Biden Spokesman Says Number of Classified Documents Found Is ‘A Little Bit Complicated’

Biden Spokesman Says Number of Classified Documents Found Is ‘A Little Bit Complicated’
President Joe Biden speaks to mayors from across the country during an event at the East Room of the White House in Washington on Jan. 20, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A spokesman for President Joe Biden said “it’s a little bit complicated” when asked how many potentially classified documents have been found at properties the president owns or used.

In an interview with MSNBC on Sunday morning, Special Assistant to the President Ian Sams fielded questions about recent discoveries of documents with classified markings at the Penn Biden Center in Washington D.C. and at Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home. Over the weekend, the White House disclosed that a new search by the U.S. Department of Justice had found six more documents, including some with classified markings, during a search of the home on Friday, Jan. 20.

Thus far, Biden’s aides and DOJ investigators have found documents in at least three locations. The first set of documents was found in a locked cabinet at the Penn Biden Center just days before the 2022 November midterm elections. Another set of documents was found in the garage of Biden’s Delaware home on Dec. 20. More documents have since been found in another room of Biden’s home on Jan. 12 and again on Jan. 20.

MSNBC host Alicia Menendez asked  how many total documents have been found in the three locations.

“It’s a good question,” Sams replied. “And actually, the answer to it is a bit complicated because of this point that I am making about the integrity of an ongoing investigation.”

“The Justice Department will be looking at all sorts of questions like that throughout the investigation. We want to be very very careful to be respectful of the integrity of the investigation, to not speak too much about the underlying contents and materials, especially things that we may not know all the answers to,” Sams continued.

Sams said the White House doesn’t “have all the answers,” including on the content and number of documents found in Biden’s possession, because Biden’s aides handed those documents over to “the proper authorities” as soon they found them, rather than closely reviewing the documents themselves.

DOJ Searched Biden’s Home With His Consent

Sams said the latest documents uncovered at Biden’s home were found as the result of a “consensual” search by the Department of Justice.

“The president and his team are being fully cooperative, making sure that they have access to the information they need and that’s why the Department of Justice was able to go to the house today to conduct the search cooperatively with the attorneys,” Sams told MSNBC.

Sams said Biden prompted the consensual search himself.

“The president said ‘offer up DOJ access to the house, I’m willing to cooperate, I want to make sure they have the information that they need,'” Sams said. “So the president’s attorneys reached out to the DOJ, offered access to the house and it was provided.”

On Saturday, Biden’s personal lawyer Bob Bauer said DOJ investigators took possession of “six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials, some of which were from the President’s service in the Senate and some of which were from his tenure as Vice President.” Bauer said investigators also took personally handwritten notes from the vice-presidential years “for further review.”

The documents uncovered in this latest search are the first to have been found since Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate Biden’s handling of classified documents.

The consensual search of Biden’s home is in contrast to an FBI raid of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort home in August.

After the Biden White House announced the first set of classified documents found at the Penn Biden Center, several prominent Republican politicians alleged a double standard that saw Trump’s home raided, while the Biden administration was able to turn over documents and disclose the discovery after the 2022 midterm elections. Some Republicans even asked if Biden’s properties would also be raided the way the FBI raided Trump’s home.

“Biden didn’t consent to FBI search [because] he’s Mr Cooperation. He consented [because] there was probable cause of crimes,” Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and columnist for the National Review tweeted after the Biden administration revealed the consensual DOJ search. “If he didn’t agree, next step would’ve been special counsel getting a search warrant (ie, judicial finding of probable cause). Wanted to avoid that.”

Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman recently told ABC News that submitting to a voluntary search would typically be a nonstarter for a defense attorney.

“I never heard of a situation where the FBI goes in and just does a search because somebody self-reports,” Akerman said. “Normally, even in a criminal case, what you normally do in the first instance, unless you have some reason to believe that somebody is lying to you or is going to destroy records or is doing something untoward as you had with the Trump situation—you just give a grand jury subpoena.”

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