Biden says he’s “surprised” by discovery of documents at think tank

Joe Biden said he was “surprised” by the discovery of secret documents from his days as vice president in his former office at a Washington think tank as he tried to stem furor over his handling of the materials.

The US President made his first public statement on the documents after a summit meeting of North American heads of state and government in Mexico City on Tuesday and defended his own behavior and that of his advisers.

“I was informed of this discovery and was surprised to learn that there were any government documents that were brought there to that office,” Biden said. “But I don’t know what the documents say. My lawyers didn’t suggest I ask what they were.”

Richard Sauber, the president’s special adviser, had said Monday Biden’s personal attorneys discovered the documents in early November while packing up an office at the Penn Biden Center, a think tank that opened in Washington in 2018 and is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania.

“They found some documents in a box in a locked cabinet, or at least a closet, and as soon as they did, they found that there were several classified documents in that box,” Biden said Tuesday. He added that he takes “secret documents, classified information seriously” and the discovery of the documents was “immediately” reported to the National Archives.

The White House said Biden’s attorneys are working with the Justice Department, which is reviewing the material.

The revelation follows the federal probe launched last year into the safekeeping of former President Donald Trump’s classified documents at his Florida resort town of Mar-a-Lago from his tenure. Trump resisted handing over the footage for months, prompting a raid on his home by federal agents in early August to recover it.

James Comer, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, launched a congressional investigation Tuesday as members of his party attempted to attack Biden over the discovery.

“The Committee is concerned that President Biden has compromised sources and methods through his own misuse of classified documents,” Comer wrote in a Letter to Stuart Delery, the White House Counsel.

The House Committee is asking the White House to release additional information about the documents, including who may have had access to them and related internal communications. CNN reported that the documents contain material related to Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom.

Democrats said they are confident the president has responded appropriately and that the Justice Department review, being conducted by John Lausch, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, is impartial.

“Unlike former President Donald Trump, who allegedly hindered efforts to recover hundreds of classified documents, the handful of classified documents reportedly found at the Biden Center were immediately sent to the National Archives, and President Biden is allowing the Justice Department to to operate free of political interference,” Dick Durbin, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Tuesday. Biden says he’s “surprised” by discovery of documents at think tank

Adam Bradshaw

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