Former US attorney named special counsel in Biden document probe


Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel Thursday to take over the investigation into classified Obama-era documents found at the home and former private office of President Joe Biden.

The special counsel is Robert Hur, who was nominated by then-President Donald Trump to be the United States attorney in Maryland in 2017 and served in the role until his retirement in 2021 Most recently he was working in private practice in Washington, DC.

“I strongly believe that the normal processes of this department can handle all investigations honestly. But under the regulations, the unusual circumstances here require the appointment of special counsel for this matter,” said Garland. “This appointment demonstrates to the public the Department’s commitment to independence and accountability, and to sensitive matters in particular and to making decisions without doubt guided only by the facts and the law.”

He said Hur will get “all the resources he needs to do his job.”

“I will conduct the assigned investigation with fair, impartial and dispassionate judgement. I intend to pursue the facts quickly and thoroughly, without fear or favor, and I will honor the trust placed in me to perform this service,” Hur said in a statement.

Robert Hur arrives at U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Nov. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark, File)

The appointment is a big moment for Biden and is a unique moment in American history with special counsels investigating the current president and his predecessor at the same time. Garland was appointed special counsel in November to oversee criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the Jan. 6, 2021, coup.

The special counsel investigation, along with an aggressive new Republican-led House of Representatives, means Biden could be on the defensive for the next two years.

The appointment comes hours after the White House counsel’s office said in a statement that Biden’s aides found documents with classified markings at two locations inside his home in Wilmington, Delaware. The documents were located in a storage area in Biden’s garage and in an adjacent room, the statement reads. Biden often spends the weekend at home, located in a rich, wooded enclave on a lake.

Speaking on Thursday, Biden said the documents were in a “locked garage” and that he was fully cooperating with the Justice Department.

“It’s not like they’re sitting out on the street,” he argued when a reporter asked why he was storing classified material next to a sports car.

The president said he was going to “get a chance to talk about all this, God willing, soon.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland arrives at the Department of Justice in Washington, USA, January 12, 2023 to announce that he is appointing a special counsel to investigate President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents from when Biden was Vice President, at the Department of Justice in Washington, USA, January 12, 2023 to investigate.

The special counsel’s announcement is a major addition to the current investigation, which began as a preliminary review handled by the US attorney in Chicago. This also increases the potential legal exposure for Biden, his aides and lawyers who have handled sensitive government matters since his time as vice president. By giving him special counsel, Garland is shielding himself from the politically sensitive case, although he will still have the final say on whether to bring any charges. When that decision comes, whatever the outcome, it will surely be a major flashpoint in the 2024 presidential race.

The development also puts the Department of Justice and the FBI in a place they don’t want to be – right in the middle of a presidential election for the third straight cycle. Since 2015, there have been near-constant FBI probes into presidents and major candidates: Hillary Clinton’s emails; Trump’s ties to Russia; his efforts to cancel the 2020 election and coordinate his classified material; and now Biden’s handling of classified files.

Richard Sauber, special counsel to Biden, said in a statement: “We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the president and his lawyers acted promptly when this mistake was discovered.”

During his news conference, Garland laid out the timeline of the events of the case.

The National Archives notified the DOJ prosecutor on Nov. 4 that the White House was aware of documents with classified markings obtained by the Biden think tank, which was not authorized to store classified materials, Garland said Thursday.

The Archives told the prosecutor that the documents are secured in an Archives facility. The FBI opened an initial assessment five days later, and on November 14, US Attorney John Lausch was tasked with leading that preliminary investigation. The next month, on December 20, White House counsel informed Lausch of a second batch of classified documents apparently found at Biden’s Wilmington home, according to Garland’s account. On Thursday morning, Biden’s personal attorney called Lausch and informed him that an additional document marked as classified had been found at Biden’s home.

The additional documents were found after searches of the president’s homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. No classified documents were located at the Rehoboth property, the statement said. The documents were found “among personal and political papers.”

Lawyers for Biden completed their review of the Delaware homes Wednesday afternoon.

20230112-Biden-Trump-Documents found-update

“As was the case with the Penn-Biden Center, the Department of Justice was immediately notified, and the lawyers arranged for the Department of Justice to take possession of these documents,” the statement reads.

A person familiar with the matter said after the statement was released that, in the case of the classified documents first discovered by the Penn-Biden Center, Biden’s lawyers first notified the National Archives — not the Justice Department — who then informed the Department of Justice. .

Biden’s lawyers followed “proper protocol” by notifying the Archives first of the first batch of classified documents, the person said, but only because the Justice Department got involved later and the president’s lawyers were in touch with them then, secondly, the lawyers. he was informed by the Department of Justice.

But key questions remain unanswered about the stash of classified material, including who brought them to Biden’s private homes and what exactly they contained.

Several people associated with Biden have been interviewed as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into the discovery of classified documents from his time as Vice President, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The group includes former aides from Biden’s time as vice president who may be involved in packing up and locking out his records and personal items and extends to certain people who may know how which concluded the documents found on November 2 inside Biden’s office at the office. Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Engagement, the people said.

The names of those interviewed are not yet clear. More interviews could be done in the future, one of the people said, although it is always a fluid process.

The Biden issue burst into the public eye in January, when news reports revealed that Biden’s lawyer found 10 classified documents while cleaning out one of Biden’s private offices in Washington, DC. The discovery happened in November, days before the midterm elections, but Biden’s team kept the matter under wraps and did not admit anything publicly until it came out in the newspapers.

CNN reported Wednesday that Biden’s legal team had found another batch of classified documents in a search that began after classified documents were discovered at his former Washington think tank office in early November.

The discovery set off alarm bells within the White House, where only a small circle of advisers and lawyers were aware of the situation. An effort was launched to search for other locations where documents from Biden’s time as vice president could be stored.

CNN previously reported that the initial batch of 10 classified documents found when Biden’s personal attorneys were packing files in his former private office included US intelligence materials and intelligence memos about Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom .

Some of the documents were classified as “high secret,” the highest level. They were found in three or four boxes containing unclassified papers that fall under the Presidential Records Act, CNN reported.

Classified records are supposed to be stored in secure locations. And under the Presidential Records Act, White House records are supposed to go to the National Archives when an administration ends.

Ahead of new reports on a second batch of government materials Wednesday, the White House declined to answer several critical questions about the classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president that were found inside a private office last fall. citing the Department of Justice’s ongoing review. .

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday declined to answer several questions about the documents, citing the Justice Department’s ongoing review of the matter. She could not say who brought the documents into the office or whether other documents were found. She also could not say whether an investigation was underway to find other possible documents or when the president was informed of the discovery of the documents.

“This is under review by the Department of Justice. I am not going to go beyond what the president shared yesterday,” said Jean-Pierre, repeating the explanation during Wednesday’s briefing. “I’m not going to go beyond what my colleagues at the White House counsel shared with all of you as well.”

This is a breaking story and will be updated.


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