Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday he would appoint former U.S. attorney Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate classified documents recently discovered at the home and office of President Joe Biden from his time as vice president.
“I am confident that Mr. Hur will carry out his responsibility in an even-handed and urgent manner and in accordance with the highest traditions of this department,” Garland said at a press conference.
Republicans have seized on the discovery in light of the criminal investigation currently plaguing former President Donald Trump, who moved thousands of government records to his Mar-a-Lago home after his presidency. The former president slow-walked the Justice Department’s efforts to regain control of the documents and has been fighting its probe.
When a president leaves office, all presidential records become the legal property of the National Archives, which is in charge of storing them safely.
Garland named a special counsel on Nov. 18 to oversee the Justice Department’s review of Trump’s document mishandling and his alleged role in the Capitol attack, acknowledging the sensitive politics involved in investigating a former president and current presidential candidate. He chose Jack Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor who has so far remained mum on his work.
Lawyers for Biden have found two batches of documents from his time as vice president. They said they found the first cache ― reportedly around 10 documents ― on Nov. 2 as they worked to shutter Biden’s old private office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington.
The White House said it immediately informed the Justice Department, and Biden’s lawyers searched other places where classified information may have been placed incorrectly after his vice presidency. They found the second bunch in a storage area of the president’s Wilmington, Delaware, garage. The lawyers completed their search this week, the White House said.
On Dec. 14, Garland assigned U.S. attorney John Lausch to look into the matter and tell him whether he felt a special counsel appointment was necessary. Lausch came back with his recommendation last week.
Biden said Tuesday that he had been “surprised” to hear of the documents sitting at his former office and said he did not know what information they contained.
“People know I take classified documents, classified information seriously,” Biden said.
Thursday morning, he was asked what he was “thinking” by keeping important records alongside his car.
“By the way, my Corvette’s in a locked garage, so it’s not like they’re sitting out on the street,” Biden responded.
Richard Sauber, an attorney for Biden, reiterated some of his comments in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“As the President said, he takes classified information and materials seriously, and as we have said, we have cooperated from the moment we informed the Archives that a small number of documents were found, and we will continue to cooperate,” Sauber said.
“We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake.”
In August, an FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida sent shockwaves around Washington. The raid followed months of communications between Trump’s team and representatives of the federal government and yielded more than a dozen boxes containing documents marked classified.
The Justice Department probe into Trump’s mishandling of classified information post-presidency was interrupted by Trump’s insistence that a “special master” be appointed to review the documents taken from his property in Florida. The department was finally permitted to continue to use them in its investigation in December.