WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special prosecutor Thursday. To investigate the existence of classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and in an unsecured office in Washington from his time as vice president.
Robert Hurr, A one-time U.S. attorney appointed by former President Donald Trump will lead the investigation and plans to begin his work soon. His appointment marks the second time in months that a special counsel has been appointed, an unusual fact that reflects the Justice Department’s efforts to independently conduct high-profile investigations in a highly heated political environment.
Both of those investigations, the former involving Trump and the documents recovered from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, concerned the handling of classified information, though there are significant differences between the cases.
Garland’s decision caps a tumultuous week at the White House, where Biden and his team opened the year hoping to celebrate strong economic news ahead of launching an anticipated re-election campaign. But the administration faced a new challenge on Monday, acknowledging the discovery of key documents at Biden’s former corporate office in Washington. The situation escalated by Thursday morning, when Biden’s attorney said an additional classified document was found in a room in his Wilmington home — later revealed by Biden to be his personal library — along with other classified documents in his garage.
The attorney general revealed that Biden’s lawyers informed the Justice Department about the latest discovery at the president’s home Thursday morning after FBI agents first retrieved the documents from the garage in December.
Biden told reporters at the White House that he was “fully and fully cooperating” with the Justice Department’s investigation into how classified information and government records were stored.
“We have cooperated closely with the Justice Department throughout its review, and we will continue to cooperate with the special counsel,” said Richard Saber, the president’s lawyer. “We believe that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and that the president and his attorneys acted promptly upon discovering this mistake.”
Garland said the “extraordinary circumstances” of the case required Harin’s appointment, adding that the special counsel has the authority to investigate whether any person or entity is violating the law. Federal law requires strict handling procedures for classified information, and official records from Biden’s time as vice president are considered government property under the Presidential Records Act.
“This appointment underscores to the public the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly critical matters, and to making decisions that are guided unequivocally only by the facts and the law,” Garland said.
Har, in a statement, said, “I will conduct the assigned inquiry with fair, impartial and dispassionate judgement. I intend to pursue the facts promptly and thoroughly without fear or favour, and will respect the trust placed in me to perform this service.”
While Garland said the Justice Department received timely notifications from Biden’s personal lawyers after each of the classified documents were identified, the White House provided the American public with delayed and incomplete notification of the findings.
Biden’s personal lawyers discovered the first classified and official documents in a locked cabinet on November 2 when they cleared his office at the Ben Biden Center in Washington. campaign in 2019. Prosecutors notified the National Archives, which retrieved the documents the next day and referred the matter to the Justice Department.
Saber said Biden’s lawyers checked other places where the documents might have been moved after Biden left the vice presidency. Garland said on Dec. 20 that the Justice Department was informed that classified documents and official records were in Biden’s Wilmington garage, near his Corvette, and that FBI agents had since taken them into custody.
A search Wednesday evening turned up the most recently discovered classified document in a private library at Biden’s home, and the Justice Department was notified Thursday, Garland revealed.
The White House confirmed the discovery of central Ben Biden documents in response to news inquiries on Monday and remained silent on the ongoing search of Biden’s homes and the discovery of the garage tranche until Thursday morning. When Biden first addressed the matter while in Mexico City on Tuesday, he declined to comment on subsequent document findings.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted that despite the public boycotts, the Biden administration was handling the matter properly.
“There was transparency in doing what you had to do,” he said, declining to answer a series of questions about when Biden was briefed on the discovery of the documents and whether he would submit to an interview with investigators.
Pressed on whether Biden could guarantee that additional classified documents would not be found in further searches, Jean-Pierre said, “You have to assume it’s over, yes.”
Appointment of another special counsel to investigate handling of classified documents It’s a landmark event, both legally and politically, for the Justice Department, which has spent months trying to retain more than 300 documents with classified information found at the former president’s Florida estate.
While the circumstances are factually and legally different, the discovery of classified documents in two separate locations linked to Biden — as well as the appointment of a new special counsel — will certainly complicate any case the department brings against Trump.
New House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said of the latest news, “I think Congress needs to investigate this.”
“Here’s a guy who sat on ’60 Minutes’ who was very concerned about President Trump’s documents … and now we’re seeing it out in the open in different places over the years as a vice president.”
However, at odds with many fellow Republicans, he said, “We don’t think there should be a special prosecutor.”
The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee has demanded that intelligence agencies conduct a “damage assessment” of classified documents. Ohio Rep. Mike Turner on Thursday requested explanations from Garland and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes about their reviews by Jan. 26.
“The presence of classified information in these separate locations could implicate the President in the possibility of mishandling, misappropriation, and disclosure of classified information,” Turner wrote to officials.
Associated Press writers Norman Merchant and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.
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