came. General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed a special counsel to investigate the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents discovered in President Biden’s office and home.
Garland selected former Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert Hoare to conduct the investigation and examine whether “any person or entity has violated the law in connection with this matter.” Hoare was appointed US Attorney General by former President Trump and previously served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General. Work is expected to begin in the coming days.
In a statement, Hoor said, “The specific investigation will be conducted by a fair, impartial, and impartial judgement. I intend to pursue the facts quickly and accurately, without fear or favour, and I will respect the trust placed in me to perform this service.”
The special counsel has more autonomy to conduct an investigation, but ultimately leaves the decision on prosecution to the attorney general. Garland said Hoare’s appointment “affirms to the public the Department’s commitment to independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters.”
Documents with hashtags were found in two unsafe locations used by Biden after he served as vice president and before becoming president, including at the Ben Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and at his private residence in Wilmington, Del. The office said Thursday that Biden’s Rehoboth, Del., home was also searched but no classified documents were found.
Presidential records, which include information created by or for the vice president, must be turned over to the National Archives on the day the new president is sworn in. Many presidents have left the White House with items that did not belong to them that the National Archives had to recover. It is usually treated as a misunderstanding and items are returned without fanfare, but mishandling of classified documents, which are usually strictly monitored by intelligence agencies, is a different story.
Garland said the Justice Department was first notified on November 4 that classified records found in the office of the Ben Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington had been turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration by the White House and the FBI launched an investigation on November 9. Garland Chicago asked the United States come. John Lausch, another Trump appointee, to review the situation on November 14.
“This office is not authorized to store classified documents,” Garland said.
Garland said that on December 20, Lauch was informed by Biden’s personal attorney that additional documents had been found in the garage of Biden’s home in Wilmington. He said the FBI had secured those documents.
Lush shared his findings with Garland on January 5. Garland said Thursday morning that Biden’s personal attorney notified the Justice Department that an additional document had been found on the Wilmington property.
A senior Justice Department official said before the announcement that Lausch’s findings showed that a private attorney was necessary in accordance with Justice Department regulations.
“This is not a decision I take lightly,” the official said. “It is required to appoint a special advisor in this matter.”
The move mirrors Garland’s decision to appoint Special Counsel Jack Smith to investigate documents seized from Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, in August.
Since news of the documents broke, Republicans have demanded that Garland appoint a special counsel, saying Biden should not be treated any differently from Trump. Few commented once Garland made the announcement.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer (R-KY) has also pledged to hold hearings on Biden’s handling of classified documents.
The circumstances of the secret documents held by Biden and Trump differ widely. Biden and his team turned the documents over to the authorities, while Trump withheld hundreds of classified documents despite a subpoena directing him to turn them over to the FBI.
The White House has largely called it a mistake.
“We are confident that a comprehensive review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and that the President and his attorneys acted immediately upon discovery of this error,” White House Special Counsel Richard Sauber said in a written statement.
White House press secretary Karen Jean-Pierre said at a news conference Thursday that Biden “didn’t know the records existed. He was surprised that the records existed.”
Biden told reporters Thursday that he and his staff are committed to the Justice Department investigation. He noted that Wilmington’s documents were in a locked garage near his Corvette.
“As I said earlier this week, people know that I take classified documents and classified materials very seriously,” Biden said. “I also said we are cooperating fully, with the DOJ review completed. The attorneys have reviewed other places where documents have been stored… from my time as Vice President and finished the review last night. They discovered a small number of classified documents in storage areas and filing cabinets in My home and my personal library…. The Department of Justice was immediately notified and the lawyers made arrangements for the Department of Justice to receive the document. So you will see all this unfold, I am sure of that.”