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Biden said he did not know the content of the classified documents found in the think tank, and Republican lawmakers launched an investigation

An office building in Washington, D.C., where the Biden Center at Penn was once located. (10 January 2023)
An office building in Washington, D.C., where the Biden Center at Penn was once located. (10 January 2023)

WHITE HOUSE — U.S. President Joe Biden said he was “surprised” to learn that his lawyers had found government documents in his previous office at a Washington think tank. He said he was not aware of the information contained in the classified documents.

“My lawyer didn’t advise me to ask what documents they were after meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” Biden said at a press conference with the two leaders. I handed over the box — they handed it over and gave it to the Archives, and we are fully cooperating with the review, which I hope will be completed soon, and then there will be more details. ”

U.S. President Joe Biden, Mexican President Osporador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a joint press conference after the North American Leaders' Summit in Mexico City. (10 January 2023)
U.S. President Joe Biden, Mexican President Osporador, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a joint press conference after the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City. (10 January 2023)

On Monday, Biden’s personal lawyer disclosed that a cache of documents, some of them classified, had been found in the offices of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Penn last November. This Washington think tank is named after Biden and is associated with the University of Pennsylvania. The White House said Biden used the office there at times between 2017 and 2020.

Republican lawmakers launched an investigation

Republican lawmakers have launched an investigation into the matter.

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Mike Turner, who will become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Tuesday (Jan. 10) requesting an “immediate review and damage assessment.”

Turner said finding the documents could allow Biden to violate laws that protect national security, including the Espionage Act and the Presidential Records Act. The Justice Department invoked the two laws last year during a raid on former President Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, Florida. Mr. Trump rejected requests from the National Archives for months to hand over classified documents suspected to be in his possession until an FBI raid last August found hundreds of documents, dozens of them top secret.

Speaking Monday night, Trump asked on the Truth Social platform: “When will the FBI raid a lot of Joe Biden’s home, maybe even the White House?” These files are absolutely not decrypted.

Richard Sauber, special counsel

to the president, said they immediately notified the National Archives. This body is responsible for processing such presidential documents.

“The White House is working with the National Archives and the Department of Justice on the discovery of what appears to be the Obama-Biden administration’s records, including a small number of classified identified documents,” Sauber said in the statement.

Sauber said lawyers found the files “stored in a locked closet” to move out of the office space, and the National Archives took over the materials the next morning. Biden’s lawyers are working to ensure that “any Obama-Biden administration records are properly held by the archives,” he said.

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Mark Zaid, a lawyer

who focuses on national security law, said any mishandling of classified material raises serious concerns given the nature of the matter, but such incidents are not uncommon and are generally dealt with through administrative procedures.

“It is in everyone’s interest to conduct a thorough fact-finding and should help find out if anyone has committed a mistake,” Zeid told the media. “At this point, there doesn’t seem to be evidence that President Biden knew or was involved in the record, but we need to know more.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed John Lausch to investigate the matter. He is Trump’s appointed federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Illinois. But even with the investigation, the White House is now in an embarrassing position to explain why Biden himself may have done the same thing when he criticized Trump’s transgressions.

In an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” last September, Biden questioned “who could be so irresponsible,” adding that he strictly adhered to procedures for managing sensitive material.

Republicans were quick to point to what they saw as a double standard.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise told reporters Tuesday: “If then-Vice President Biden took classified documents, held them for years, and criticized former President Trump while he had those classified documents… I can’t help but wonder why the press doesn’t ask the same questions about the classified documents he took away when he was vice president, but only President Trump?

 A former federal prosecutor and Stanford professor of criminal law David M. David A. Sklansky said the Biden case was “incomparable” to the Trump case.

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“What makes the situation at Mar-a-Lago so serious is not the problem of finding classified documents there,” Skoransky told the media. “The problem is obstruction and deception of these documents, which have repeatedly hampered the Government’s efforts to recover them. There is no such evidence in this case.

Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar called Republicans’ investigation into President Biden’s move “the most refined hypocrisy.” He said Republicans did not see the investigation as a priority when hundreds of documents were found in Trump’s home.

“What President Biden did was disclose this to the Archives and let law enforcement know,” he said. “That’s exactly how you should handle it.”

CNN reported that classified documents found at the Biden Center at Penn included memoranda and briefing materials from U.S. intelligence agencies covering topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom. The White House has not confirmed that claim.

The Justice Department and the FBI declined the media requests for comment, and Rausch’s office and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have not responded to the media inquiries.

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