- Biden’s personal lawyers said they discovered classified documents Nov. 2 in a ‘locked closet.’
- The U.S. attorney in Chicago, John Lausch, a Trump appointee, will investigate the Biden records.
- House Republicans plan to investigate and Trump asked when the FBI would raid Biden’s home.
WASHINGTON – The revelation Monday that classified documents were found in an office President Joe Biden used before his campaign echoed the discovery of documents seized at Mar-a-Lago after former President Donald Trump left the White House.
Richard Sauber, a special counsel to Biden, said the documents were turned over in a timely manner and Biden’s personal lawyers have been cooperating with the archives and the Justice Department.
But House Republicans plan to investigate what they contend is different treatment between GOP and Democratic presidents. Trump sought to compare the two cases.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump asked on Truth Social. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”
Here is what we know about the two cases so far:
What type of documents?
The Biden documents, according to the White House, were found Nov. 2 in a “locked closet” while the president’s personal attorneys were packing files at the office he used at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C. Biden used the office after the end of the Obama administration in 2017 until his presidential campaign in 2020. The administration hasn’t described the number or type of documents, but the White House said it was a “small number.”
“The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the archives,” the White House said in a statement. “Since that discovery, the president’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure any Obama-Biden administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives.”
The Trump administration documents were moved to seized at Mar-a-Lago included about 100 classified records. Trump has argued he declassified them before moving out of the White House, but investigators have found no documentation to verify that.
Who is investigating?
FBI agents seized the Trump documents during a search of Mar-a-Lago for evidence of violations of the Espionage Act or obstruction of justice. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel, Jack Smith, to investigate the Mar-a-Lago documents as part of a broader inquiry that includes Trump’s role in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021.
The Justice Department has declined comment on the Biden documents while Chicago U.S. Attorney John Lausch Jr., oversees the review. Lausch is one of a few chief federal prosecutors who are holdovers from the Trump administration. Lausch’s office also has declined comment.
Taylor Budowich, a former Trump spokesman who is now spokesman for the political action committee MAGA Inc., called for a special counsel to investigate.
The head of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said he would investigate what he called a “two-tier justice system.” He asked the National Archives for information about the Biden documents and was referred to the Justice Department.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters Tuesday a president is the only official with the authority to declassify documents and Biden appeared to hold classified documents for years as he criticized Trump for taking classified documents with him.
“I wonder why the press isn’t asking the same questions of him as vice president taking classified documents that they were asking President Trump,” Scalise said.
What is different between the Biden and Trump documents cases?
A contrast between the two cases is how the documents were returned to the government.
Trump resisted returning 11,000 administration documents despite repeated requests from the National Archives under the Presidential Records Act. Trump’s personal lawyer signed a statement that all classified records had been returned before the August search 18 months after he left office.
The Biden administration voluntarily returned his records to the archives the day after they were discovered.
Brad Moss, a national security lawyer, said Biden’s staff did what they were supposed to do by notifying the relevant government authority about the discovery of classified documents and then returning them. In contrast, Trump’s lawyers signed statements that all classified documents had been returned when they hadn’t.
“The Biden and Trump situations could serve as a case study in polar opposites,” Moss said.