Washington: President Joe Biden takes classified documents and information “very seriously” and does not know what is in the secret papers found at the garage of his personal residence and private office, the White House has said, as it defended him amid a furor over the discovery.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed Robert Hur as a Special Counsel to investigate the discovery of classified documents at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, DC and the Bidens’ personal residence in Wilmington, Delaware.
“It is important for the American people to know that the President has said he takes classified documents and information very seriously,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at her daily news conference Thursday.
“This is something, as you all know, that he will not shy away from saying and has continued to say this week. And again, he was surprised that these records have been found,” she said.
Biden’s aides found classified records, likely dating from his time as vice president 2009 to 2016, at his Wilmington home garage and at an office he used at a Washington-based think tank that bears his name.
“He does not know what’s in them and his team, once they identified that these documents were there, they immediately reached out to the archives of the Department of Justice and did the right thing by turning that over,” she said.
“And they have been cooperating very closely with the Department of Justice. Attorney General (Merrick) Garland, say today that they heard from his team really shortly after the discovery. And so I just want to make sure that this is understood, that he takes this very seriously,” Jean-Pierre said.
Responding to a question, Jean-Pierre exuded confidence that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake.
“I’m going to leave it there. That’s what his lawyer said. But again, this is something that the President takes very seriously, and we have been coordinating, they have been coordinating, his lawyers have been coordinating very closely with the Department of Justice,” she said, facing a volley of questions during her daily news conference on Thursday.
The White House early in the day said the additional documents were found in the President’s Wilmington residence garage and in an adjacent room. But when the President mentioned this himself in person earlier, he said they were found in storage areas and in his personal library.
“He was surprised that the documents were there. And that is also in line with what we shared this morning. He takes this very seriously when it comes to classified information, when it comes to classified documents.
And again, it still stays the same. He was surprised that the records were found. He does not know what’s in them,” she said.
The discovery of classified documents that are from the previous Obama administration has created a political storm in the country, with comparisons being made with that of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
“In stark contrast to former president Trump’s repeated attempts to obstruct efforts to recover hundreds of classified documents, President Biden’s team immediately turned over records to the National Archives once they were discovered,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Rather than acting as the President’s personal lawyer like Bill Barr, Attorney General Garland’s appointment of a Special Counsel assures the American people that this investigation will be done fairly and with integrity,” he said.
Meanwhile, some Republicans lawmakers Thursday demanded President Biden should release a log of all the people who had visited his Delaware home.
James Comer, a Kentucky congressman and chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told Fox News: “We need to know who all has had access to the president.”
Colorado Republican Ken Buck wrote a letter to the White House calling on Biden to “release all visitor logs”.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, a Republican, is also under investigation by the justice department after more than 300 classified files were discovered by FBI agents executing a search warrant last year at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.