WASHINGTON — The revelation that the FBI found additional classified documents during a Friday search of the president’s personal residence in Delaware is stoking new scrutiny of Joe Biden’s handling of sensitive and in some cases classified information.
Attorneys for Biden stressed in statements on Saturday evening that the president is cooperating with the Department of Justice and special counsel investigation and said the search of his Wilmington, Delaware, residence was voluntary.
The FBI called it planned and consensual in a statement.
But the search, which the president’s legal team waited to disclose until a full day later, is generating new questions about White House transparency on the issue that Biden last week suggested is insignificant.
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What do we know about Joe Biden’s classified documents?
More than a dozen classified documents have been discovered in Biden’s personal offices.
An initial batch of documents was discovered at the Biden Penn Center last year, just prior to the midterm elections. Their existence was not made public by the White House. CBS reported on the documents in January, prompting a congressional inquiry.
A subsequent search of Biden’s beach home turned up no additional documents, the White House said.
However, attorneys for Biden found six pages of classified material at his Wilmington residence. And at least six more documents were uncovered during a secondary search of Biden’s home that was conducted Friday by the DOJ. Biden attorney Bob Bauer says some handwritten notes from his vice presidential years were also taken into possession.
What are people saying?
“Every day it seems like they’re finding more documents.” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, on CNN’s State of the Union. “Although it was consensual, the search, the fact is, the FBI conducted the search, not his attorneys. That really ratchets the investigation up.”
“I think he should have a lot of regrets,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“There is one important document that distinguishes former President Trump from President Biden, that’s a warrant,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Conn., on ABC’s This Week, pointing out that the search in Biden’s home was voluntary.
“When Joe Biden says he has no regrets, I mean, this is very concerning here,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Fox News Sunday Morning Futures. “We need to know who had access to those documents.”
““Why did he have these? Who did he show them to?”,” said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio., on CBS’ Face the Nation.
What happened at Biden’s Delaware home?
Late Saturday, the Justice Department confirmed that the FBI spent most of the day and night Friday conducting a “planned, consensual search” of Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home.
Biden was not there for the search, which the White House says place took from early morning until 10:30 at night. He is spending the weekend at his Rehoboth Beach property in Deleware.
An official said the search was not the subject of any court-authorized process, including an approved search warrant at Biden’s home.
The latest search: More Biden documents found after DOJ searches his Delaware home
How is this different from Trump’s handling of classified documents?
A judge in Florida approved a warrant in early August in a similar investigation into the personal possession of classified documents involving former President Donald Trump. Judges only authorize such search warrants if the requesting authorities show reason to believe that either a crime had been committed there or that evidence of such a crime could be found there.
The Mar-a-Lago warrant authorized FBI agents—accompanied by a Justice Department prosecutor – to search Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida home and private club, and cart off dozens of boxes of documents. There was no warrant in the search of Biden’s residence last week.
The Mar-a-Lago search was conducted only after months of back and forth between Trump and the National Archives and Justice Department, which wanted him to return classified documents that he had indicated he had in his possession. Trump refused, saying he had personally declassified some if not all of them under his broad authorities as president, and that they were part of his personal papers.
Did the FBI raid Biden’s home?
No, the search was consensual, expected and coordinated between both parties. The Mar-a-Lago search also was not a raid, though it was conducted on the basis of a court-approved warrant.
Biden administration officials have sought to portray themselves as being much more proactive and cooperative than lawyers for Trump, voluntarily searching his residences and offices in recent weeks in an effort to turn up more potentially problematic documents. They have been accused, however, of not being transparent enough about the searches and what classified documents Biden had in his possession.
Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, all documents created by the president, vice president and their large staff, including the National Security Council, are the property of the American public and are supposed to be secured by the National Archives. After the National Archives processes the massive volume of documents, many of them are eventually declassified and made available to the public, including at presidential libraries.
What does this mean for Joe Biden?
Democrats have been frustrated by the drip, drip, drip nature of the disclosures.
Although they do not see the situation, which is markedly different than the DOJ’s criminal investigation into Trump, as detrimental to Biden’s long-term reelection prospects, Democrats such as former House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff have supported the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the case.
Biden had been enjoying a bounce in his approval rating and was enjoying increased support from independent voters and non-voters as the document drama was brewing. New developments in the document scandal could cut into Biden’s support as he prepares to give his State of the Union address in early February and potentially announce a reelection bid.
Despite the president’s assertions that “there’s nothing there” and the “American people don’t quite understand” the continued focus on his documents, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 60% of Americans think he handled them inappropriately and two-thirds of Americans are following media coverage.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden documents revelations grow; what we know so far