WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday that he has appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation into the classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s office and Delaware home.
Garland has named Robert Hur, a former U.S. attorney during the Trump administration, as special counsel.
Hur vowed to conduct the investigation with “fair, impartial and dispassionate judgment,” in a statement released shortly after the announcement.
At a press conferece Thursday, the attorney general provided a detailed timeline explaining how the latest document probe began.
On Nov. 4, the National Archives contacted a prosecutor at the Department of Justice and told them that the White House had notified the National Archives of classified documents that were discovered at the office of the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., according to Garland.
“That office was not authorized for storage of classified documents,” said Garland.
On Nov. 9, Garland said the FBI conducted an assessment to determine whether classified information had been mishandled in violation of the law.
Five days later, Garland appointed U.S. Attorney John Lausch to conduct an investigation into the Biden documents to help the AG determine whether to appoint a special counsel.
More than a month later, on Dec. 20, Biden’s personal counsel informed Lausch that additional classified documents had been found in the garage of Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home. The FBI went to the residence and secured the documents, according to Garland.
On Jan. 5, Lausch advised Garland that further investigation by a special counsel was warranted.
The White House maintains that Biden was unaware of the classified documents in the two locations and has no idea what information they contain. The president’s lawyers said they immediately turned over the records, which are said to be from the Obama-Biden administration, upon discovering them.
“We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake,” said Richard Sauber, an attorney for the president.
At a separate press conference Thursday, Biden said he’s fully cooperating with the Justice Department’s review.
When asked why some of the classified documents were found in his garage, Biden appeared to push back against the notion that the documents were stored recklessly.
“My Corvette’s in a locked garage, so it’s not like they’re (classified documents) sitting out on the street,” Biden said.
The first documents with classified markings were found at Biden’s former office space in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 2, shortly before the 2022 midterm election. Despite finding the initial set of documents more than two months ago, news of the discovery did not come out until this week.
Sauber said Thursday that the president’s lawyers found an additional set of a small number of documents in the garage of Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home. A single document was also found in a room adjacent to the garage.
No documents were found in the Bidens’ Rehoboth Beach home.
“During the review, the lawyers discovered among personal and political papers a small number of additional Obama-Biden Administration records with classified markings. All but one of these documents were found in storage space in the President’s Wilmington residence garage. One document consisting of one page was discovered among stored materials in an adjacent room,” Sauber said in a statement.
The administration is “fully cooperating” to ensure that the records are handled properly, he said.
NewsNation reached out to the offices of all living former presidents, asking whether they were aware of any lingering documents, but only one responded.
“That intensively thorough process was conducted before he left the White House, when all of his presidential records — classified and unclassified — were turned over to the National Archives,” said Freddy Ford, chief of staff of the office of George W. Bush.
Biden has said he was “surprised to learn” that documents were found, but his lawyers “did what they should have done” when they immediately called the National Archives.
The new discovery has prompted a new round of calls for investigation and inquiries.
House Oversight Chairman Jim Comer, R-Ky., sent two letters to the White House, following both incidents, asking for all of the documents Biden aides handed over to the National Archives.
“Failing to disclose violations by President Biden to committee Republicans and the American public raises concerns about inconsistent policy and procedures at the agency that creates the appearance of political bias,” Comer wrote in his second letter.
When asked if former President Donald Trump and Biden’s classified documents will be investigated the same way, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana said: “I think the American people see that double standard, and that raises a lot more questions. You’ve seen a very one-sided set of investigations; it’s time we start looking at things that have been ignored for too long.”
The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee has requested that the U.S. intelligence community conduct a “damage assessment” of potentially classified documents.
The revelation also may complicate the Justice Department’s consideration of whether to bring charges against Trump, a Republican who is trying to win back the White House in 2024 and has repeatedly claimed the department’s inquiry into his own conduct amounted to “corruption.”
There are significant differences between the Trump and Biden situations. The Biden administration maintains that it was proactive and transparent in a way that Trump was not.