President Biden and at least four of his top lawyers and advisers tried to keep their fellow Americans from learning of the mishandling of classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president, according to a bombshell report Friday.
The New York Times reported that initial discussions on the Nov. 2 discovery — six days before the midterm elections — of sensitive papers in Biden’s former office closet at the Penn Biden Center in Washington were limited to Biden himself, as well as Bob Bauer, the president’s top personal lawyer; Anita Dunn, Biden’s senior adviser and Bauer’s wife; Stuart Delery, the White House counsel; and Richard Sauber, the White House special counsel hired to oversee Biden’s response to House Republican investigations into a range of controversies.
According to the outlet, rather than coming clean at once — an idea the report says “does not seem to have been seriously considered” — the group opted to quietly notify the National Archives, responsible for keeping presidential and vice presidential records.
According to a timeline made public by Attorney General Merrick Garland last week in appointing a special prosecutor, the Archives alerted the Justice Department of the Penn Biden Center documents on Nov. 4, two days after they were recovered by Biden’s personal lawyers.
Five days later, the FBI began an “assessment” of whether the material was illegally mishandled. Only the next day, on Nov. 10, the Times reports, did the president’s legal team begin reaching out to their DOJ counterparts.
According to the outlet, the Biden coterie attempted to justify their actions by arguing that finding classified documents long after leaving office was not unusual and making the discovery public would only draw further unwanted attention and political scrutiny.
The scandal took another turn beginning Dec. 20 with the discovery of more classified documents in the garage of Biden’s home in Wilmington, Del.
It’s unclear why it took so long to search the president’s homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach after the documents were found at the Penn Biden Center. The Times report suggests the president’s inner circle did not feel a sense of urgency to carry out a search, both because of the presence of Secret Service agents at both homes and the erroneous belief there was likely nothing sensitive to be found.
Notably, the White House group that tried to cover up the scandal did not include press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, according to the Times. The Jan. 9 statement announcing the discovery of the Penn Biden Center documents came from Sauber and not from the White House press office.
Sauber’s statement was in response to a CBS News report on the Penn Biden Center document find. Even at that point, the Times report says, Dunn insisted on revealing as little as possible about what the White House knew.
As a result, the public did not learn about the documents that were found in Biden’s garage until Jan. 12, the same day Garland appointed former Maryland US Attorney Robert Hur as a special counsel to investigate the president and others in his orbit.
During Garland’s statement announcing Hur’s appointment, he revealed Bauer had called him only that morning to tell him that another document had been found in the Wilmington home. Two days later, the White House belatedly announced that still more sensitive documents had been found Jan. 12 at the same residence.
Despite the uproar and accusations that he has not been forthcoming about the papers, Biden has been by turns tight-lipped and defiant. On Thursday, while touring storm damage in California, he chastised a reporter for asking him about the scandal, then insisted: “I think you’re gonna find there’s nothing there.
“I have no regrets. I’m following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do,” the president added. “That’s exactly what we’re doing. There’s no there, there.”