President Biden responded Tuesday for the first time tothat documents marked classified were found at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, DC, saying he was “surprised” to learn there were government documents at the office, which was opened after he served as Vice President.
“People know that I take classified documents, classified information seriously,” Biden said during a press conference at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City, Mexico. “When my lawyers cleared out my office at the University of Pennsylvania, they set up an office for me – when I – four years after being vice president, I was a professor at Penn. They found documents in a box, in a locked cupboard, at least a cupboard. And as soon as they did, they realized that there were several classified documents in this box.
“And they did what they should have done,” the president continued. “They immediately called the Archives – they immediately called the Archives, turned them over to the Archives, and I was informed of this discovery and surprised to learn that there were government documents that had been brought there at this office.”
The president also said he was unaware of the contents of the documents.
“But I don’t know what’s in the documents, I – my lawyers didn’t suggest I ask what documents it was. I handed over the boxes, they handed over the boxes at the Archives, and we’re cooperating fully, we’re cooperating fully with the review, which I hope will be completed soon, and there will be more details at that time.
As CBS News reported Monday, Attorney General Merrick Garland has instructed the U.S. Attorney in Chicago to review the documents, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation. The roughly 10 documents come from President Biden’s vice presidential office at the center, the sources said, and CBS News has learned that the FBI is also involved in the U.S. attorney’s investigation. CBS News has learned that these documents were marked with different classification levels, some of which were designated as highly classified.
The story broke while the president was abroad for the annual summit with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts.
The president’s personal attorneys identified the material Nov. 2, days before the midterm elections, confirmed Richard Sauber, the president’s special adviser. Sauber said the same day the material was discovered, Nov. 2, the White House attorney’s office notified the National Archives, which took possession of the material the next morning.
The Republican-led House Oversight and Accountability Committee has launched an investigation into documents marked classified that were found in the private office once used by Mr. Biden. In a letter to Stuart Delery, White House counsel Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer of Kentucky wrote that the committee “is concerned that President Biden has compromised sources and methods ( intelligence) with its own mishandling of classified documents”.
Comer asked the White House to turn over all records and communications related to material marked as classified in Mr. Biden’s personal office, including the classified documents themselves, by Jan. 24.
– Arden Farhi, Adriana Diaz, Andy Triay and Kathryn Watson of CBS News contributed to this report