Powered by

Biden on classified docs: There's nothing there

'We found a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place'

USA-ELECTION/BIDEN-OBAMA US President Joe Biden campaigns in support of Democratic U.S. senatorial candidate John Fetterman and Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro, in Philadelphia | Reuters

A frustrated President Joe Biden said there is "no there there" when he was persistently questioned about the discovery of classified documents and official records at his home and former office.

"We found a handful of documents were filed in the wrong place," Biden said to reporters who questioned him during a tour of the damage from storms in California on Thursday. "We immediately turned them over to the Archives and the Justice Department."

Biden said he was "fully cooperating and looking forward to getting this resolved quickly".

"I think you're going to find there's nothing there," he said. "There's no there there."

The White House has disclosed that Biden attorneys found classified documents and official records on four occasions in recent months  on November 2 at the offices of the Penn Biden Centre in Washington, and then in follow up searches on December 20 in the garage of the president's home in Wilmington, Delaware, and on January 11 and 12 in the president's home library.

Attorney General Merrick Garland last week appointed Robert Hur, a former Maryland US attorney, to serve as special counsel to oversee the Justice Department's inquiry into the documents.

The discovery complicates a federal probe into former president Donald Trump, who the Justice Department says took hundreds of records marked classified with him upon leaving the White House in early 2021 and resisted months of requests to return them to the government.

The two cases are different  Biden for example, willingly turned over the documents once found. But the issue is wearing on the president and his aides, who have repeatedly said they acted swiftly and appropriately when the documents were discovered, and are working to be as transparent as possible though key questions remain unanswered. 

Biden expressed frustration that the documents matter was coming up as he surveyed coastal storm damage, telling reporters that it "bugs me" that he was being asked about the handling of the classified material even as "we have a serious problem here" in California.

"Why you don't ask me questions about that?" he pressed.

Biden's team has faced criticism for its fragmented disclosures  the public wasn't notified of the documents until early January and after that the additional findings dripped out slowly. It has occasionally led to heated exchanges between reporters and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in the White House briefing room. She ran into trouble when she suggested last Friday that all documents had been recovered, only to have an additional discovery disclosed over the weekend.

Biden said Thursday he has "no regrets" over how and when the public learned about the documents.

"I'm following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do," he said. 

📣 The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines