WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden said he was surprised that classified documents were discovered in an office he used before he was elected.
He said he does not know what’s in the documents, but believes they were handled properly by his lawyers.
“We’re cooperating fully,” he said on Tuesday at a news conference in Mexico City with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“People know I take classified documents, classified information seriously,” he said. “I was briefed about this discovery, and surprised to learn that there are any government records that were taken there to that office.”
Congressional Republicans have promised an investigation of the episode at the Biden Penn Center for Democracy & Global Engagement in Washington.
The president’s lawyers say a small number of classified documents were discovered on Nov 2 in a locked cupboard.
The records were reported to the National Archives the same day, which took possession of them the next morning, according to the White House.
“They did what they should have done: They immediately called the archives – immediately call the archives, turned them over to the archives,” Mr Biden said on Tuesday.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked the Trump-appointed US attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John Lausch, to review the incident. Mr Biden said he hopes the review “will be finished soon”.
Mr Biden has previously criticised former president Donald Trump as “totally irresponsible” after the FBI searched Mar–a-Lago, his Palm Beach, Florida, estate, last August and seized about 20 boxes of government documents.
They included 11 sets of classified materials, according to an unsealed affidavit.
Mr Trump had kept them for more than a year after departing the White House, and did not return them immediately or willingly despite numerous requests by the National Archives.
When he finally handed over 15 boxes of records in January 2022, the Archives discovered more than 100 were marked as classified. It later referred the matter to the Justice Department.
Investigators tried to get Mr Trump to return any remaining classified records through a grand jury subpoena and a visit to Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
On that visit, Mr Trump’s advisers returned a few dozen additional classified records, and attested that no other classified material remained in the residence.
Suspecting possible obstruction of justice, the FBI sought and obtained court approval in August to search his home, where agents found more than 13,000 additional records, about 100 of them highly classified. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS