Biden 'Surprised to Learn' About Classified Documents in His Former Private Office

Biden 'Surprised to Learn' About Classified Documents in His Former Private Office
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to the media as part of the 2023 North American Leaders' Summit at Palacio Nacional on Jan. 10, 2023, in Mexico City, Mexico. (Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Jeff Louderback

President Joe Biden on Jan. 10 said he was “surprised to learn” documents with classified markings were discovered inside an office where he once worked and that he doesn't know what the documents contain.

It was the first time he addressed the finding that was revealed by his attorney on Jan. 9.

Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, said in a statement that the documents were located in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center and found on Nov. 2, 2022.

White House lawyers notified the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on that day, and the agency took possession of the materials the following morning, according to Sauber.

 US President Joe Biden disembarks upon landing at Felipe Angeles International Airport in Zumpango de Ocampo, north of Mexico City on Jan. 8, 2023. (Claudio Cruz/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden disembarks upon landing at Felipe Angeles International Airport in Zumpango de Ocampo, north of Mexico City on Jan. 8, 2023. (Claudio Cruz/AFP via Getty Images)

Delivering public statements after the North American Leaders’ Summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico City, Biden said, “People know I take classified documents classified information seriously.”

"When my lawyers were clearing out my office at the University of Pennsylvania, they set up an office for me, a secure office, in the Capitol, the four years after being vice president, I was a professor at Penn,” Biden explained.

“They found some documents in a box, you know, in a locked cabinet, or at least a closet. And as soon as they did, they realized there were several classified documents in that box and they did what they should have done.

“They immediately called the Archives ... turned them over to the Archives and I was briefed about this discovery and surprised to learn that there were any government records that were taken there to that office,” Biden added.

"But I don't know what's in the documents ... my lawyers have not suggested I ask what documents they were,” he continued. “I’ve turned over the boxes, they've turned over the boxes to the Archives.

"And we're cooperating fully, cooperating fully with the review."

Summit in Mexico

A reporter asked Biden if the public should have been alerted sooner. The president did not answer.

Biden was in Mexico City for the 10th North American Leaders Summit, a two-day event that included one-on-one meetings with Trudeau and Lopez Obrador, and then a gathering with all three leaders on Jan. 10.

After meeting with Trudeau on Jan. 10, Biden ignored reporters’ questions asking about the documents that were found and instead addressed his goals for the summit.

The Penn Biden Center, NARA, the FBI, and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Epoch Times.

Since the classified documents were found by attorneys for Biden, they were not subject to a NARA request or inquiry, Sauber said.

“Since that discovery, the president’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives,” Sauber said.

Located in Washington, the Penn Biden Center features a set of offices that are part of the University of Pennsylvania.

A University of Pennsylvania webpage indicated that Biden joined the school as a professor in 2017.

Justice Department Review

Financial disclosures released by Biden show he received more than $900,000 from the university between 2017 and 2019.

When Biden announced he was running for president in April 2019, he was placed on unpaid leave.

On Jan. 9, the White House confirmed that the Justice Department is reviewing the classified documents.

Attorney General Merrick Garland tasked U.S. Attorney John Lausch, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, to lead a review into the issue.

Last August, materials with classified markings were located at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. FBI agents followed by executing a search warrant for additional documents.

Trump said he declassified the documents before leaving office.

U.S. attorneys have claimed that Trump violated multiple laws, including the handling of defense materials.

Garland, a Biden appointee, appointed special counsel Jack Smith to oversee the investigation. Smith is also leading the probe into alleged unlawful interference with the transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election.

In a “60 Minutes” interview following the FBI raid, Biden criticized Trump for having classified documents.

“How could that possibly happen? How anyone could be that irresponsible … totally irresponsible,” Biden said in the interview.

Trump Reaction

Biden was asked last August if he thought it is ever appropriate to take home classified materials away from the White House.

“It depends,” he said. "Depending on the circumstance.

“For example, I have in my home ... a cabined-off space that is completely secure. I'm taking home with me today, today's PDB [President's Daily Brief],” Biden continued. “It's locked, I have a person with me, military ... I read it, I lock it back up, and give it to the military.”

On Jan. 9, on Truth Social, Trump reacted to the materials found in Biden’s office.

“When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House? These documents were definitely not declassified,” Trump said.

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) is a top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. On Jan. 10, he asked Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to complete “an immediate review and damage assessment" regarding the storage of the documents.

Same Treatment 'Expected'

Rep. James Comer, who is the GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement, “Under the Biden administration, the Department of Justice and National Archives have made compliance with the Presidential Records Act a top priority. We expect the same treatment for President Biden.”

Even Democrats are expressing concern about the documents.

“Obviously, if there are classified documents anywhere they shouldn't be, that's a problem and a deep concern,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said.

According to a statement from Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the House Oversight Committee’s top-ranking Democrat, lawyers for Biden “appear to have taken immediate and proper action to notify the National Archives about their discovery of a small handful of classified documents so they could be returned to federal government custody.”

“I have confidence that the attorney general took the appropriate steps to ensure the careful review of the circumstances surrounding the possession and discovery of these documents and make an impartial decision about any further action that may be needed,” Raskin added.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this story.
Jeff Louderback covers news and features on the White House and executive agencies for The Epoch Times. He also reports on Senate and House elections. A professional journalist since 1990, Jeff has a versatile background that includes covering news and politics, business, professional and college sports, and lifestyle topics for regional and national media outlets.