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Goldman says Biden administration is "doing things by the book" on classified documents

Washington — Democratic Rep. Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor, said Sunday that the Biden administration is doing things "by the book" regarding the discovery of documents with classification markings at President Biden's former office at a Washington, D.C., think tank and in the garage of his house in Wilmington, Delaware.

"This administration is doing things by the book," Goldman said in an interview with "Face the Nation." "There is a divide and a separation between the Department of Justice and the White House that certainly did not exist in the last administration. And President Biden and his team have reached out to the Archives, they've reached out to the Department of Justice, they have done everything they can to cooperate. And that's in direct contrast to what former President Trump has done, where he has obstructed justice at every turn."

Mr. Biden is facing scrutiny from Congress after the White House acknowledged last week that roughly 10 documents marked classified, which date back to his time as vice president, were discovered Nov. 2 at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. 

Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, then confirmed Thursday morning that a second set of materials was found in the garage at Mr. Biden's residence in Wilmington, Delaware, and retrieved by the FBI. The White House did not disclose when the records bearing classification markings were found at the Wilmington house, but Attorney General Merrick Garland later revealed the discovery was made Dec. 20.

Sauber said in his Jan. 12 statement that a single, one-page document marked classified was also found in a room adjacent to the garage, but then revealed Saturday that five more pages were discovered in the room.

He attributed the discrepancy to the process the president's personal attorneys followed as they conducted searches for more government documents — because the lawyers do not have active security clearances, they stopped their search and did not review a document with a classified marking if one was identified. The lawyers also suspended any further search in the box, file or other space where the sensitive document was found, Sauber said in the statement Saturday.

Because Sauber does have a security clearance, he said he went to Wilmington on Thursday evening to "facilitate" giving the document to the Justice Department. It was while he was transferring the record to Justice Department officials that the five additional pages with classification markings were discovered, for a total of six pages, Sauber said.

Asked why the president would send lawyers without security clearances to search for more sensitive government records, Goldman said the public doesn't know the circumstances surrounding that decision. But the White House's statements indicate the president and his aides take the issue involving the storage of classified information "very seriously," he said.

"They are abiding by the laws, they have reached out and been as cooperative as possible," Goldman said. "And that's part of the reason why they can't speak, is that they would be potentially interfering with an ongoing investigation, which once again, this administration takes very seriously."

Goldman said that a White House lawyer with a security clearance, such as Sauber, would be involved in handing over the discovered material to the Justice Department because it involves classified information that belongs to the U.S. government.

"When you have matters of national security, you need to make sure that those who have clearance to review them are reviewing them," he said. "And once again, we're focusing on a lot of the nitty-gritty details here. The bigger picture is broad cooperation from the president who clearly takes this very seriously. And that should be really underscored here. As well as the importance of an independence of the Department of Justice."

In the wake of the records' discovery at Mr. Biden's former office and his Wilmington home, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday he appointed Robert Hur, former U.S. attorney in Maryland, as special counsel to oversee the investigation into the documents.

Hur is the second special counsel named by Garland to lead Justice Department probes into documents marked classified, joining Jack Smith. Smith was selected in November to take over the investigation into former President Donald Trump's handling of sensitive documents found at his South Florida residence after he left office.

Federal investigators retrieved more than 300 documents bearing classification markings from Mar-a-Lago, according to court filings. The former president is being investigated for the alleged improper removal and storage of classified information in unauthorized spaces, as well as the alleged unlawful concealment or removal of government records.

GOP Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah on "Face the Nation," Jan. 15, 2023.

In an interview with "Face the Nation," Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said he believes it's "extraordinarily unlikely" the records found in Mr. Biden's possession contained information like nuclear codes or nuclear secrets.

But he called the notion that the president didn't realize he had classified materials "nonsense" since each document is marked clearly on each page and typically come in a cover sheet with the classification level.

"This isn't the kind of thing that you just sit on your desk and you think, 'Oh, I forgot that they're classified.' It's very clear that they're classified," Stewart told "Face the Nation." "And for those who think that, well, the president didn't realize that he had those in his possession. It just is nonsense. Of course, he knew that he had them. They're so obvious."

Stewart said the House Intelligence panel has requested an analysis of the documents and the "potential harm" they may have from Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, which the committee is expected to receive "within the next few weeks."

"If these documents were available for a long period of time, in such an open environment as a garage for heaven's sakes — now I understand the garage was locked as the president made the point, but still they were available — it's important for us to understand the potential damage to these documents and these documents being available, it may have caused to the American and American security," Stewart said.

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