A small number of documents marked as classified were found at a Washington, D.C.-based think tank linked to President Joe Biden.
Fewer than a dozen documents were found at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, where Biden had an office. The documents, reportedly found in a closet, were from the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president.
Though the Department of Justice (DOJ) is conducting an investigation into the matter, information on how or why the documents were brought to the Penn Biden Center has yet to be revealed. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed Illinois-based U.S. Attorney John Lausch, who was appointed by Trump in 2017, to oversee the review.
The documents were discovered by Biden attorneys as they were planning to leave the Penn Biden Center two months ago, days before the midterm elections were set to begin. According to sources who spoke to NBC News, Biden only became aware that the documents were in his office after he was informed by his lawyers shortly afterward.
Although the center bears his name and he is an honorary professor there, Biden has never frequented the Penn Biden Center regularly, using the office “periodically” from 2017 to 2020, special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said. The White House is fully cooperating with the inquiry, Sauber added.
Biden’s lawyers acted swiftly to return the documents to the government upon their discovery, Sauber said, explaining:
On the day of this discovery, November 2, 2022, the White House Counsel’s Office notified the National Archives. The Archives took possession of the materials the following morning.
Though the storage of classified government materials in unauthorized locations could potentially put national security at risk, right-wing figures loyal to Donald Trump pounced on the news as reason to dismiss the former president’s hoarding of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
“In one sentence, can anyone explain why Trump’s retention of classified documents constitutes a serious crime, if not outright treason, which should bar Trump forever from holding public office, while Biden’s retention of classified documents is benign and without consequence?” far right commentator Dinesh D’Souza, whom Trump pardoned while he was president, wrote on Trump’s Truth Social website.
Notably, more than 300 classified documents have been found at Trump’s residence, and thousands of other government documents were in his possession prior to the FBI search warrant that was executed on his estate in August 2022. In Biden’s situation, meanwhile, it appears that fewer than a dozen documents have been found.
The presidents also differed in their response to the discovery of the documents. After he left the White House, Trump spent over a year negotiating with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) over the return of documents, only relenting after the agency threatened to involve Congress. When it became clear that some of the materials Trump had removed from the White House were marked as classified, the DOJ issued a subpoena for the remainder of the documents, which a lawyer for Trump attested had been returned voluntarily in June. Shortly after that subpoena was issued, however, evidence surfaced that Trump had instructed an employee at Mar-a-Lago to move additional documents from a storage facility on the grounds to Trump’s personal living quarters.
Although less is known about the documents in Biden’s possession, it appears that they were returned to NARA right away, without any obstruction from Biden’s lawyers.
“The difference is that Biden’s lawyers cooperated & reached out to the National Archives upon discovering the classified documents, unlike Trump & his circle obstructing the investigation into the classified docs at Mar-A-Lago,” Olivia Troye, former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence, tweeted on Monday night.
“Biden’s team did exactly what you’re supposed to do,” national security lawyer Bradley Moss told Insider. “When you find improperly stored classified documents, you immediately notify the government — and you turn it over immediately.”
“Biden volunteered the documents when his attorney found them,” USA Today opinion columnist Michael J. Stern noted. “There were a handful, not the 325 Trump stole. Trump lied to keep docs.”