President Joe Biden said he was “surprised” when classified documents were found in a closet in his former office and portrayed it as an honest mistake, but when another batch was found in his garage, pressure has mounted to explain what is fast becoming a crisis of credibility for the White House.
From popping up in a locked closet in a Washington think tank to being discovered in the president’s garage where he keeps his classic Corvette, the sensitive materials have sparked public interest and drawn legal scrutiny.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to investigate the case while Republicans have alleged a two-tier justice system where former President Donald Trump—who faces his own classified document probe—is seen as being treated more harshly while Biden supposedly with kid gloves.
“Where is the FBI raid on the Joe Biden crime family after the revelations that he stole classified materials while serving as Vice President and stored these documents at Biden’s ‘think tank,’” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who serves on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Epoch Times in an earlier interview.
She was referring to the FBI executing a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and seizing thousands of documents, including some marked classified and top secret.
The White House is facing growing criticism for not disclosing the find of the Biden-linked documents until two months after their discovery on Nov. 2—a week before the midterm election—and even then the Biden administration only publicly acknowledged the materials after media outlets broke the story.
House Republicans are demanding answers, launching an investigation, and pointing to a link between the address where the second batch of classified documents were found and the president’s son, Hunter Biden, who’s under federal investigation for various financial and business dealings.
Below is a timeline of the disclosures and discoveries regarding Biden’s classified documents and where things could go from here.
Biden started working at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania in February 2017, after leaving office as Vice President under the Obama administration.
He served as a professor at the think tank, whose stated goal is to foster a deeper understanding of U.S. foreign policy and to develop new ideas for advancing America’s diplomatic and global leadership.
There have been concerns about possible links between the center and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The University of Pennsylvania, which houses the Biden Penn Center, received over $54 million between 2014 and 2019 in anonymous donations from China, according to the New York Post, citing public records.
A spokesperson for the University of Pennsylvania denied that any money from China was funneled to the center.
“The Penn Biden Center has never solicited or received any gifts from any Chinese or other foreign entity. In fact, the University has never solicited any gifts for the Center,” spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy told the New York Post.
Biden stopped working at the center around the time he became president.
According to Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, attorneys representing Biden found a “small number” of records with classified markings inside a locked closet at the think tank office—roughly 10 documents—and then notified the National Archives of their discovery in short order.
Biden’s lawyers transferred the documents to the National Archives for secure storage one day after their discovery, Sauber said in a statement on Jan. 9, noting that the president’s attorneys were cooperating with the Archives and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The Office of the Inspector General at the National Archives reached out to a prosecutor at the Department of Justice on Nov. 4 to notify them of the discovered documents, according to a Jan. 12 statement by Garland.
“That office was not authorized for storage of classified documents,” Garland noted, adding that the prosecutor was informed that day that the materials had been secured at an Archives facility.
In line with standard procedures, the FBI begins an assessment to determine whether any mishandling of classified information occurred in violation of federal laws, according to Garland’s Jan. 12 statement.
Garland assigns John Lausch, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, to conduct an investigation and decide if it’s necessary to appoint a special counsel to probe the circumstances around the handling of the sensitive materials.
“I selected him to conduct the initial investigation because I was confident his experience would ensure that it would be done professionally and expeditiously,” Garland said on Jan. 12.
Biden’s personal attorneys notify Lausch that more documents with classification markings were discovered in the garage at the president’s Wilmington home. They were among other records from Biden’s time as Vice President.
The FBI then went to Biden’s home to secure the documents, according to Garland’s Jan. 12 announcement.
Republicans said in a letter issued to White House counsel Stuart Delery on Jan. 13 that they have obtained documents showing that Biden’s Wilmington home address was listed on his son’s, Hunter Biden’s, driver’s license as recently as 2018, suggesting he could have had access to the documents.
Links between the tranche of documents and Hunter Biden are notable, as the GOP has long sought to investigate connections between the president and his son’s controversial business ventures in China and Ukraine. Before Republicans took control of the House, Republicans announced they want to make investigating the Bidens’ business dealings a priority.
