Second batch of classified Biden documents found

CNN — 

President Joe Biden’s legal team found another batch of classified government records following the initial discovery of classified documents at his former think tank office in Washington this past fall, people briefed on the matter told CNN on Wednesday.

Searches for additional documents took place after Biden’s lawyers found the initial classified documents in early November, the people said. One of the sources told CNN that effort led to the discovery of additional documents of interest to federal officials reviewing the matter.

NBC News first reported the new batch of classified documents.

The discovery of the classified documents in his former office in November set off alarm bells inside the White House, where only a small circle of advisers and lawyers were aware of the matter. An effort was launched to search other locations where documents from Biden’s time as vice president may have been stored.

The White House declined to comment on the matter.

CNN previously reported that the initial batch discovered when Biden’s personal attorneys were packing files at his former private office contained 10 classified documents, including US intelligence materials and briefing memos about Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom.

Some of the classified documents were “top secret,” the highest level. They were found in three or four boxes that also contained unclassified papers that fall under the Presidential Records Act, CNN has reported.

Classified records are supposed to be stored in secure locations. And under the Presidential Records Act, White House records are supposed to go to the National Archives when an administration ends.

It is unclear at this time how many documents were in the second batch of documents or what the documents were about. It is also unclear exactly where the new batch of materials were located.

Prior to new reports about the second batch of government materials on Wednesday, the White House refused to answer a number of critical questions about the classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president discovered inside a private office last fall, citing an ongoing Department of Justice review.

The documents were discovered on November 2, just six days before the midterm elections, but the president’s attorneys only publicly acknowledged the discovery of the documents on Monday – when news reports about the discovery broke.

The government materials were found while closing out a Washington, DC-based office – the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. The items discovered include 10 classified documents including US intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Biden said Tuesday that he did not know that some classified documents had been taken to his private office after he had left the vice presidency and that his attorneys “did what they should have done” by immediately contacting the National Archives and Records Administration after the documents were found in November.

The documents, the president said, were found in “a box, locked cabinet – or at least a closet.”

Still, key questions about the situation remain unanswered.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre refused to answer a number questions about the documents, citing the Justice Department’s ongoing review of the matter. She could not say who brought the documents into the office or whether other documents were found. Nor could she say whether an audit was underway to locate other possible documents or when the president had been briefed on the discovery of the documents.

She also could not provide assurances there weren’t any additional classified materials in any other offices.

“This is under review by the Department of Justice. I’m not going to go beyond what the president shared yesterday,” Jean-Pierre said, repeating the explanation in so many words over the course of Wednesday’s press briefing. “I’m not going to go beyond what my colleagues at the White House counsel shared with all of you as well.”

The situation has triggered criticism by Republicans, who argue that the federal government has set a political double standard in their approach to mishandled documents. But there is a stark contrast between the emerging scenario with Biden and the ongoing saga with former President Donald Trump – who, for instance, resisted turning over the documents in his possession. Trump’s legal team now believes they will benefit from the revelation that Biden had classified documents in his possession after he left office, multiple sources say.

On Wednesday, Jean-Pierre could not answer critical questions about why Biden or his lawyers did not disclose the discovery to the public earlier, especially given the timing ahead of the 2022 elections.

Jean-Pierre did say she’d spoken with Biden about the unfolding story as they were traveling in Mexico earlier this week. But she said she hadn’t spoken to the president about the documents themselves.

Pressed on whether the way the situation has played out has undercut the president’s longstanding public commitment to transparency, Jean-Pierre responded, “When his lawyers realized that these documents were there, they turned them over to the Archives. They did the right thing.”

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