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Biden's handling of documents might have jeopardized national security: Rep. Schiff

This file photo by AP shows US President Joe Biden at his home office in his private residence in Wilmington, Del., in 2021.

US President Joe Biden might have jeopardized national security by mishandling classified government documents, which are now at the center of an investigation by the Justice Department, says a senior congressional Democrat. 

“I don’t think we can exclude the possibility without knowing more of the facts,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the outgoing chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News on Sunday.

“We have asked for an assessment in the intelligence community of the Mar-a-Lago documents,” the California Democrat said, referring to classified documents discovered at the private residence of former President Donald Trump. “I think we ought to get that same assessment of the documents found in the think tank, as well as the home of President Biden.”

The news about the discovery of documents with classified markings at Biden’s home and former office has placed the president and Democrats in the middle of a political firestorm.

Republicans -- fresh out of their disappointing midterms performance and their chaotic effort to elect a new speaker-- have already vowed to use their new House majority to investigate President Biden’s handling of classified documents and how federal agencies responded to it.

The White House confirmed Saturday that additional documents were found at the garage of Biden's private home in Wilmington, Delaware. In a statement, Biden's personal counsel Robert Bauer said a total of six pages of documents with classification markings were discovered at the president’s Wilmington residence. The White House had previously said that only one page was found there.

The disclosure of the latest discovery comes days after the White House confirmed media reports that Biden’s personal lawyers had found an initial batch of classified documents on Nov. 2 in an office he had used for his work at a Washington think tank.

The files were handed over to the National Archives, which notified the Justice Department of the discovery on Nov. 4. By mid-November, Attorney General Merrick Garland had tapped John Lausch, a Trump-appointed US Attorney in Chicago, to oversee an assessment of the classified materials.

The White House has been hardly forthcoming about the way it has handled the classified documents. It has declined to answer questions beyond limited statements issued over the past week, and has had to update its narrative multiple times as more information has come to light.

Republicans have accused the Biden administration of deliberately keeping the initial discovery of sensitive files secret for two months and until the public learned about it from news reports.

On Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former Justice Department official Robert Hur to investigate the mishandling of the classified documents.  A Trump-appointed US attorney, Hur has previously worked on a cascade of national security, public corruption and corporate fraud cases.

Asked about Garland’s decision to appoint Hur to lead the DOJ’s probe, Schiff told ABC News, “I don't think he had any choice but to appoint a special counsel. And I think that special counsel will do the proper assessment.”

The White House has said it has cooperated with the Justice Department during its review of the case and plans to continue working with the special counsel’s investigation.

"We are confident 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," Sauber, Biden’s lawyer, said in a statement.

In November, Garland also appointed former war crimes prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel in a pair of cases involving Trump, including his handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

President Biden, who had lambasted Trump’s handling of classified documents as “totally irresponsible,” is now at the receiving end of similar criticisms from Republicans, who accuse the president of hypocrisy. 

“Where’s the raid of Biden’s garage?” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) tweeted.


Another Republican lawmaker raised the same question.

“Now, we learn that Biden kept additional classified materials at his home in Delaware in his GARAGE. Yet there was no raid. No ransacking of Biden’s home. Nothing,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said on Twitter.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the situation was “another faux pas by the Biden administration,” accusing it of “treating law differently based upon your political beliefs.” 

While the two cases appear to be similar, legal experts say they are vastly different.

In Trump's case, the National Archives was the first to identify the missing documents and request their return. Trump refused to do so for months and his lawyers misled federal investigators. Eventually, 15 boxes of documents were returned in January 2022, containing 184 classified documents. Still, more files remained at Mar-a-Lago, and the FBI raided the resort in August to retrieve the rest.

In contrast, Biden’s aides appear to have found a smaller number of documents, and promptly  handed them over to the federal government.

Schiff pointed to the distinctions between Trump and Biden's handling of government documents, emphasizing that the president has fully cooperated with the investigation. 

“The Biden approach was very different in the sense that it looks that it was inadvertent that these documents were at these locations,” he said. “There was no effort to hold onto them, no effort to conceal them, no effort to obstruct the Justice Department’s investigation.”


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