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Garland appointed a special counsel to take over the investigation into Biden’s classified documents

Garland appointed a special counsel to take over the investigation into Biden’s classified documents

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Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to take over the investigation into classified Obama-era documents found in President Joe Biden’s home and former personal office.

The special adviser is Robert Hurrwho was nominated as U.S. attorney for Maryland by then-President Donald Trump in 2017 and served in that role until his resignation in 2021. He was most recently in private practice in Washington, DC.

“I strongly believe that the normal processes of this department can handle all investigations with integrity. But under the regulations, the extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special counsel for this matter,” Garland said. “This appointment underscores to the public the department’s commitment to independence and accountability, and to particularly sensitive issues and decision-making that is unquestionably guided only by the facts and the law.”

He said Hur would get “all the resources he needs to do his job.”

“I will conduct the assigned investigation with fair, impartial and unbiased judgment. I intend to pursue the facts quickly and thoroughly, without fear or favor, and I will respect the trust placed in me to perform this service,” Hur said in a statement.

The appointment is a significant moment for Biden and marks a unique moment in American history with special counsels investigating both the current president and his immediate predecessor. In November, Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot.

The special counsel’s investigation, along with an aggressive new Republican-led House of Representatives, means Biden could be on the defensive for the next two years.

The appointment comes hours after the White House counsel’s office said in a statement that Biden’s aides found classified documents in two locations at his home in Wilmington, Delaware. The documents were located in storage in Biden’s garage and an adjacent room, the statement said. Biden often spends weekends at his home, located in an affluent, wooded enclave on a lake.

Speaking Thursday, Biden said the documents were in a “locked garage” and that he was cooperating fully with the Justice Department.

“It’s not like they’re sitting on the street,” he insisted when a reporter asked why he kept classified material next to a sports car.

The president said he would “get a chance to talk about all of this, God willing, soon.”

The special counsel’s announcement significantly escalates the existing investigation, which began as a preliminary review led by the U.S. attorney in Chicago. It also increases potential legal exposure for Biden, his aides and lawyers who have handled sensitive government material since his time as vice president. By bringing in a special counsel, Garland is insulating herself from the politically sensitive case, although she will still have the final say on whether to press charges. When that decision comes, no matter the outcome, it is sure to become a major flashpoint in the 2024 presidential race.

The development also further puts the Justice Department and the FBI where they don’t want to be — right in the middle of a third-straight presidential election. Since 2015, there have been almost constant FBI investigations of presidents and major candidates: Hillary Clinton’s emails; Trump’s ties to Russia; his efforts to cancel the 2020 elections and his stockpiling of classified material; and now Biden’s work with classified files.

Richard Sauber, Biden’s special counsel, said in a statement: “We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the president and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovering this error.”

During his press conference, Garland laid out a timeline of events in the case.

The National Archives informed a DOJ prosecutor on Nov. 4 that the White House notified the archives of documents with classified markings that were found at the Biden think tank, which is not authorized to store classified material, Garland said Thursday.

The archives told the prosecutor that the documents were secured in an archive. The FBI began an initial assessment five days later, and on November 14, US Attorney John Lausch was assigned to lead that preliminary investigation. The following month, on Dec. 20, White House counsel informed Lausch of the second batch of apparently classified documents found at Biden’s Wilmington home, according to Garland’s account. On Thursday morning, a personal attorney for Biden called Lausch and informed him that an additional document marked as classified had been found at Biden’s home.

The additional documents were discovered after searches of the president’s homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. No classified documents were found on the Rehoboth property, the statement said. The documents were found “among personal and political documents”.

Biden’s attorneys finished looking at the Delaware homes Wednesday night.

20230112-Biden-Trump-Found Document Update

“As was done in the case of the Penn-Biden Center, the Department of Justice was immediately notified and the attorneys arranged for the Department of Justice to obtain these documents,” the statement said.

A person familiar with the situation said after the statement was released that in the case of the classified documents originally discovered at the Penn-Biden Center, Biden’s lawyers first notified the National Archives — not the Justice Department — which then in turn notified the Department Of justice .

Biden’s lawyers followed the “correct protocol” by first notifying the Archives with the first batch of classified documents, the person said, but because the Justice Department subsequently got involved and the president’s lawyers then contacted them, the lawyers secondarily informed the Justice Department .

But key questions remain unanswered about the stashes of classified materials, including who brought them to Biden’s private homes and what exactly they contained.

Several people associated with Biden have been interviewed as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into the discovery of classified documents from his time as vice president, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The group includes former aides from Biden’s time as vice president who may have been involved in packing and sealing his records and personal belongings, and extends to some individuals who may have known how the documents discovered on Nov. 2 ended up in Biden’s office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Engagement, the people said.

The names of the interviewees remain unclear. More interviews may be conducted in the future, one of the people said, though it remains a fluid process.

The Biden issue burst into the public domain in January when news reports revealed that a Biden lawyer had discovered 10 classified documents while clearing out one of Biden’s personal offices in Washington, DC. The revelation came in November, days before the midterm elections, but Biden’s team kept the matter under wraps and did not publicly acknowledge anything until it went to the press.

CNN reported Wednesday that Biden’s legal team had uncovered another batch of classified documents in a search that began after classified documents were found in his former think tank’s Washington office in early November.

The revelation caused alarm in the White House, where only a narrow circle of advisers and lawyers were aware of the matter. Attempts were made to search other locations where documents from Biden’s time as vice president may have been stored.

CNN reported earlier that the initial batch discovered when Biden’s personal lawyers packed files in his former private office contained 10 classified documents, including US intelligence material and briefing notes on Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom.

Some of the classified documents were “top secret,” the highest level. They were found in three or four boxes that also contained unclassified documents covered by the Presidential Records Act, CNN reported.

Classified records must be stored in secure locations. And under the Presidential Records Act, the White House records must go to the National Archives when the administration ends.

Ahead of new reports on the second batch of government documents on Wednesday, the White House declined to answer a number of critical questions about classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president discovered in a private office last fall, citing an ongoing Justice Department review.

White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre on Wednesday declined to answer a number of questions about the documents, citing the Justice Department’s ongoing review of the matter. She could not say who brought the documents into the office or whether other documents were found. She also could not say whether an audit was underway to find other possible documents or when the president was informed of the discovery of the documents.

“This is being looked into by the Department of Justice. I will not go beyond what the president shared yesterday,” Jean-Pierre said, repeating the explanation in so many words during Wednesday’s news conference. “I’m not going to go beyond what my White House counsel colleagues shared with all of you as well.”

This is a current story and will be updated.

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