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House Oversight Committee chairman says subpoenas are on the table for White House, National Archives in Biden documents case

Rep. Comer on Biden documents probe
House Oversight Committee chairman says subpoenas possible in Biden documents case 06:12

Subpoenas will be on the table for the White House and National Archives if they don't comply with the House Oversight Committee's requests related to classified documents found at President Biden's home and former private office, Chairman James Comer told CBS News Friday. 

Asked by CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge if the committee would issue subpoenas if the White House didn't fully comply with the committee's requests for records and communications by its Jan. 24 deadline, Comer replied "yes."

On timing, Kentucky's Comer said "hopefully" the panel wouldn't have to take that step but did not rule out subpoenas at the end of January or early February.  

On Tuesday, Comer asked the White House to turn over documents and communications related to the material marked classified, including the documents themselves, by Jan. 24. He has also asked the National Archives to provide all documents and communications between the Archives, the White House, the Justice Department and the president's attorneys related to the classified documents discovered at the Penn Biden Center, a Washington think tank established after Mr. Biden's tenure as vice president.

Comer's request was made before the White House on Wednesday confirmed news reports that additional documents marked classified had been discovered at Mr. Biden's home in Wilmington, Del. Comer, who is probing Hunter Biden's business dealings, contacted the White House Counsel's Office and expressed concern that the president had "stored classified documents at the same location his son resided while engaging in international business dealings with adversaries of the United States." Comer requested additional records by Jan. 27. 

Comer said he considers both locations where documents were discovered to be a "national security risk." The Kentucky Republican said he's "not a big fan of special counsels," but said Attorney General Merrick Garland had "no other choice" but to appoint a special counsel, since he appointed a special counsel to probe the documents stored at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, among other things. That investigation is ongoing. 

"He called for one with Donald Trump and he had no other choice but to call for one with Joe Biden," Comer said. 

Garland announced Thursday that former Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert Hur will serve as special counsel overseeing the Biden documents inquiry. Hur is the second special counsel appointed to oversee an investigation into sensitive documents, joining Jack Smith, who was tapped in November to take over the probe into Trump's handling of sensitive government documents.

Comer insisted Republicans' probe into the Biden documents is "not political."

"We don't know what Joe Biden had," Comer said. "Either way, you have to treat Joe Biden the same way that Trump was treated."

The White House and the president's counsel insist they turned records over to the proper authorities immediately after discovering them. Trump resisted turning over documents. 

Federal investigators recovered more than 300 documents marked classified in all from Mar-a-Lago, and Justice Department lawyers revealed in court filings in August that Trump is under investigation for potential violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and unlawful concealment or removal of government records. 

Mr. Biden's personal lawyers found roughly 10 documents marked classified in his vice-presidential office at the Penn Biden Center and a "small" number of documents at his home in Wlimington. 

Asked if he's concerned the appointment of a special counsel could limit the committee's investigation, Comer said he's "sure" that will be used as a reason not to comply with the committee's request. But he hopes the special counsel focuses solely on investigating any mishandling of classified records. 

Comer said the federal government needs to reform the system governing how documents are handled, stored and transferred, and that's something his committee will consider in the future. 

"I don't think we would know about these documents had it not been for investigative reporting, so we want to know why the administration wasn't transparent sooner," Comer said. 

Grace Kazarian contributed to this report.

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