The White House announced Monday that a “small number” of classified documents were found in early November 2022 in an office formerly used by President Joe Biden during his vice presidency. Biden’s personal attorneys notified the US Department of Justice (DOJ) of the discovery after finding them in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. US Attorney General Merrick Garland assigned the US attorney in Chicago to review the matter, which has been underway since the discovery in November.
The documents were dated back to Biden’s term as vice president under the Obama Administration. However, the contents of the documents have not been disclosed. Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, confirmed the discovery, stating that the National Archives were immediately notified and took possession of the materials the following morning.
“The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives,” Sauber said in a statement given to CBS News and subsequently posted to Twitter. “Since that discovery, the President’s attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives.”
Biden later said he was “surprised” to learn the documents’ location in a press conference Tuesday, assuring reporters that he was cooperating fully with the DOJ’s review.
The documents were found on November 2, 2022 when the President’s attorneys were packing documents from his former office to vacate. Biden occupied the office space from 2017 until his 2020 presidential campaign. This discovery was made two weeks before the DOJ called for a special counsel to investigate former US president Donald Trump after classified documents were uncovered from his Mar-a-Lago residence in August 2022.
Executive Order 13256 outlines the procedures for authorized persons to classify, access and handle confidential information of national security. Classified documents must be safeguarded against unauthorized access and handled in such a way that the integrity and confidentiality of the information are protected. Under US Code § 1924, anyone who “knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both.”