FBI searches Biden’s vacation home; no classified documents
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI searched President Joe Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Wednesday without finding any classified documents.the latest twist in an extraordinary series of searches for his and his predecessor’s properties.
Agents took some handwritten notes and other materials related to Biden’s time as vice president for review, just as they had when they searched his Wilmington home last month, where they also found classified items. Investigators searched his old office at a Washington think tank bearing his name in November, but it’s unclear if anything was taken.
The searches for Biden, conducted with his blessing, came as investigators work to determine how classified information from his time as senator and vice president ended up at his home and former office, and whether any mishandling involved criminal intent or was simply a mistake in a city where unauthorized treatment of classified documents is not unheard of.
Property searches by law enforcement are a routine part of criminal investigations, but there is nothing ordinary about the FBI searching the home of a sitting president, even as Biden and his aides have tried to cross-check their actions. with those of its predecessor.
Former President Donald Trump is facing a criminal investigation by special counsel into his withholding of several hundred classified documents and other government records at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida. – and his reluctance to turn them over, which led to an FBI arrest and search warrant to seize them last August.
On Wednesday, Biden’s personal lawyer, Bob Bauer, said that FBI agents authorized by the Department of Justice spent three and a half hours searching the president’s beach house and that “no documents with classified marks were found.”
In a statement revealing the search, Bauer sought to portray Biden and his team as fully transparent and cooperative. He described the search as “planned” and “one more step in a thorough and timely Department of Justice process that we will continue to fully support and facilitate.”
He did not mention Trump by name, but the statement appeared to be aimed at juxtaposing the Biden investigation with the Trump case, where months of unsuccessful efforts by the Justice Department to recover all classified records taken into the former president’s estate in Florida culminated in the August search warrant and removal of nearly three dozen boxes of documents and other items.
The searches of Biden’s former office and Delaware homes, by contrast, have been conducted voluntarily and without a warrant. But the fact that the FBI did its own search reflected the Justice Department’s determination to recover any and all possible classified items rather than trust that such documents had been located.
Biden has said he was surprised for the initial treasure discovered by his lawyers in November while cleaning an office inside the Penn Biden Center.
The latest search follows the FBI’s 13-hour top-to-bottom check of his home in Wilmington, Delaware.where agents located documents with classified markings from his time as vice president and senator and also took possession of some of his handwritten notes.
A week earlier, Biden’s personal lawyers revealed that they had found a document with classified markings while searching the Wilmington property. but said they had found no others during a separate inspection of the Rehoboth Beach home.
The White House did not disclose the Justice Department investigation until last month, when it acknowledged the Nov. 2 discovery. from a “small number” of classified documents from Biden’s lawyers when they closed an office at the Penn Biden Center, a think tank affiliated with the Ivy League school.
Although officials have not disclosed this, The Associated Press and other news organizations reported Tuesday that the FBI had conducted a voluntary search of that office later in November.
The administration’s public response has been delayed and incomplete. There are many unanswered questions: about what information the documents contained, exactly how many were discovered, and why he had them in his possession, despite the insistence of Biden’s lawyers and the White House counsel that they are being as transparent as possible. possible with the public.
“I think we’ve been pretty transparent from the beginning,” a spokesman for the office of White House counsel Ian Sams said Wednesday. “We want to be careful to be very respectful of the integrity of that ongoing investigation.”
Sams reiterated that Biden was working with Justice investigators.
“The president has fully cooperated in offering unprecedented access to his home … every room in his home in Rehoboth, as well as the one in Wilmington,” he said.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday’s search.
Biden’s lawyers have described the withholding of the records as a “mistake.” Historically, the Department of Justice has brought criminal charges related to the mishandling of classified records only when it can establish, among other things, that an individual acted knowingly by inappropriately deleting or storing confidential records.
The Biden documents are being investigated by special counsel, Robert Hur, a former senior Justice Department official during the Trump administration who served as the top federal prosecutor in Baltimore. He is starting his job this week, inheriting a months-long investigation already conducted by FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors.
Attorney General Merrick Garland had assigned Chicago US Attorney John Lausch to conduct an initial review before announcing Hur’s appointment last month.
In a separate effort that preceded the Biden investigation, special counsel Jack Smith is investigating Trump’s withholding of approximately 300 classified-marked documents that were taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. Agents last August obtained a search warrant to recover classified documents after what the Justice Department said were months of resistance by Trump and his representatives to return the records to the government.
Investigators into the Biden case have already conducted interviews, including with a former executive assistant to Biden who helped oversee the packing of boxes that were sent to the Penn Biden Center. It is still unclear if and when the Justice Department might question Biden himself.
The Bidens bought their Rehoboth Beach home, which overlooks a beach-adjacent state park, in June 2017, months after he left the vice presidency.