President Biden once defended the practice of taking home classified documents in some circumstances last summer.
Biden made the comments while speaking to reporters on South Lawn at the White House in August, saying he planned to take home some classified documents that very day. Now, the Justice Department is investigating a collection of classified documents found at a Biden-affiliated think tank dated to his time as vice president.
‘Is it ever appropriate for a president to classify top secret documents?’ a reporter asked him on August 26.
‘Depending on the circumstance. For example, I have in my home a cordoned-off space that is completely secure. I’m taking home with me today’s [Presidential Daily Brief]. I have a person with me, military with me. I read it, I lock it up and give it back to the military.’
‘What about without a specialized area to read classified documents? Is it ever appropriate [to bring home documents]?’ a reporter pressed.
‘It depends on the document and it depends on how secure,’ Biden responded.
Biden’s comments came months before a collection of documents were discovered at the offices of the Penn Biden Center. The think tank notified the National Archives and returned the documents in November.
Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and a Trump appointee, to investigate the matter on Monday. The White House says Biden is fully cooperating with the investigation.
‘The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives,’ Richard Sauber, special counsel to the White House, said in a Monday statement. ‘Since that discovery, the President’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in the process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives.’
The discovery echoes revelations last year that Trump had housed a trove of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home after leaving office. The FBI ultimately raided his residence to recover some 300 classified documents.
Trump himself was quick to make the comparison on social media Monday, and a number of other Republicans called for more information about the Biden documents.
‘Under the Biden Administration, the Department of Justice and National Archives have made compliance with the Presidential Records Act a top priority,’ Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said in a Monday statement. ‘We expect the same treatment for President Biden, who has apparently inappropriately maintained classified documents in an insecure setting for several years.’