The Department of Justice (DOJ) made another discovery of classified material at the Wilmington, Delaware home of President Joe Biden during a consensual search on Friday that lasted nearly 13 hours, according to a statement from his personal lawyer. This is the fourth time since November that classified records or material have been found at a private address of Biden’s. The DOJ searched the home and seized “six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding material,” according to Bob Bauer, the president’s lawyer. Some of the items date back to Biden’s tenure in the Senate, where he represented Delaware from 1973 to 2009, and some of the items were from his tenure as vice president in the Obama administration, from 2009 through 2017, Bauer said.
The discovery of the classified material was a surprise for the DOJ officials who were searching the home, as they did not have a search warrant for the search. In addition to the classified records, the DOJ also seized some notes that Biden wrote by hand as vice president, according to the lawyer and the White House. Neither Biden nor first lady Jill Biden was present during the search, according to Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president.
This is the fourth time that classified records or material has been found at a private address of Biden’s, the first time was on November 2 at a private office that he kept at a Washington, D.C., think tank after ending his tenure as vice president in the Obama administration in 2017. The White House only disclosed that discovery on January 9. On December 20, a small number of classified records were found in the garage of Biden’s Wilmington home. A single page of classified material was then found at the Wilmington residence on January 11. Then, the next day, five more pages of classified records were found in a room adjacent to Biden’s garage, when DOJ officials traveled there to take possession of the single page found the prior day.
The White House has said that when the president’s lawyers found the previous documents, they immediately notified the National Archives and Records Administration and the DOJ. Friday’s search was the first time revealed publicly that federal law enforcement authorities have conducted a search for government documents at Biden’s private addresses.
This is not the first time that a president has been investigated for retaining government records after leaving office. Former President Donald Trump is under criminal investigation by another special counsel for taking hundreds of classified records and other government documents from the White House when he left office. Trump is also being eyed for possible obstruction of justice by stonewalling efforts by government officials to recover those documents. The FBI in early August raided Trump’s home at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where they found thousands of pages of government records. The FBI had a search warrant in that case.
By law, presidents and vice presidents must return government documents to the National Archives when they leave office. Biden and the White House have been criticized for the two-month lag in disclosing the discovery of the first batch of classified documents at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington. That first discovery came six days before the midterm elections when the balance of political party control of both chambers of Congress was at stake. And critics have asked why searches of other private locations maintained by the president were not conducted until after the White House disclosed the first discovery.
Bauer, in his statement Saturday said that the president’s legal team offered to provide “prompt access” to Biden’s private residence “to allow DOJ to conduct a search of the entire premises for potential vice-presidential records and potential classified material.” He said that the offer was made “in the interest of moving the process forward as expeditiously as possible.”
It remains to be seen what the implications of this latest discovery of classified material will be for President Biden and his administration. It is important to note that the DOJ’s search was conducted consensually, and that the president’s legal team has cooperated with the investigation and offered access to his private residence. However, this discovery raises further questions about the handling of classified information during Biden’s tenure as vice president and senator, and it will likely be a topic of much discussion and investigation in the coming days and weeks.