House Republicans seek more information about classified documents found in Biden's private office
Washington — House Republicans on Tuesday called on the Biden administration to release more information about its handling of documents marked classified found in a private office once used by President Biden.
The request from Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer came after the committee interviewed Gary Stern, the top lawyer for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in January.
Stern told the committee that NARA had drafted a statement in response to the CBS News report on Jan. 9 that classified documents had been found at the Penn Biden Center in Washington. But that statement, Stern said, was never sent to news organizations.
Asked by the committee to say who prevented the statement from being published, Stern declined. "According to [Justice Department] guidance, I'm not supposed to talk about the, you know, content of our communications with other parties," he replied.
Comer is now seeking to answer that question. His letter, sent to White House chief of staff Jeff Zients on Tuesday, requested communication and documents "regarding the withholding of NARA's statement it intended to issue on January 9, 2023."
The letter noted that NARA issued a statement in February 2022 after The Washington Post reported presidential records had been found at former President Donald Trump's Florida estate. Two days later, it reported the Trump matter had been referred to the Justice Department.
Late Tuesday, Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, released more of Stern's transcribed interview with the panel. Stern told the committee his agency is bound by a longstanding policy not to make public statements on matters subject to Justice Department scrutiny. The Department began looking into the Biden documents in November 2022. Special counsel Robert Hur was appointed in mid-January and is now in charge of the case.
"The White House did not ask the Archives to withhold a statement," said White House spokesman Ian Sams.
Comer also asked whether Mr. Biden would release his personal attorneys' communications with NARA. The president is under no obligation to do so, though NARA already has. Under the Freedom of Information Act, a limited batch of those emails was made public in February.
Comer set a March 21 deadline for the White House to comply with his request. Tuesday's letter follows three previous letters from the committee seeking documents and communications regarding the classified document matter.
In early November, personal attorneys for Mr. Biden discovered around 10 documents marked classified at an office used by him between 2017 and 2019. The papers originated from Mr. Biden's service as vice president and some were marked top secret.
Mr. Biden's attorneys informed White House counsel of the finding and notified the National Archives. The Archives' inspector general then informed the Department of Justice.
In December, more classified documents were found at Mr. Biden's Wilmington home.
The White House did not acknowledge that classified documents had been found at the office space until CBS News sought comment on the story in mid-January. Later that week, it acknowledged those found at the house.
Throughout, Mr. Biden has maintained that he had no knowledge of the classified material in his possession and has been cooperating with Justice Department officials since November.
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