Biden, in a Jan. 12 exchange with Fox News reporter Peter Doocy, confirmed that the documents were stored “in a locked garage” next to his classic Corvette.
“But as I said earlier this week, people know I take classified documents and classified material seriously,” Biden said, adding that his team is cooperating “fully and completely” with the DOJ probe.
Lausch updates Garland with the findings of his preliminary inquiry and suggests the need for a special counsel to continue the investigation.
Garland decides, following Lausch’s report, that appointing a special counsel is necessary for the public interest, as per the regulations for special counsel.
For the first time since the discovery of the documents, the White House discloses publicly that sensitive materials had been found at Biden’s temporary office at Penn Biden Center and says it is cooperating with investigators.
“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,” Sauber said in a statement.
Republicans react by saying they expect that Biden will face the same kind of treatment for storing classified materials in an unsecure location as Trump, whose home was raided by the FBI in August 2022.
Trump issues a comment on his Truth Social platform, asking: “When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House? These documents were definitely not declassified.”
Lawyers for the DOJ have alleged Trump could have violated several laws by keeping the documents, including the Espionage Act.
Trump has insisted he declassified the documents in line with presidential powers.
No charges have been brought against Trump over the materials.
Biden says during a visit to Mexico that he was “surprised” to learn that the classified documents had been found at the Penn Biden Center.
The president adds that he’s not aware of what the materials contained and that his lawyers have suggested he not ask what was in the documents.
House Republicans announce that they’re opening an investigation into Biden’s handling of sensitive materials.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the new chair of the House Oversight Committee, says that the panel has already opened a probe.
“The Committee is concerned that President Biden has compromised sources and methods with his own mishandling of classified documents,” Comer wrote in a letter to White House counsel Stuart Delery (pdf), while pointing out that Biden has previously called the mishandling of presidential records “totally irresponsible.”
On the same day, Comer also wrote a letter to NARA’s Acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall (pdf) to raise the question of “political bias” at the agency over what he described as “inconsistent treatment of recovering classified records” held by Biden and Trump.
NARA confirmed receipt of the letter in a statement to The Epoch Times but provided no further comment.
Lawyers working for Biden finished searching his homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach for additional official documents that may have been sent there during the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations in 2017, according to a Jan. 12 statement by Sauber.
The search for other classified materials was prompted by the discovery of the documents at the Penn Biden Center, according to Sauber.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre delivers the first press briefing since news of the documents became public on Jan. 9.
She defends the administration’s actions while declining to answer how the documents came to be at the office.
Republicans demand that the DOJ take a tougher line on Biden, alleging bias against the GOP at the nation’s investigative agencies and judicial system.
Biden’s personal attorneys notify Lausch that an additional classified document was found at the president’s Wilmington home, according to Garland’s announcement.
Sauber says in a statement that Biden’s lawyers found several classified documents in a storage space in a garage at the president’s Wilmington home and that a single document was found stored in an adjacent room.
No additional documents were found at Biden’s residence in Rehoboth Beach, Sauber said.
Garland announces the appointment of Robert Hur, the former Trump-era U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, as special counsel to investigate the handling of the Biden-linked documents.
“This appointment underscores for the public the Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law,” Garland says.
Sauber says the White House will cooperate with Hur’s probe.
House Republicans react to the appointment of the special counsel by saying that they will press ahead with their own investigation.
“With or without a special counsel, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee will investigate President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents and the Swamp’s efforts to hide this information from the American people,” Comer said in a statement.
Comer said that the Archives, the DOJ, and the White House were all aware of the Penn Biden Center document stash before the midterm election but chose not to disclose this fact publicly.
“There are many questions about why the Biden Administration kept this matter a secret from the public, who had access to the office and the residence, and what information is contained in these classified documents,” Comer said.
“Republicans will push for transparency, accountability, and answers for the American people.”