U.S.

Biden on the discovery of classified documents: “There is nothing there”


APTOOS, Calif. (AP) — A frustrated President Joe Biden said Thursday he was “not there” when he was persistently questioned about discovery of classified documents and official documents in his home and former office.

“We found that a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place,” Biden told reporters who questioned him during a tour of storm damage in California. “We immediately turned them over to the archives and the Department of Justice.”

Biden said he is “fully cooperating and looking forward to this being resolved quickly.”

“I think you’ll find there’s nothing there,” he said. “There’s nothing there.”

The White House revealed that Biden’s lawyers have found classified documents and official records four times in recent months — on Nov. 2 at the Penn Biden Center offices in Washington, D.C., and then in subsequent searches on Dec. 20 at the garage of the president’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and at January 11 and 12 at the President’s Home Library.

The discovery complicates a federal investigation into former President Donald Trump, who the Justice Department says took hundreds of records marked as classified with him after he left the White House in early 2021 and resisted months of demands to return them to the government.

The two cases are different — Biden, for example, voluntarily handed over the documents once found. But the problem rests on the president and his aides, who have repeatedly said they acted quickly and appropriately when the documents were discovered and are working to be as transparent as possible, even as key questions remain unanswered.

Attorney General Merrick Garland last week appointed Robert Hurr, a former U.S. attorney from Maryland, to serve as special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the documents. Garland said the extraordinary circumstances warranted a special counsel, and he also made the decision in part to show the Justice Department’s “commitment to both independence and accountability on particularly sensitive matters.”

Hurr takes over for federal prosecutor John Lausch, who was originally asked to review the documents and whose team is already interviewing former Biden aides responsible for packing boxes during his time as vice president. Those interviews included Cathy Chung, who served as an administrative assistant at the time, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Biden expressed disappointment that the documents issue was coming up while surveying coastal storm damage, telling reporters that it “irritates me” that he was asked about the handling of the classified material, even though “we have a serious problem here” in California.

“Why don’t you ask me questions about it?” he pressed.

Biden’s team faces criticism about the fragmented revelations — the public was not made aware of the documents until early January, and additional revelations have been slow to emerge since then. At times, this led to heated exchanges between reporters and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in the White House briefing room. She ran into trouble when she said last Friday that all the documents had been recovered, only for further discovery to be made over the weekend.

Biden said Thursday that he has “no regrets” about how and when the public learned about the documents.

“I’m following what my lawyers have told me they want me to do,” he said.

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They have been reporting for a long time from Washington. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.


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