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DOJ search of Biden home turns up more documents

Jan. 21, 2023 Updated Sat., Jan. 21, 2023 at 10:03 p.m.

President Joe Biden welcomes bipartisan mayors attending the Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting to the White House on Jan. 20, 2023, in Washington, D.C. The Justice Department found six items containing classified information during a Friday search of Biden's home in Wilmington, Delaware, his personal lawyers said on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)  (Yuri Gripas)
President Joe Biden welcomes bipartisan mayors attending the Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting to the White House on Jan. 20, 2023, in Washington, D.C. The Justice Department found six items containing classified information during a Friday search of Biden's home in Wilmington, Delaware, his personal lawyers said on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS) (Yuri Gripas)
By Matt Viser and Tyler Pager Washington Post

The Justice Department on Friday completed an extensive search of President Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and turned up additional classified documents, some of which date to his time in the United States Senate, the president’s personal attorney announced Saturday night.

After being given full access to Biden’s home – including personally handwritten notes, files, papers and binders that covered decades of his work – the Justice Department took possession of six items. Those items, according to the president’s personal attorney Bob Bauer, consisted of “documents with classification markings and surrounding materials.”

Some of those materials were from Biden’s time in the Senate, while others were from his tenure as vice president. The Justice Department also took some of Biden’s handwritten notes from his vice-presidential years to further review them.

It marked the latest striking development in a fast-moving investigation, with the personal residence of a sitting president having been subject to a 13-hour search by federal agents. It was also an indication of how eager Biden and his team are to resolve the matter, with them voluntarily offering to such an extensive search.

It is unclear what precisely the DOJ investigators took, and how many documents or pages are involved. During an earlier search, Biden’s lawyers said they found other classified documents in Biden’s garage and adjacent room, turning them over to the DOJ.

The DOJ was given full access to the house and was there from 9:45 a.m. until around 10:30 p.m. They covered “all working, living and storage spaces in the home,” according to Bauer.

Both Bauer and Richard Sauber, the White House counsel, were at the residence for the search, according to a person familiar with the case.

Representatives of both the personal legal team and White House Counsel’s Office were present.

Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House counsel’s office, said on MSNBC the Friday search came after Biden’s personal attorneys offered the Department of Justice access to the president’s home.

“He respects the Justice Department,” Sams said of Biden. “He wants them to be able to be able to conduct this review thoroughly and so he is giving them access to the information they need.”

Sams referred questions about the potential of any additional searches to the Justice Department.

“The reason that is happening is because he is not resisting an investigation,” he said. “He is not stonewalling. He is offering total cooperation with the justice Department as this proceeds.”

He said there was no warrant for the Friday search, emphasizing it was conducted in coordination with the Justice Department.

Bauer said Biden voluntarily offered to provide prompt access to search the entire premises of his property for potential records. He said DOJ requested that the search not be made public in advance, and Biden’s attorneys agreed to those terms.

“Since the beginning, the President has been committed to handling this responsibly because he takes this seriously,” Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, said in a statement Saturday night.

“Neither the President nor the First Lady were present during the search,” he said.

The latest search of the property appeared to reflect a desire from Biden and his aides to have the matter resolved as soon as possible.

Biden has said relatively little as documents have been discovered in recent weeks at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, then at his Wilmington house and garage. The discoveries have prompted a political tempest, the appointment of a special counsel, criticism from Republicans and scrutiny from the House Oversight Committee.

Biden said Thursday that he had “no regrets” about how the White House has handled the disclosure of classified documents. He pledged at the time to cooperate with the Justice Department and expressed confidence that it would be resolved soon.

“I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there,” he said in his fullest comments since a number of new developments had taken place.

“I have no regrets in following what the lawyers have told me what they want me to do – it’s exactly what we’re doing,” he added, while still making clear that he was aggravated with the persistent questions about it. “There’s no there there.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland in November asked John R. Lausch, the U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump administration holdover, to oversee the matter. Just over a week ago, in part based on a recommendation from Lausch, Garland appointed a special counsel – Robert Hur, a senior official at the Justice Department during the Trump administration.

Hur is not expected to start until later this month, and Lausch is still overseeing the investigation.

The first set of classified documents was found at his post-vice-presidential office in November by one of Biden’s personal attorneys, Pat Moore, while Moore was cleaning out the office. Those were turned over to the National Archives.

Another set of classified material was found at Biden’s Wilmington home in late December, but neither discovery was made public until earlier this month. A third set of documents was found at the Delaware home last week – a place that the White House confirmed Monday does not keep visitor logs.

His allies say that despite the uproar, Biden is limited in what he can say because of the investigation underway by Hur.

On Jan. 10, Biden said he was “surprised to learn” about the documents at the Penn Biden Center. He added, “We’re cooperating fully – cooperating fully with the review, which I hope will be finished soon, and there will be more detail at that time.”

The president’s supporters argue that Biden’s situation is nothing like the allegations facing former president Donald Trump and his own handling of classified papers.

While the Biden documents were inadvertently mishandled and quickly returned, they say, Trump has refused to return sensitive material he took from the White House – at one point suggesting he had declassified them mentally – and has spoken defiantly of investigators.

Still, the flap surrounding Biden comes at an inopportune moment for him. The president is expected to announce in the coming weeks that he is seeking reelection, and he had been on something of a political upswing as House Republicans struggled to name a speaker.

But in recent days, the White House has had to contend with numerous questions surrounding the classified document discoveries and has often been unable to answer them fully.

The Post reported last week that some of Biden’s top officials had been kept in the dark about the documents’ discovery before it was made public. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, asked repeatedly about the documents by reporters, struggled to provide clear-cut answers.

“There’s no way for me to talk about the documents if he has said he doesn’t know what’s in them,” Jean-Pierre said. “And we’re just going to allow the process to continue.”

The same day, Jean-Pierre was asked if she could provide assurances that no more classified documents would be found, and she declined to answer. She has since referred almost all questions on the matter to the White House counsel’s office and to the Department of Justice.

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