More classified items found in search of Joe Biden's home

The US president has said he is fully co-operating with the authorities

Joe Biden has denied wrongdoing, saying 'a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place'. AFP
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A new search of US President Joe Biden's home in Wilmington, Delaware by the Justice Department has uncovered six more items, including documents with classification markings.

Some of the classified documents and "surrounding materials" dated from Mr Biden's tenure in the US Senate, where he represented Delaware from 1973 to 2009, according to his lawyer, Bob Bauer.

Other documents were from his tenure as vice president in the Obama administration, from 2009 to 2017, Mr Bauer said on Saturday.

Assistant US Attorney Joseph Fitzpatrick confirmed on Saturday that the FBI had executed “a planned, consensual search” of the president’s residence in Wilmington.

The Department of Justice, which conducted a search that lasted more than 12 hours, also took some notes that Mr Biden had personally handwritten as vice president, according to the lawyer.

The president offered access "to his home to allow DOJ to conduct a search of the entire premises for potential vice-presidential records and potential classified material," Mr Bauer said.

Neither Mr Biden nor his wife were present during the search, the lawyer said. Mr Biden is in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for the weekend.

Justice Department investigators co-ordinated the search with Mr Biden's lawyers ahead of time, Mr Bauer said, and the president's personal and White House lawyers were present at the time.

Other classified government records were discovered this month at Mr Biden's Wilmington residence, and in November at a private office he maintained at a Washington think tank after ending his tenure as vice president in the Obama administration in 2017.

It remained to be seen whether additional searches by federal officials of other locations might be conducted. Biden’s personal attorneys previously conducted a search of the Rehoboth Beach residence and said they did not find any official documents or classified records.

Mr Bauer did not make clear in his statement where in the Wilmington home the documents were found. The previous classified documents were found in the home's garage and in a nearby storage space.

The search shows federal investigators are swiftly moving forward with the probe into classified documents found in Mr Biden's possession.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed former Maryland US Attorney Robert Hur as a special counsel to investigate any potential wrongdoing surrounding the Biden documents. Mr Hur is set to take over from the Trump-appointed Illinois US Attorney John Lausch in overseeing the probe.

“Since the beginning, the President has been committed to handling this responsibly because he takes this seriously,” White House lawyer Richard Sauber said Saturday. “The President’s lawyers and White House Counsel’s Office will continue to cooperate with DOJ and the Special Counsel to help ensure this process is conducted swiftly and efficiently.”

Special counsel Robert Hur, who was appointed during the process, is investigating how the president and his team handled Obama-era classified documents that were recently found in Mr Biden's private possession.

Mr Biden's lawyers found all the documents discovered before Friday's search by the DOJ, according to the White House. The latest search was the first time federal law enforcement authorities have conducted a search for government documents at Mr Biden's private addresses, according to information released publicly.

Republicans have compared the investigation to the continuing probe into how former president Donald Trump handled classified documents after his presidency.

The White House has noted that Mr Biden's team has co-operated with the authorities and had turned over those documents. Mr Trump resisted doing so until an FBI search in August at his Florida resort.

The search escalates the legal and political stakes for the president, who has insisted that the previous discovery of classified material at his home and former office would eventually be deemed inconsequential.

Mr Biden said on Thursday he has "no regrets" about not publicly disclosing before the midterm elections the discovery of classified documents at his former office and he believed the matter will be resolved.

“We found a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place,” Mr Biden said to reporters who questioned him during a tour of the damage from storms in California.

“We immediately turned them over to the Archives and the Justice Department.”

Since the discovery of Mr Biden's documents, Mr Trump has complained that Justice Department investigators were treating his successor differently.

"When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?" Mr Trump said in a social media post earlier this month.

The Biden document discoveries and the investigation into Mr Trump, which is in the hands of special counsel Jack Smith, are significantly different. 

Mr Biden has made a point of cooperating with the DOJ probe at every turn — and Friday’s search was voluntary — though questions about his transparency with the public remain.

For a crime to have been committed, a person would have to “knowingly remove” the documents without authority and intend to keep them at an “unauthorised location.” 

Mr Biden has said he was “surprised” that classified documents were uncovered at the Penn Biden Center.

Generally, classified documents are to be declassified after a maximum of 25 years. But some records are of such value they remain classified for far longer, though specific exceptions must be granted. 

Mr Biden served in the Senate from 1973 to 2009.

Updated: January 22, 2023, 8:56 AM
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