Special counsel named to probe classified records found at Biden’s private home and office

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Special counsel named to probe classified records found at Biden’s private home and office

PUBLISHED THU, JAN 12 20231:17 PM ESTUPDATED 6 MIN AGO

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Dan Mangan@_DANMANGAN

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KEY POINTS

  • Attorney General Merrick Garland said he appointed a special counsel to investigate the discovery of classified government records at the private home and office of President Joe Biden.
  • Garland tapped Robert Hur to serve as special counsel. Garland previously had assigned John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for Chicago, to handle the inquiry after the first batch of records were discovered in November.
  • “This is not a decision [Garland] made lightly,” a senior Department of Justice official told NBC News.

Attorney General Merrick Garland address Biden's classified document controversy

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Attorney General Merrick Garland address Biden’s classified document controversy

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed former federal prosecutor Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate the discovery of classified government records at the private home and office of President Joe Biden.

Garland’s announcement, which cited “extraordinary circumstances,” came hours after Biden and his lawyer said that a second batch of classified documents recently had been found in a garage in the president’s private home in Wilmington, Delaware.

A first batch of classified documents was found Nov. 2 by lawyers for the president in an office in a Washington think tank that Biden had used while a private citizen.

It is not known why lawyers for Biden apparently waited more than two months to search for government records in other locations associated with the president.

Hur is authorized “to investigate whether any person or entity violated the law in connection with this matter,” Garland said in a public statement he made on the appointment at the Department of Justice.

Hur served as the U.S. Attorney for Maryland from 2018 through 2021, after being nominated for that post by then-President Donald Trump.

Garland previously had assigned John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for Chicago, to handle the inquiry after the first batch of records was discovered.

The attorney general said that Lausch, who himself was appointed by Trump, last week recommended that he name a special counsel in the inquiry.

Hur, in a statement, said,  “I will conduct the assigned investigation with fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment.”

“I intend to follow the facts swiftly and thoroughly, without fear or favor, and will honor the trust placed in me to perform this service,” Hur said.

A senior Department of Justice official told NBC News that Garland’s appointment of Hur was “not a decision he made lightly.”

“The regulations could not be more clear that based on the facts that made the US attorney launch his initial investigation, an appointment of a special counsel is required,” the official said.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., earlier Thursday said he believed Congress has to investigate the situation involving the documents.

Biden’s lawyer, Richard Sauber, in a statement on Hur’s appointment said, “As the President said, he takes classified information and materials seriously, and as we have said, we have cooperated from the moment we informed the [National] Archives that a small number of documents were found, and we will continue to cooperate.”

“We have cooperated closely with the Justice Department throughout its review, and we will continue that cooperation with the Special Counsel,” Sauber said. “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.” 

Garland in November appointed another former federal prosecutor, Jack Smith, as special counsel to oversee two criminal investigations of Trump.

One of those probes is focused on whether Trump violated federal law requiring presidents to turn over government records to the National Archives and Records Administration when they leave office, and whether Trump obstructed justice when authorities sought to obtain such records he kept at his Florida residence.

FBI agents during an August raid on Trump’s home in his Mar-a-Lago club found thousands of government records, hundreds of which had classified markings on them.

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