Timeline of Biden’s Classified Document Drama

Timeline of Biden’s Classified Document Drama
President Joe Biden speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Jan. 11, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek

President Joe Biden said he was “surprised” when classified documents were found in his former office at a Washington think tank and portrayed it as an honest mistake. However, since other batches have been found at his Delaware residence, pressure has been mounting for an explanation of what’s fast becoming a crisis of credibility for the White House.

From a closet at the Penn Biden Center to a garage where the president keeps his classic Corvette, the discovery of sensitive materials has sparked public interest and drawn legal scrutiny.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to investigate the case, while Republicans have alleged a two-tier justice system in which former President Donald Trump—who faces his own classified document probe—is seen as being treated more harshly, while Biden is supposedly being treated with kid gloves.

The White House is facing growing criticism for not disclosing the initial find of the Biden-linked documents until two months after their discovery on Nov. 2—a week before the midterm elections—and even then, the Biden administration only publicly acknowledged the existence of the materials after media outlets broke the story.

House Republicans are demanding answers, opening an investigation, and pointing to a link between the address where the second batch of classified documents was found and the president’s son, Hunter Biden, who’s under federal investigation for various financial and business dealings.
Below is a timeline of the disclosures and discoveries regarding Biden’s classified documents and where things could go from here.


Biden started working at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania in February 2017, after leaving office as vice president under the Obama administration.

He served as a professor at the think tank, which has a stated goal of fostering a deeper understanding of U.S. foreign policy and developing new ideas for advancing U.S. diplomatic and global leadership.

There have been concerns about possible links between the center and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The University of Pennsylvania, which houses the Biden Penn Center, received more than $54 million between 2014 and 2019 in anonymous donations from China, according to the New York Post, citing public records.

A university spokesperson denied that any money from China was funneled to the center.

“The Penn Biden Center has never solicited or received any gifts from any Chinese or other foreign entity. In fact, the University has never solicited any gifts for the Center,” spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy told the NY Post.

Biden stopped working at the center at about the time he became president.


Nov. 2

According to Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, attorneys representing Biden found a “small number” of records with classified markings inside a locked closet at the think tank office—roughly 10 documents—and notified the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of the discovery in short order.

Nov. 3

Biden’s lawyers transferred the documents to NARA for secure storage one day after their discovery, Sauber said in a Jan. 9 statement, noting that the president’s attorneys were cooperating with NARA and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Nov. 4

The Office of the Inspector General at the National Archives reached out to a prosecutor at the Department of Justice on Nov. 4 to notify them of the discovered documents, according to a Jan. 12 statement by Garland.
“That office was not authorized for storage of classified documents,” Garland said, noting that the prosecutor was informed that day that the materials had been secured at a National Archives facility.

Nov. 9

In line with standard procedures, the FBI began an assessment to determine whether any mishandling of classified information occurred in violation of federal laws, according to Garland’s Jan. 12 statement.

Nov. 14

Garland assigned John Lausch, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, to conduct an investigation and decide if it was necessary to appoint a special counsel to probe the circumstances around the handling of the sensitive materials.
“I selected him to conduct the initial investigation because I was confident his experience would ensure that it would be done professionally and expeditiously,” Garland said on Jan. 12.

Dec. 20

Biden’s personal attorneys notified Lausch that more documents with classified markings were discovered in the garage at the president’s Wilmington home. They were among other records from Biden’s time as vice president.

The FBI then went to Biden’s home to secure the documents, according to Garland’s Jan. 12 announcement.

Republicans said in a letter to White House counsel Stuart Delery on Jan. 13 that they had obtained documents showing that Biden’s Wilmington home address was listed on his son Hunter’s driver’s license as recently as 2018, suggesting that he could have had access to the documents.

Links between the tranche of documents and Hunter Biden are notable, as Republicans have long sought to investigate connections between the president and his son’s controversial business ventures in China and Ukraine. Before Republicans took control of the House, they announced that they wanted to make investigating the Bidens’ business dealings a priority.

Biden, in a Jan. 12 exchange with Fox News reporter Peter Doocy, confirmed that the documents were stored “in a locked garage” next to his classic Corvette.
“But as I said earlier this week, people know I take classified documents and classified material seriously,” Biden said, noting that his team is cooperating “fully and completely” with the DOJ probe.


Jan. 5

Lausch updated Garland with the findings of his preliminary inquiry and suggested the need for a special counsel to continue the investigation.
Garland decided, following Lausch’s report, that appointing a special counsel was necessary for the public interest, as per the regulations for a special counsel.

Jan. 9

For the first time since the discovery of the documents, the White House disclosed publicly that sensitive materials had been found at Biden’s temporary office at Penn Biden Center and stated that it’s cooperating with investigators.

“The documents were not the subject of any previous request or inquiry by the Archives,” Sauber said in a statement. “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.”

Republicans reacted by saying they expected that Biden will face the same kind of treatment for storing classified materials in an unsecure location as Trump, whose Florida home was raided by the FBI in August 2022.

