STORY: U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he was “surprised” to learn around a dozen classified government records were found at a private office he used to work in.
Speaking at a press briefing in Mexico, he defended how his lawyers – who found the files while clearing out the space – handled their discovery.
“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. But I don't know what's in the documents, my lawyers have not suggested I ask what documents they were.”
Biden faces criticism from Republicans, as his administration probes former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents found at his Florida Mar-a-Lago residence.
The Democrat president says he would cooperate with a review into his own case.
“I've turned over the boxes, they've turned over the boxes to the Archives and we're cooperating fully with the review which I hope will be finished soon, and will be more detailed at that time.”
Chicago U.S. Attorney John Lausch, a Trump appointee, was tasked to review the material found at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, an office which Biden used from mid-2017 until the start of his 2020 presidential campaign.
Trump and his supporters were trying to draw comparisons on Tuesday between the two cases, but Gregg Sofer, a partner with Husch Blackwell, says there are notable differences.
"Generally speaking, for me and my practice and the clients that I represent, it often makes a big difference when something's voluntarily disclosed to the government versus the government having to go out there and dig it up themselves."
An important distinction, says Paul Charlton, a former U.S. Attorney in Arizona:
“The allegations as it relates to President Trump are much different. When the National Archives asked for President Trump and his team to return those documents, they returned some documents, but not all documents. A grand jury subpoena was issued. Some, but not all documents were returned. Search warrant was issued. And sure enough, a number of other remaining top secret documents were still in former President Trump's possession.”
The special counsel to the president said on Monday the classified material was identified by personal attorneys for Biden on Nov. 2, days before the midterm elections.
The Justice Department, the National Archives and the think tank did not respond to a request for comment.