The Justice Department is reviewing a batch of potentially classified documents found in the Washington office space of President Joe Biden’s former institute, the White House said Monday.
Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered as Biden’s personal attorneys were clearing out the offices of the Penn Biden Center, where the president kept an office after he left the vice presidency in 2017 until shortly before he launched his 2020 presidential campaign in 2019. The documents were found Nov. 2, 2022, in a “locked closet” in the office, Sauber said.
Sauber said the attorneys immediately alerted the White House Counsel’s office, who notified the National Archives and Records Administration — which took custody of the documents the next day.
“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.
A person who is familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly said Attorney General Merrick Garland asked U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch to review the matter after the Archives referred the issue to the department. John Lausch was appointed to his post by former President Donald Trump.
The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. A message seeking comment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago wasn’t immediately returned Monday.
CBS was first to report on the discovery of the potentially classified documents.
The Justice Department for months has been investigating the retention of roughly 300 documents that were marked as classified and were recovered from the Florida estate of former President Donald Trump. In that instance, prosecutors say, representatives of Trump resisted requests to give back the full stash of classified documents and failed to fully comply with a subpoena that sought their return.
FBI agents in August served a search warrant at the Mar-a-Lago property, removing 15 boxes of records.
That investigation is being led by special counsel Jack Smith. Prosecutors have interviewed an array of Trump associates and have been using a grand jury to hear evidence.
It is not clear when a decision will be made on whether Trump, or anyone else, should be charged.
The think tank, formally known as the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and continues to operate independently of the Biden administration.