White House Says Biden Invited FBI Search at His Home for Classified Documents

White House Says Biden Invited FBI Search at His Home for Classified Documents
President Joe Biden speaks to mayors from across the country during an event at the East Room of the White House on Jan. 20, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Members of President Joe Biden’s administration have insisted that the FBI search of his Wilmington, Delaware home on Friday was done with the president’s consent, rather than a search warrant.

Over the weekend, the White House disclosed that a new search by the FBI had found six more documents, including some with classified markings, during a search of the home on Jan. 20.

In an interview with ABC News over the weekend, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the search of Biden’s home was done by a search warrant, and that it represents a “significant” development in the investigation of Biden’s handling of classified documents.

On Sunday, Special Assistant to the President Ian Sams responded to McCaul’s comments during the ABC News interview, tweeting, “On @ThisWeekABC, @RepMcCaul falsely states there was a search warrant of the President’s home. Not true. POTUS lawyers offered for DOJ to come to his home. DOJ confirmed it was consensual.”

Members of the Biden administration have reiterated the consensual nature of the latest search at Biden’s home and insisted it was done by Biden’s invitation.

In an interview with MSNBC on Sunday, 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.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also said, during a Monday press briefing that “the FBI was invited into the President’s home” for their most recent search.

Throughout the recent discoveries of potentially classified documents at Biden’s home and former office space, administration officials have emphasized that they alerted authorities in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and at the Department of Justice as soon as documents were found and have said they’ve been fully cooperative with the investigative efforts.

The first set of potentially classified documents was found in a locked cabinet at the Penn Biden Center in Washington D.C. on Nov. 2, 2022. Additional documents were discovered at Biden’s home on Dec. 20, and Jan. 12 through searches conducted by Biden’s legal teams.

On Jan. 12, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he had appointed former U.S. Attorney Robert Hur as a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Biden-linked documents.

The FBI search on Friday represents the first search conducted by federal investigators, rather than Biden’s team. It also represents the first search conducted since Garland announced the special counsel appointment.

Biden’s personal lawyer Bob Bauer said some of the documents recovered in the latest FBI search dated back to Biden’s time as the vice president, while others went further back to his time as a Senator in 2009, indicating he could have had those documents in his possession for at least 14 years.

Invitation ‘Reveals How Seriously’ Biden is Treating Documents

The president’s representatives have defended his handling of classified documents, noting that the documents were in his possession by mistake and that his team had immediately notified and turned them over.

After Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he had appointed former U.S. attorney Robert Hur as a special counsel to investigate the Biden documents, special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake.”

In a Monday call with the press, Sams said Biden’s decision to invite the DOJ to search his home was an “unprecedented offer” he made to “ensure that any documents that should be in the possession of the government were in the possession of the government.”

“It reveals how seriously the President is taking this issue and how actively he is cooperating with the ongoing investigation,” Sams added.

‘Next Step Would’ve Been Warrant,’ Former Federal Prosecutor Says

While representatives for the Biden administration have described his decision to invite an FBI search team into his home as an example of his cooperation, former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy characterized the move as one taken to avoid the spectacle of a search warrant that would have come about had Biden not invited the search.

“Biden didn’t consent to FBI search [because] he’s Mr Cooperation. He consented [because] there was probable cause of crimes,” McCarthy tweeted. “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.”

Probable cause is typically established when a court finds a reasonable belief that a crime has occurred in a place to be searched or that evidence of a crime may be found in that place.

McCarthy wrote, in a column for National Review, that a finding of probable cause would include a list of potential criminal offenses for which a search would be conducted. McCarthy wrote that Biden would want to avoid the political fallout of having those criminal offenses listed in a court record, so as to avoid the type of reputational damage “that has dogged former president Donald Trump since the Mar-a-Lago search in August.”
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