By Zachary Stieber
Documents with classified markings were found inside an institution at which President Joe Biden worked before he took office, according to a lawyer for the president.
The classified documents were discovered in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center, Richard Sauber, the lawyer, told news outlets in a statement.
The documents were discovered on Nov. 2, 2022, according to Sauber, days before the midterm election. Sauber did not disclose the finding until Jan. 9, 2023.
White House lawyers alerted the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on the day of the discovery and NARA took possession of the materials the following morning, Sauber said.
The Penn Biden Center is a set of offices in Washington. It is part of the University of Pennsylvania. Biden worked at the center after the Trump administration took office until Biden started campaigning for the 2020 election.
The Penn Biden Center, NARA, the FBI, and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An automated message from the number the Department of Justice lists for media queries directed reporters to submit emails, and an email was not returned.
Biden ignored a reporter who asked about the documents while in Mexico City on Monday.
Sauber said the classified documents were discovered by attorneys for Biden and were not subject to a request or inquiry by NARA.
“Since that discovery, the President’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives,” he said.
Materials with classified markings were found at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, leading to FBI agents executing a search warrant at the rest in the fall of 2022.
U.S. lawyers have said they believe Trump violated multiple laws, including one governing the handling of defense materials.
Trump has said he declassified the materials before he left office.
Trump has not been charged as of yet.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, a Biden appointee, appointed a special counsel, Jack Smith, to take over the investigation. Smith is also overseeing the probe into unlawful interference with the transfer of power following the 2020 election or the certification of the Electoral College vote, which took place after it was interrupted when rioters breached the U.S. Capitol.
Biden has criticized Trump for holding records with classified markings.
“How that could possibly happen? How anyone could be that irresponsible … totally irresponsible,” Biden said in a “60 Minutes” interview shortly after the FBI raid.
‘Expect the Same Treatment’
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, pointed to the remarks.
“Under the Biden Administration, the Department of Justice and National Archives have made compliance with the Presidential Records Act a top priority,” Comer said in a statement. “We expect the same treatment for President Biden.”
“Biden stole classified documents and stored them at his think tank while he was VP. The VP does not have any authority to declassify classified documents,” added Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).
Republicans hold a majority in the House after a successful midterm election. That means the party has the ability to issue subpoenas and other powers only the majority enjoys.
Comers and other top Republicans have already vowed to investigate Biden and his family members, including his son Hunter Biden, over issues such as business deals conducted when Biden was vice president.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement that attorneys for Biden “appear to have taken immediate and proper action to notify the National Archives about their discovery of a small handful of classified documents so they could be returned to federal government custody. ”
“I have confidence that the Attorney General took the appropriate steps to ensure the careful review of the circumstances surrounding the possession and discovery of these documents and make an impartial decision about any further action that may be needed,” he added.
Trump shared a news story on the discovery of the documents on his Truth Social platform.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House? These documents were definitely not declassified,” Trump wrote.
Biden became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 and “led” the Penn Biden Center, according to a university webpage. Biden also had an office on the university’s campus in Philadelphia.
Biden was paid more than $900,000 by the university from 2017 to 2019, including $405,368 in 2018, according to financial disclosures the president released. Biden is currently on unpaid leave, which he started when he announced he was running for president in April 2019.
Biden previously received an honorary degree from the school, and three family members, including his daughter Ashley Biden, graduated from the university. Biden has a home in Delaware and regularly visits the school.
Biden told reporters in August 2022 that he keeps classified documents secure.
“I have, in my home, a cabined-off space that is completely secure. I’m taking home with me today today’s presidential briefing. It’s locked. I have a person with me—military with me. I read it, I lock it back up, and give it to the military,” he said.
When asked if a president should take classified documents home, Biden said, “It depends on the document, and it depends on how secure the room is.”