Biden ‘surprised’ classified documents found in private office

Washington: US President Joe Biden said he was surprised to learn in November that his lawyers found classified government documents in his former office at a think tank in Washington, and he said he did not know what information they contained.

Biden spoke a day after the White House acknowledged that his lawyers had discovered a small cache of Obama-era documents as they packed up his former office at the Penn Biden Centre for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

U President Joe Biden.Credit:AP

The revelation has created a political headache for Biden, who has called former president Donald Trump irresponsible for hoarding sensitive documents at his private club and residence in Florida, and a tactical opportunity for Republicans who had been badly divided in the aftermath of the 2022 midterm elections.

The White House has stressed that the circumstances are different – that Biden had neither been notified that he had official records nor been asked to return them, and his team promptly revealed the discovery to the National Archives and returned them within a day.

Biden on Tuesday said he took “classified documents seriously” and that his team had immediately contacted the archives to turn over the materials. “We’re cooperating fully – cooperating fully – with the review,” he said.

The Justice Department was reviewing the discovery to determine how to proceed. According to two people familiar with the matter, the inquiry is aimed at helping Attorney-General Merrick Garland decide whether to appoint a special counsel, like the one investigating Trump’s failure to return all the sensitive documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago.

Garland has been briefed on the inquiry, according to a person familiar with the situation, though it was not clear if he has made a decision.

The classified documents included briefing materials on foreign countries from Biden’s time as vice president, two people familiar with the situation saidon Tuesday. They asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

The documents were found on November 2, and the National Archives retrieved them the next morning. The White House waited to publicly acknowledge the matter this week, in response to a CBS News report.

The discovery of the documents came a week before the midterm congressional elections, when the news would have been a high-profile, last-minute development.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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