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

Lawyers for the DOJ have alleged that Trump could have violated several laws by keeping the documents, including the Espionage Act.

Trump has insisted that he declassified the documents in line with presidential powers.

No charges have been brought against Trump over the materials.

Jan. 10

Biden said during a visit to Mexico that he was “surprised” to learn that classified documents had been found at the Penn Biden Center. The president said he wasn’t aware of what the materials contained and that his lawyers have suggested he not ask what was in the documents.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the new chair of the House Oversight Committee, said the panel has already opened a probe into Biden’s handling of sensitive materials.

“The Committee is concerned that President Biden has compromised sources and methods with his own mishandling of classified documents,” Comer wrote in a letter to Delery (pdf), while pointing out that Biden has previously called the mishandling of presidential records “totally irresponsible.”
On the same day, Comer also wrote a letter to NARA Acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall (pdf) to raise the question of “political bias” at the agency over what he described as “inconsistent treatment of recovering classified records” held by Biden and Trump.
The National Archives confirmed receipt of the letter in a statement to The Epoch Times but provided no further comment.

Jan. 11

Lawyers working for Biden finished searching his homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach for additional official documents that may have been taken there during the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations in 2017, according to a Jan. 12 statement by Sauber.
The president’s personal attorneys found a one-page document with classified markings stored in a room adjacent to the garage at Biden’s Wilmington home, and since they lacked security clearances, they halted the search, Sauber would reveal on Jan. 14.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre delivered the first press briefing since news of the documents became public on Jan. 9. She defended the administration’s actions while declining to answer how the documents came to be at the office.
Republicans demanded that the DOJ take a tougher line on Biden, alleging bias against the GOP at the nation’s investigative agencies and judicial system.

Jan. 12

Biden’s personal attorneys notify Lausch that an additional classified document was found at the president’s Wilmington home, according to Garland’s announcement.

Sauber, who has security clearances, and several DOJ officials went to Biden’s Wilmington home to pick up the search where the president’s personal attorneys left off the prior day, and they found an additional five pages of classified documents, he said on Jan. 14.

No additional documents were found at Biden’s residence in Rehoboth Beach, he said.

Garland announced the appointment of Robert Hur, the former Trump-era U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, as special counsel to investigate the handling of the Biden-linked documents.

“This appointment underscores for the public the Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law,” Garland said.

Sauber said the White House would cooperate with Hur’s probe.

House Republicans reacted to the appointment of the special counsel by saying that they would press ahead with their own investigation.

“With or without a special counsel, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee will investigate President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents and the Swamp’s efforts to hide this information from the American people,” Comer said in a statement.

Comer said the National Archives, the DOJ, and the White House were all aware of the Penn Biden Center document stash before the midterm elections but chose not to disclose that publicly.

“There are many questions about why the Biden Administration kept this matter a secret from the public, who had access to the office and the residence, and what information is contained in these classified documents,” Comer said.

“Republicans will push for transparency, accountability, and answers for the American people.”

Jan. 14

The public learned of the discovery of the additional batch of classified documents found at Biden’s Wilmington home as Sauber issued a statement detailing the find from days earlier.

“Five additional pages with classification markings were discovered among the material with it, for a total of six pages. The DOJ officials with me immediately took possession of them,” Sauber said, noting that the White House would cooperate with the special counsel probe.

Bob Bauer, the president’s personal attorney, issued a statement saying that Biden has directed his personal attorneys to be “forthcoming and fully cooperative” with the investigation.

Jan. 15

In response to the latest document find, Republicans requested visitor logs for Biden’s Wilmington residence dating from the president’s inauguration to the present.
“President Biden’s mishandling of classified materials raises the issue of whether he has jeopardized our national security,” Comer stated in a letter to White House chief of staff Ron Klain. “Without a list of individuals who have visited his residence, the American people will never know who had access to these highly sensitive documents.”
Comer also demanded that the White House provide documents and communications about all locations searched, as well as the identities of the Biden aides involved in the searches.

Jan. 16

The White House announced that there are no logs of who has visited Biden’s Wilmington home. The U.S. Secret Service, which provides security for the president, told The Epoch Times that it screens visitors to Biden’s residence but doesn’t keep records of who’s vetted.

Republicans criticized the lack of documentation and accused the White House of obfuscation.

Comer told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that Biden “promised to have the most transparent administration in history, but he refuses to be transparent when it matters most.”

He said Republicans will continue to press the Biden administration for answers.

The White House, in turn, criticized Republican investigations into Biden’s handling of classified documents.
White House spokesman Ian Sams told media outlets in a statement that Biden is “doing the right thing and is cooperating fully with a thorough review” while accusing Republicans of “playing politics in a shamelessly hypocritical attempt to attack” their political opponent.

The total number of Biden-linked classified documents that have been found remains unclear.

Both the special counsel’s investigation and the Republican probes into the matter continue.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.