S. intelligence memos and 10 classified documents covering topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has received a preliminary report on the documents, a law enforcement source said, and now faces a critical decision about how to proceed, including whether to launch a full-scale criminal investigation.
John Lash Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago, has repeatedly briefed Garland. No further briefings are planned but will be held if necessary, a source said.
According to well-informed sources, the classified documents are dated between 2013 and 2016. They contained three or four boxes of unclassified documents covered by the Presidential Records Act.
Most of the items in the office include personal Biden family documents Beau Biden‘s funeral and obituaries, the source told CNN. It is unclear whether the boxes containing the classified documents contained personal items.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed the U.S. attorney in Chicago, which is controlled by the Trump administration, to investigate the matter, CNN previously reported. Garland made the move after receiving a recommendation from the National Archives and Records Administration.
The documents were discovered on November 2, six days before the midterm elections, but the matter only became public on Monday due to news reports.
Biden’s personal attorney is closing the downtown DC office Biden used as part of his work at the University of Pennsylvania, a source told CNN. The lawyer saw a manila folder labeled “Private,” opened the envelope, and noticed confidential documents inside. The lawyer closed the envelope and called Nara, the source said.
After communicating with NARA, Biden’s team moved several boxes out of an abundance of caution, even though many of the boxes contained personal items, the source said.
Biden said Tuesday He doesn’t know After he left the vice presidency some classified documents were taken to his private office and his lawyers immediately called the National Archives and “did what had to be done.”
Asked by a reporter at a press conference in Mexico City, where he was attending a trilateral summit with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, Biden said, “I was surprised to learn that there were government records that were taken to that office. . . .
The documents, the president said, were found “in a box, in a locked cabinet — or at least in a closet.”
“People know that I take classified documents and classified information very seriously,” he said.
Lash has already completed the initial part of his investigation and presented his initial findings to Garland, a law enforcement source said.
That means Garland must now decide how to proceed. Garland was personally involved in making some key decisions related to the Trump documents investigation and the decision to send the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago.
In the Trump case, special counsel Jack Smith took over both the criminal investigation into Trump’s post-2020 campaign activities and the investigation into classified documents the former president took to his Florida resort. The Biden study is nowhere near that level.
Garland chose to lead the Lash Biden documents investigation because he is one of two remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by Trump, and because he was not appointed by Biden to avoid a conflict of interest, people briefed on the matter.
In addition to Garland, Lash has held additional briefings with other Justice Department officials.
At this point, Lash is not expected to do any additional “fact-gathering,” the source said.
In an awkward moment on Monday, Garland sat with Biden at a diplomatic summit in Mexico while reporters raised questions about the investigation. Both ignored the questions.
Lash was one of the Trump-era incumbents not asked to resign after Biden takes office in 2021, and Illinois’ two Democratic senators supported Michael’s decision to keep him in his post in part because of his handling of the politically sensitive investigation. Madigan, the Democratic former Illinois House Speaker, was indicted on corruption charges.
The turn of events, along with classified documents found in Biden’s former office, has put some politicians in a tough spot.
Trump criticized Biden and responded to social media posts publicly slamming the FBI for searching Biden’s offices and even the White House for mishandled documents.
Key Democrats on Capitol Hill have expressed confidence in Biden’s handling of government supplies.
Newly empowered House Republicans have already pledged to expand their oversight probes to include the subject of the Biden documents, and some see NARA as a target for additional scrutiny.
Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer, who now chairs the House Oversight Committee, quickly sent letters to the White House counsel’s office and the National Archives, which his committee oversees.
Among the demands made in the letters: all documents were obtained from Biden’s private office, where classified documents were found; List of persons accessible to that office; All documents and communications between the White House, the Department of Justice, and the National Archives are retrieved documents; and all documents and communications related to the handling of classified material by Biden’s personal lawyers, including their security clearance statuses.
The Kentucky Republican requested that the documents and other information be turned over by Jan. 24, and that no later than Jan. 17, NARA General Counsel Gary Stern and NARA Director of Congressional Affairs John Hamilton be interviewed in writing with committee staff.
On Tuesday, the new GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee asked the Director of National Intelligence to conduct a damage assessment of classified records found in Biden’s personal office.
“Those entrusted with access to classified information have a duty and obligation to protect it,” wrote Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio. “This issue requires a thorough and thorough review.”
Clarification: The story has been updated to specify where the classified documents were found in Biden’s office.
This story has been updated with additional details.