Among the items found last fall in Joe Biden’s private office during his tenure as vice president were 10 classified documents, including US intelligence memos and briefing materials covering topics such as Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has received a preliminary report on the investigation into the documents, a law enforcement source said, and now faces a critical decision on how to proceed, including whether to open a full criminal case.
Chicago U.S. Attorney John Loesch Jr. briefed Garland several times. Additional briefings are not planned, but will be held if necessary, the source said.
According to a familiar source, the classified documents were from 2013 to 2016. They were found in three or four boxes and also contained classified documents under the Presidential Records Act.
The bulk of the items in the office contained personal documents from the Biden family, including funeral materials and letters of condolence for Beau Biden, a source told CNN. It is not known whether the boxes containing classified documents contained personal materials.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has directed the U.S. attorney in Chicago to investigate the matter for the Trump administration, CNN previously reported. Garland made the move after receiving a referral from the National Archives and Records Administration.
The documents were discovered on Nov. 2, six days before the midterm elections, but the issue only came to light in news reports on Monday.
A source told CNN that Biden’s personal attorney is closing the downtown office that Biden uses as part of his work with the University of Pennsylvania. The attorney saw a manila folder marked “personal” and opened the envelope to find classified documents inside. The lawyer sealed the envelope and called NARA, the source said.
After contacting NARA, Biden’s team cautiously turned over several boxes, even though many of the boxes contained personal material, the source said.
According to a law enforcement source, Lausch has completed the first part of his investigation and presented his initial findings to Garland.
That means Garland must now decide how to proceed. Garland was also personally involved in some of the key decisions related to the Trump dossier investigation and the decision to send the FBI to search for Mar-a-Lago.
In the Trump case, Garland tapped special counsel Jack Smith to handle both the criminal investigation into Trump’s activities after the 2020 election and the investigation into classified documents the former president took to his Florida resort. The Biden investigation is nowhere near this stage.
Garland chose to investigate Laushka Biden’s documents because she is one of two remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by Trump and was not appointed by Biden to avoid a conflict of interest, the people said.
In addition to Garland, Lausch held additional briefings with other Justice Department officials.
At this point, Lausch said, he doesn’t expect to “gather more facts.”
In an awkward moment on Monday, Garland sat with Biden at a diplomatic summit in Mexico while reporters asked questions about the investigation. Both ignored the questions.
Lausch was one of the rare Trump-era officials not asked to step down after Biden’s inauguration in 2021, and Illinois’ two Democratic senators supported his decision to keep him on in part because of his handling of the politically sensitive Michael investigation. Madigan, the former Democratic speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, has been indicted on corruption charges.
The turn of events involving the discovery of classified documents in Biden’s former office has put some politicians in a difficult position.
Trump responded with social media posts mocking Biden and publicly lambasted the FBI for raiding Biden’s offices and even the White House for mishandled documents.
Mainstream Democrats on Capitol Hill trust Biden’s handling of government materials, but classified records were found where they shouldn’t have been.
Newly empowered House Republicans have vowed to expand surveillance probes to include Biden’s records, and some are eyeing NARA as a target for additional scrutiny.
On Tuesday, the new GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee asked the Director of National Intelligence to conduct a damage assessment for classified records found in Biden’s personal office.
Ohio Rep. Mike Turner wrote, “Those entrusted with classified information have a duty and obligation to protect it.” “This issue requires a full and thorough review.”
CLARIFICATION: The story has been updated to clarify where the classified documents were found in Biden’s office.
This story has been updated with additional information.