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Justice Department reviews ‘small number’ of potentially classified documents at Biden Center

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating a batch of potentially classified documents found in the Washington office of President Joe Biden’s former institute, the White House said Monday.

Presidential Special Adviser Richard Sauber said “a small number of classified documents” were unearthed as Biden’s personal attorneys cleared offices at the Pennsylvania Biden Center, where the president held office after leaving the vice presidency in 2017 until shortly before how he launched his 2020 presidential campaign in 2019. According to Sauber, the documents were found on November 2, 2022 in a “locked cabinet” in the office.

Sauber said lawyers immediately notified the White House Counsel’s office, which notified the National Archives and Records Administration, which took custody of the documents the next day.

“Following this discovery, the President’s personal attorneys have worked with the archives and the Justice Department to ensure that any records of the Obama-Biden administration are properly archived,” Sauber said.

A person familiar with the matter, but not authorized to discuss it publicly, said that Attorney General Merrick Garland asked U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch to look into the matter after the Archive turned it over to the department. Lausch is one of the few U.S. lawyers to have been fired from the administration of former President Donald Trump.

Regardless of the Justice Department’s scrutiny, the discovery that Biden potentially mishandled classified or presidential documents could prove to be a political headache for the president, who called Trump’s decision to store hundreds of such records in his private club in Florida “irresponsible.”

On Monday, Trump spoke out on his social media site, asking, “When is the FBI going to raid many of Joe Biden’s homes, maybe even the White House?”

The revelation comes as Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives and are vowing to launch wide-ranging investigations into the Biden administration.

It could also complicate the Justice Department’s review of whether to indict Trump, who reclaimed the White House in 2024 and has repeatedly said that the Department’s investigation of his own conduct amounted to “corruption.”

Rep. James Comer, the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said on Monday that the revelation raised questions about how the Justice Department is handling the Trump investigation.

“Will the White House be searched tonight? Are they going to raid the Bidens?” he asked reporters. “Another problem is that there is a two-tier justice system in the Justice Department, depending on how they treat Republicans and Democrats, and of course how they treat the former president versus the current president.”

The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. A message asking for comment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago was not immediately returned on Monday.

CBS was the first to report the discovery of potentially classified documents.

The Justice Department spent months investigating the withholding of approximately 300 documents that were marked as secret and seized from Trump’s property in Florida. In this case, prosecutors said, Trump’s representatives resisted requests to return the entire stock of classified documents and did not fully comply with the subpoena demanding their return.

In August, FBI agents served a search warrant on the Mar-a-Lago property, seizing 15 boxes of records.

This investigation is being led by Special Counsel Jack Smith. Prosecutors questioned scores of Trump associates and used a grand jury to hear evidence.

It is not yet clear when a decision will be made on whether Trump or anyone else should be charged.

The think tank, officially known as the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and continues to operate independently of the Biden administration.

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