Joe Biden to extend corporate for probe of classified documents
WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden assured Americans on Thursday that he was cooperating fully with the investigation into the discovery of classified Obama administration documents from his personal spaces.
But the US media warns that the discovery would hurt the administration’s effort to hold former president Donald Trump responsible for carrying away secret documents.
Minutes before Mr Joe Biden spoke at a White House event, his lawyers confirmed that they found a second set of classified documents in his garage in Wilmington, Delaware.
“Classified material, next to your Corvette — what were you thinking?” asked a journalist as Mr Joe Biden finished his speech. Mr Joe Biden said the documents were in a locked garage, “not sitting out in the street. My Corvette is in a locked garage”.
He said people knew that “I take classified material seriously” and assured the nation that he was cooperating fully with the investigation.
The first batch of about 10 documents was discovered in November at the Penn Joe Biden Centre, a think tank near the White House that Mr Joe Biden was associated with. But the discovery was revealed to the public on Jan 10, when CBS broke the bombshell news, adding that the trove included some two-dozen classified documents.
Soon after the second discovery, the president’s Special Counsel Richard Sauber said: “All but one of these documents were found in a storage space in the President’s Wilmington residence garage. One document consisting of one page was discovered among stored materials in an adjacent room.”
The statement said the president’s lawyers discovered the second set “among personal and political papers a small number of additional Obama-Biden Administration records with classified markings”.
At his White House appearance, President Biden said the documents discovered at his home will be handed over to the Department of Justice. “My lawyer has reviewed other places where documents from my time as vice president were stored, and they finished the review last night,” he said.
“They discovered a small number of documents of classified marking in storage areas and file cabinets in my home and my personal library. This was done in the case of the Joe Biden Penn Centre. The Department of Justice was immediately notified. And the lawyers arranged for the Department of Justice to take possession of the documents,” he said.
Quoting White House sources, the US media reported that the files discovered at these two separate locations include US intelligence memos and were related to his time as vice president under Barack Obama.
In the US, access to classified documents is limited by law to people with special authorisation and only the president, the vice president and cabinet-level officials have access to them.
The US media described the first discovery as a “political headache” but the second, it noted, was a “major embarrassment” for the Biden administration, which is seeking legal action against Mr Trump on similar charges.
On Aug 8, 2022, the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump’s residence in Palm Beach, Florida, and recovered over 13,000 government documents. Some of those documents describe the nuclear capability of a foreign government’s military along with top-secret US operations.
But CBS, which made the Biden discovery, said these documents did not contain nuclear or other secrets of this nature.
The Washington Post noted that there were “key differences” between the two cases “that could factor heavily in whether the Biden documents become a criminal matter”.
For instance, the Biden documents were discovered by the president’s lawyers and voluntarily turned over to authorities. Mr Trump, however, only allowed access to those documents when served with a grand jury subpoena demanding their return.
The New York Times noted that the revelation was “sure to intensify Republican attacks on the president, who has called Mr Trump irresponsible for hoarding sensitive documents at his estate in Florida”.
CNN observed that the “Biden document scandal eats away at efforts to hold Republicans accountable”.