US attorney general Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to investigate how classified documents from Joe Biden’s time as vice president ended up being found at his home and at a private office.
Robert Hur, who previously served as US attorney for Maryland during the Trump administration, has been asked to investigate “the possible unauthorised removal and retention of classified documents or other records” discovered at the office of Mr Biden’s think-tank in Washington and his residence in Wilmington in Delaware.
At a press conference in Washington convened to discuss new inflation figures, Mr Biden said the second set documents had been found in a locked garage and were not “sitting out in the street”.
“People know I take classified material seriously”, he said.
The president said he was co-operating fully with an investigation into the classified documents.
Earlier this week the White House revealed that a tranche of documents, some with classified markings, had been discovered in early November – just before the midterm elections – in a cupboard of an office at a Washington think-tank. Mr Biden had used the office after leaving the vice presidency at the end of the Obama administration.
[ Joe Biden ‘surprised’ to learn government records found at his former office ]
In a statement on Thursday, Richard Sauber, special counsel to president Biden, said after the initial set of documents were found at the Penn Biden centre in November, Mr Biden’s lawyers searched his homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware.
Mr Sauber said this review, which was carried out in close co-ordination with the US department of justice, had been completed on Wednesday night. “During the review, the lawyers discovered among personal and political papers, a small number of additional Obama-Biden Administration records with classified markings. All but one of these documents were found in storage space in the president’s Wilmington residence garage. One document consisting of one page was discovered among stored materials in an adjacent room. No documents were found in the Rehoboth beach residence.
“As was done in the case of the Penn-Biden centre, the department of justice was immediately notified, and the lawyers arranged for the department of justice to take possession of these documents.”
On Tuesday Mr Biden said during a visit to Mexico that he had been “surprised” to learn that his lawyers had found classified government documents in his former office at the Penn Biden centre for diplomacy and global engagement.
The speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy suggested that the issue would be investigated by congress.
He maintained that the material had been found “out in the open” and argued that the issue of classified documents found in the home of former president Donald Trump in Florida was being treated differently by authorities to those located in Mr Biden’s residence.
Mr Garland late last year appointed a special counsel, Jack Smith, to oversee the department of justice’s criminal investigation into the potential mishandling by Mr Trump of hundreds of classified documents that were taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago after he left office.