President Joe Biden on Monday studiously ignored a question about the discovery of classified documents relating to his time as vice president in the Obama administration in an office he used before being elected president.
The 2-month-old discovery of documents at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement was announced Monday, according to The New York Times. Details about the contents of the documents were not released other than that they were found in a locked closet.
However, the Times noted that the previously undisclosed discovery came a week before the midterm elections and more than two weeks before Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate the presence of “classified” documents in the home of former President Donald Trump in the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.
The Trump home was the target of an FBI raid in August.
News of the documents found in the former Biden office sparked media interest as Biden was beginning his visit to Mexico to meet with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
“Any response to the discovery of classified documents at your office?” one reporter called out as Biden was seated at a table with other officials at the National Palace in Mexico City.
WATCH: President Biden declines to comment when asked, “Any response to the discovery of classified documents at your office?” pic.twitter.com/eRacwaeZhl
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) January 10, 2023
At the time, Biden was flanked by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on his right and Garland on his left. Garland, who approved the raid on the Trump home, showed no reaction to the question.
Some media outlets reported the development could overshadow Biden’s trip to Mexico. The U.K. Independent reported the discovery distracts from the visit, which was “shrouded” by the development.
Apparently pushing back against that narrative, CNN reported that an unnamed source it described as “a senior administration official” said, “Nothing has changed in his schedule. He’s focused on the summit and meeting with our closest neighbors.”
Biden’s reaction on Monday differed considerably from his reaction to reports about the documents at Trump’s home.
“How could anyone be that irresponsible?” Biden said in a “60 Minutes” interview in September.
Biden on 60 Minutes in September reacting to classified documents being found at Mar-a-Lago:
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) January 9, 2023
The “senior administration official” told CNN that the subject had not been discussed during the trip. CNN quoted what it said was a source “familiar with the matter” that Biden does not even know what information the documents contained.
CNN also reported that a source told the network Biden was told about the existence of the documents after his lawyers told the White House Counsel’s office about them.
Republican Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, likely to become the next chairman of the House Oversight Committee, called the discovery “ironic,” according to the Times.
“Now we learn that Joe Biden had documents that are considered classified. I wonder, is the National Archives going to trigger a raid of the White House tonight? Or of the Biden Center?” he said, according to the Times.
“So now we’re going to take that information that we requested on the Mar-a-Lago raid, and we’re going to expand it to include the documents that Joe Biden has.”
Biden’s newest headache… fewer than a dozen classified documents found in his private office in DC
“The classified materials included some top-secret files with the ‘sensitive compartmented information’ designation, also known as SCI” https://t.co/u4eLJQhC37
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) January 10, 2023
“The documents were discovered when the president’s personal attorneys were packing files housed in a locked closet to prepare to vacate office space at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C. The president periodically used this space from mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 campaign. 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,” the statement said, according to CNN.
“The discovery of these documents was made by the President’s attorneys. The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives. Since that discovery, the President’s personal 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.”
CORRECTION, Jan. 10, 2023: An earlier version of this article incorrectly characterized the appointment of the special counsel to oversee the investigation into classified documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida in August. The appointment was made by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
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