The White House said it is co-operating with the US Department of Justice and the National Archives after the discovery of potentially classified documents from Joe Biden’s time as vice-president at a think-tank office in Washington.
Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, said in a statement on Monday that the president’s personal attorneys discovered the documents in early November when packing up an office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington.
The Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a think-tank affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, opened in 2018. The centre released a statement after the 2020 presidential election saying it would operate “completely independent” of the Biden administration.
Sauber said on Monday that Biden had “periodically” used the office space where the documents were found from about 2017 until he began his 2020 campaign for the presidency.
Sauber said the documents “appear to be Obama-Biden administration records, including a small number of documents with classified markings”. Biden served as vice-president under president Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.
The special counsel said Biden’s personal attorneys found the documents on November 2 of last year, and the White House notified the National Archives the same day. Sauber added the documents were “not the subject of any previous request or inquiry” and that Biden’s personal attorneys had since been co-operating with the National Archives and the DoJ.
CBS News reported that Merrick Garland, the US attorney-general, had assigned the US attorney in Chicago to review “roughly 10” documents. The FBI is also involved in the probe, according to CBS.
The DoJ and the FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Federal law requires that any official records created or received by the president or vice-president during their time in the White House be handed over to the National Archives when they leave office.
The law has been in the headlines in recent months after FBI agents carried out a raid over the summer at Mar-a-Lago, former president Donald Trump’s resort in Palm Beach, Florida. That search uncovered more than 100 documents marked classified, secret or top secret from his time in office. Court filings have shown Trump is facing a criminal investigation for possible violations of the Espionage Act as well as obstruction of a judicial inquiry and the mishandling of public records.