The discovery of classified documents in a think tank office used by Joe Biden has Republicans renewing their accusations about a Justice Department biased against them.
Many Republicans are asking why the FBI has not conducted searches at President Joe Biden’s properties as it did with former President Donald Trump in August at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.
What You Need To Know
- The discovery of classified documents in a think tank office used by Joe Biden has Republicans renewing their accusations about a Justice Department biased against them
- Many Republicans are asking why the FBI has not conducted searches at President Joe Biden’s properties as it did with former President Donald Trump in August at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida
- The White House confirmed Monday that Biden’s personal attorneys found Obama administration documents, including a “small number” with classified markings, in a locked closet while clearing out office space at the Penn Biden Center in Washington
- While there are similarities in the Biden and Trump situations, there are also stark differences, although Republicans say they don't see much of a disparity
“I don't approve of how the Justice Department has handled this matter, and I don't approve how they handled the matter of the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago,” former Vice President Mike Pence told CBS News on Tuesday. “The kind of double standard that we see being practiced by the Biden administration in the wake of this incident and the Justice Department I think is exactly what undermines public confidence in our justice system.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., accused Democrats of “hypocrisy.”
“They've gotten away with so much for so long,” he told Fox News on Tuesday. “This was discovered before the last election. Why weren't they raided?
“They think the law doesn't apply to them. They think they write their own, and that's what infuriates the American public,” McCarthy added.
The White House confirmed Monday a report by CBS News that Biden’s personal attorneys found Obama administration documents, including a “small number” with classified markings, in a locked closet while clearing out office space at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, where Biden occasionally worked after leaving the vice presidency.
Richard Sauber, special counsel to Biden, said the discovery was made Nov. 2, less than a week before the congressional midterms. The White House counsel’s office immediately notified the National Archives and Records Administration, which took custody of the documents the following day, Sauber said.
The Justice Department is reviewing the documents, the White House said. A person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that Attorney General Merrick Garland has assigned U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch, a holdover from the Trump administration, to lead the inquiry.
Biden said Tuesday he was “surprised” when he learned about the discovery of the documents. He said he doesn’t know what’s in the papers because his lawyers suggested he not ask.
“People know I take classified documents and classified information seriously,” Biden said during a news conference in Mexico City.
“We're cooperating fully with the review, which I hope will be finished soon, and will be more detail at that time,” he added.
While there are similarities in the Biden and Trump situations, there are also stark differences.
Biden is said to have possessed “a small number of documents with classified markings”; Trump had roughly 300 documents with classified markings.
Biden’s attorneys say they quickly turned the materials over to the National Archives; the government tried for more than a year to recover all the documents from Trump’s estate before the FBI search.
Biden says he’s cooperating with the Justice Department review; Trump has claimed, without evidence, that he declassified the documents and is the rightful owner of presidential files he removed from the White House. The FBI said in a search warrant affidavit that it had “probable cause to believe” it would find “evidence of obstruction” at Mar-a-Lago.
Republicans, however, say they don't see much of a disparity.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump wrote on his Truth Social network Tuesday. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”
“Look how President Trump was treated when it came to so-called ‘classified’ documents at his home,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted Wednesday. “Now look at how President Biden is being treated for having classified documents at the Biden Center.”
Jordan is set to chair a new select subcommittee, created by a House vote Tuesday, that plans to investigate potential bias by federal law enforcement against conservatives.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, has announced the panel is opening an investigation into the Biden documents.
“We simply want to know the same things we asked when Mar-a-Lago was raided,” Comer told CBS News. “Who has which documents, what level of classification are we talking about here, how many documents and what was the process involved with making the decision to raid Mar-a-Lago versus the decision to apparently do nothing with President Biden?”
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., sent a letter to Garland demanding answers to what he called the “disparate treatment” of the Biden and Trump cases. The letter was first reported by Fox News.
"The double standard here is astounding,” Hawley wrote. “The underlying behavior at issue—a President’s retention of old classified documents dating back to a past presidency—is materially the same in both case. But in President Trump’s case, that retention triggered an unprecedented raid on the home of a former president, rationalized with a thicket of partisan doublespeak.”
And Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, who will lead the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines requesting an immediate review and damage assessment regarding the Biden documents.
“This discovery of classified information would put President Biden in potential violation of laws protecting national security, including the Espionage Act and Presidential Records Act,” Turner wrote. “Those entrusted with access to classified information have a duty and an obligation to protect it.”
But Republicans aren’t the only ones demanding answers.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has called for the panel to be briefed on the matter.
"Our system of classification exists in order to protect our most important national security secrets, and we expect to be briefed on what happened both at Mar-a-Lago and at the Biden office as part of our constitutional oversight obligations," Warner said in a statement Tuesday, according to NBC News.
But Warner sought to highlight the differences in the two cases.
"From what we know so far, the latter is about finding documents with markings, and turning them over, which is certainly different from a months-long effort to retain material actively sought by the government,” he said.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, applauded Biden and Garland for their “professional, nonpartisan handling of this situation.”
“Unlike Trump, who allegedly obstructed efforts to recover hundreds of classified docs, the handful of classified docs reportedly found at Biden Center were immediately sent to Natl Archives,” Durbin tweeted.