President Joe Biden’s aides found five additional pages of classified material at his personal residence in Wilmington, Delaware, on the same day a special counsel was appointed to investigate the matter, the White House announced on Saturday.
That new disclosure marks the latest shift in the total number of documents with classified markings discovered by Biden’s lawyers in a week that has dramatically shifted the trajectory of an administration at the same moment it has raised significant questions about its handling of a legally precarious matter.
“We have now publicly released specific details about the documents identified, how they were identified, and where they were found,” Richard Sauber, the White House special counsel, said in a statement that noted that the White House counsel’s office will no longer answer questions on the matter with the investigation under way. “The White House will cooperate with the newly-appointed Special Counsel.”
The discovery came just hours after the White House Counsel’s Office had released a statement specifically citing the discovery of a single document and the same day Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed former US Attorney Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate the matter.
The latest disclosure marks the third in a week, and second time initial information provided was later proved to be incomplete. In fact, Sauber had said the review of Biden’s homes was complete on Wednesday night even though the additional five pages were discovered on Thursday evening. It comes as the White House has struggled to navigate the convergence of ongoing reviews, public messaging and rapidly increasing political pressure.
The new pages were found when a White House lawyer went to Wilmington to facilitate the transfer of a classified document found at Biden’s home by his personal attorneys to Justice Department officials, Sauber said.
“Because I have a security clearance, I went to Wilmington Thursday evening to facilitate providing the document the President’s personal counsel found on Wednesday to the Justice Department,” Sauber said.
“While I was transferring it to the DOJ officials who accompanied me, five additional pages with classification markings were discovered among the material with it, for a total of six pages. The DOJ officials with me immediately took possession of them,” it adds.
The White House is facing increasing criticism for its lack of transparency with the public over the documents. The initial batch of documents – 10 classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president were found at his former private office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement – were found on November 2 but not revealed to the public until Monday.
Biden’s personal attorney sought to explain Saturday why he and other members of Biden’s team haven’t been fully forthcoming about the discoveries.
“The President’s personal attorneys have attempted to balance the importance of public transparency where appropriate with the established norms and limitations necessary to protect the investigation’s integrity,” Bob Bauer said in a statement. “These considerations require avoiding the public release of detail relevant to the investigation while it is ongoing.”
John Lausch Jr., the US attorney in Chicago who led a preliminary inquiry in the matter at Garland’s request, did not ask for searches of additional locations after the initial discovery of classified documents at Biden’s former office, according to a source familiar with the investigation. The Biden team volunteered to do additional searches but moved more slowly than law enforcement expected.
There are multiple additional spots that could be searched, including other offices, and it’s possible additional documents could still be found, the source said.
Bauer, who is representing Biden in the classified documents case, said that releasing more details about the case could “complicate the ability of authorities conducting the review to obtain information readily, and in an uncompromised form.”
That includes details about witnesses, specific documents and events involved in the case.
“Regular ongoing public disclosures also pose the risk that, as further information develops, answers provided on this periodic basis may be incomplete,” the statement read.
Bauer said that after discovering Obama-Biden records at the Washington office of the Penn Biden Center in November, “the President’s personal attorneys conducted searches of the President’s personal residences for additional government records and, because the attorneys do not have security clearances, followed the standard search protocol.”
CNN previously reported that the classified material found in Biden’s private office included some top secret files with the “sensitive compartmentalized information” designation, which is used for highly sensitive information obtained from intelligence sources. Those documents included US intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom, according to a source familiar with the matter.
There was also a memo from Biden to President Barack Obama, as well as two briefing memos preparing Biden for phone calls – one with the British prime minister and the other with Donald Tusk, who served as president of the European Council from 2014 to 2019. It’s unclear how much of this material remains sensitive.
“Following the initial discovery of the Penn Biden Center documents, whenever a document bearing classified markings was identified, the search was suspended of the box, file or other space where the document was discovered, with the potentially classified material left in place as found,” Bauer said, adding the US government was “promptly notified.”
“It is for this reason that the President’s personal attorneys do not know the precise number of pages in the discovered material, nor have they reviewed the content of the documents, consistent with standard procedures and requirements,” he said. “Adhering to this process means that any disclosure regarding documents cannot be conclusive until the government has conducted its inquiry, including taking possession of any documents and reviewing any surrounding material for further review and context.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed former Maryland US Attorney Robert Hur as special counsel to take over the investigation into the classified documents found at the two locations connected to Biden.
The president has told reporters he is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice, and the White House has said it is confident the probe will show the documents were “inadvertently misplaced.”
This story and headline have been updated.