By Tom Ozimek
For the second day in a row, the White House dodged questions about the discovery of a second batch of classified documents linked to President Joe Biden, with this tranche of sensitive materials found stored in the president’s garage.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to answer several questions on the document find during a press briefing on Jan. 12, including whether Biden was willing to be interviewed by federal investigators and about how many people may have had access to the classified materials, which the president confirmed were stored in a locked garage next to his Corvette.
Robert Hur, a former U.S. attorney, has been appointed as special counsel to investigate the handling of classified documents related to Biden.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday that he was appointing Hur and authorizing him to “investigate whether any person or entity violated the law in connection with this matter.”
Asked about whether Biden would speak to investigators, Jean-Pierre referred the matter to the Department of Justice (DOJ), citing the constraints of the “ongoing review.”
Jean-Pierre reiterated Biden’s earlier remark that he was “surprised” that the classified records were found and that he doesn’t know what’s in them.
She added that Biden takes classified documents and information “very seriously.”
Pressed by reporters about whether Biden was “sloppy” in the way he handled the materials given that they have now been discovered at multiple locations, the press secretary pointed to his lawyer’s statement.
“We are confident that their thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake,” Jean-Pierre read part of the statement, issued by Biden’s lawyer, Richard Sauber.
“I’m going to leave it there,” the press secretary said, adding that Biden’s lawyers have been coordinating closely with the DOJ on the matter.
The press secretary was also asked about the timeline of the documents’ discovery and notification to the National Archives, how the materials got to where they were found, and whether the Biden administration has any idea “just how many people could have gotten their hands” on the materials.
She fielded the questions in much the same way.
“Again, there’s an ongoing process. It’s being reviewed,” she said. “Don’t have more to share.”
Thursday’s stonewalling was a continuation from the prior day’s press conference when Jean-Pierre delivered her first briefing since the first batch of documents was found on Monday at the Penn Biden Center in a locked closet.
“I know you all are going to have a lot of questions on this, but, at this time, I’m not going to go beyond what the president said yesterday,” Jean-Pierre said at Wednesday’s briefing, referring to Biden’s comments on the matter while in Mexico.
During a visit to Mexico on Tuesday, Biden said he was “surprised” to learn that the classified documents had been discovered inside the office where he previously worked.
Biden added that he was not aware of the content of the documents, adding that his lawyers have suggested he not even ask what was in them and that his team is cooperating fully with the DOJ’s review.
Also on Thursday, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked Biden at a White House event whether the second batch of documents was stored “in a locked garage.”
“Yes, as well as my Corvette,” Biden replied.
“But as I said earlier this week, people know I take classified documents and classified material seriously,” he continued, adding that his team is cooperating “fully and completely” with the DOJ probe.
Republicans Vow to Investigate
Republicans have pledged to investigate the matter, with Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the new chair of the House Oversight Committee, saying that the panel has already opened a probe.
“The Committee is concerned that President Biden has compromised sources and methods with his own mishandling of classified documents,” Comer wrote in a letter to White House counsel Stuart Delery (pdf), while pointing out that Biden has previously called the mishandling of presidential records “totally irresponsible.”
Comer separately wrote to NARA’s Acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall (pdf) to raise the question of “political bias” at the agency over what he described as “inconsistent treatment of recovering classified records” held by Biden and former President Donald Trump.
“NARA learned about these documents days before the 2022 midterm elections and did not alert the public that President Biden was potentially violating the law,” he wrote.
“Meanwhile, NARA instigated a public and unprecedented FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago—former President Trump’s home—to retrieve presidential records.”
Comer also said this disparate treatment “raises questions about political bias at the agency.”
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times while NARA confirmed receipt of Comer’s letter but declined to comment further.
News of the discovery of the classified documents has emerged roughly five months after the FBI’s raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, where agents seized thousands of documents, including roughly 100 marked classified and some marked top secret.
Lawyers for the DOJ have alleged that Trump could have violated several laws by keeping the documents, including the Espionage Act.
Trump has insisted he declassified the documents. Neither Biden nor Trump have been charged.
Republicans have argued that Trump has been treated more harshly over his document stash and that the DOJ and the mainstream media are handling Biden with kid gloves.
“Is the White House going to be raided tonight?” Comer said in a Fox News interview. “Are they going to raid the Biden Center? I don’t know.
“This is further concern that there’s a two-tier justice system within the DOJ with how they treat Republicans versus Democrats … certainly how they treat the former president versus the current president.”
The Republican lawmaker noted that in his research after the FBI’s search of Trump’s home in August, he found that “every president had accidentally packed documents that may or may not be considered classified,” saying, “but they weren’t raided.”