Garland appoints special counsel to investigate Biden documents

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed a special counsel to investigate the presence of classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and an office in Washington.

The announcement followed Biden’s acknowledgment Thursday morning that a classified document from his time as vice president was found in his personal library, along with other documents found in his garage. Garland said Biden’s lawyers informed the Justice Department on Thursday morning of the discovery of a classified document at Biden’s home, after FBI agents first recovered other documents from the garage in December. It was revealed on Monday that sensitive documents were found in the office of his former high school in Washington.

Robert Hur, the former Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Maryland, will lead the investigation, taking over from Chicago Department of Justice senior prosecutor John Lausch, who was previously assigned by the department to investigate the matter and who Garland recommended last week. that a special attorney be appointed. Hur will start his work soon.

“The extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special counsel for this matter,” Garland said, adding that Hur is authorized to investigate whether any person or entity violated the law.

“This appointment underscores to the public the department’s commitment to independence and accountability on particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions unquestionably guided only by the facts and the law,” Garland said.

Biden told reporters at the White House that he was “fully and completely cooperating” with a Justice Department investigation into how classified information and government records were stored.

“We have cooperated closely with the Department of Justice throughout its review, and we will continue that cooperation with the special counsel,” said Richard Sauber, himself a special counsel to the president. “We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently mistaken and that the president and his lawyers acted quickly in discovering this error.”

Biden’s lawyers found the first set of documents in a locked cabinet in the Washington offices of the Biden Penn Center in November. 2, just before the midterm elections, but publicly disclosed this development only on Monday.

Sauber said that after Biden’s personal lawyers found the initial documents, they looked at other places where the records might have been sent after Biden left the vice presidency in 2017.

Biden did not say when the latest documents were found at his home, only that his lawyers’ review of possible storage locations was completed by Wednesday night.

Sauber said a “small number” with classified markings were found in a storage space in Biden’s garage in Wilmington, with a document located in an adjacent room. Biden later revealed that the other location was his personal library.

Garland said Biden’s lawyers located documents in the Wilmington garage in December. 20 and that the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations took them into custody shortly after. The Justice Department was only informed Thursday of the latest found by Biden’s lawyers.

The appointment of another special counsel to investigate the handling of classified documents is a remarkable legal and political turnaround for a Justice Department that has spent months investigating Donald Trump’s retention of more than 300 classified documents. classification found at the former president’s Florida estate.

While the situations are factually and legally different, the discovery of classified documents in two separate locations linked to Biden, as well as the appointment of a new special counsel, would almost certainly complicate any prosecution the department might bring against Trump.

Hur was a close ally of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election and contacts between associates of then-candidate Trump and the Russian officials. He also worked as an advisor to FBI Director Christopher Wray at the Department of Justice.

“I will conduct the assigned investigation with fair, impartial and dispassionate judgment,” he said in a statement after his appointment. I intend to pursue the facts promptly and thoroughly, without fear or favor and will honor the trust placed in me to carry this out. .. service.”

New House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said of the latest news: “I think Congress needs to look into this.”

“Here’s a person who sat down on ’60 Minutes’ who was so concerned about President Trump’s documents being locked away, and now we find that it’s a vice president who’s been keeping it out for years in different places.”

Contradicting several fellow Republicans, he said, “We don’t think there’s a need for a special prosecutor.”

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee has called for intelligence agencies to conduct a “damage assessment” of the potentially classified documents. Ohio Rep. Mike Turner also requested briefings Thursday from Attorney General Merrick Garland and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines about their January reviews. 26.

“The presence of classified information in these separate locations could implicate the president in the mishandling, potential misuse, and exposure of classified information,” Turner wrote to officials.

The revelation that Biden’s team discovered additional classified documents came hours after White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre deflected questions about Biden’s handling of classified information and the handling of the discovery. by the west wing.

She had said Wednesday that the White House was committed to handling the matter the “right way,” pointing to Biden’s personal attorneys’ immediate notification of the National Archives.

But he declined to say when Biden himself had been briefed, whether there were more classified documents potentially located in other unauthorized locations and why the White House waited more than two months to disclose the discovery of the initial batch of documents.

Biden has said he was “surprised to learn that there are government records that were brought to this office,” but his lawyers “did what they should have done” when they immediately called the National Archives.

Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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