Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Thursday that he is appointing Robert Hur, a former U.S. attorney from Maryland, as special prosecutor to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the discovery of classified documents found in two locations associated with President Biden.
“I strongly believe that the normal processes of this department can handle all investigations with integrity,” Garland said in a statement delivered from DOJ headquarters in Washington, D.C. “But under the regulations, the extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special counsel for this matter.”
Garland had initially assigned John R. Lausch Jr., a U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, to oversee the case. But he said Lausch informed him that he will be leaving the Justice Department early this year, prompting Garland to appoint Hur to lead the probe. Lausch also informed Garland that further investigation by a special counsel was warranted.
“I am confident that Mr. Hur will carry out his responsibility in an evenhanded and urgent manner and in accordance with the highest traditions of this department,” Garland added.
Earlier this week, the White House confirmed reports that a “small number” of classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president had been found in his former office at the Penn Biden Center, a Washington, D.C., think tank, on Nov. 2. According to the White House, Biden’s personal lawyers immediately notified the National Archives and Records Administration after they discovered the first batch of documents while packing up his former office in Washington.
On Wednesday, NBC News reported that additional Obama-era documents had been discovered at a separate location. The New York Times reported Thursday that the second batch of documents, also classified, had been found in a storage space in the garage of Biden’s home in Wilmington, Del.
It was not immediately clear when the second set of documents was located, but at Thursday’s press conference, Garland said Biden’s personal counsel had notified Lausch of the documents found in the garage in Wilmington on Dec. 20.
Garland also said Biden’s attorneys had called Lausch on Thursday morning to inform him that an additional document with classification markings had been found in Biden’s personal residence in Wilmington.
Neither the White House nor Biden’s attorneys have provided details on the exact number of documents, their classification level or what type of information they contained. At a press conference in Mexico City on Tuesday, Biden said he was “surprised to learn” about the classified documents found at his former office, and said, “I don’t know what’s in the documents.”
He was asked about the newly discovered documents by Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy on Thursday.
“Mr. President, classified material next to your Corvette. What were you thinking?” Doocy asked.
“I’m going to get a chance to speak on this, God willing, soon. By the way, my Corvette is in a locked garage, it’s not like they're sitting out on the street,” Biden replied. “People know I take classified documents and classified materials seriously.”
He added that he is "cooperating fully and completely" with the DOJ's investigation.
At a briefing Thursday afternoon, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre relayed a statement from Richard Sauber, Biden's White House counsel, saying, “We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced and the president and his lawyers acted promptly upon the discovery of this mistake.”
Jean-Pierre bristled at questions surrounding the White House's transparency with the public about the probe.
Many conservatives quickly drew comparisons between the documents discovered by Biden’s attorneys and the several boxes of classified materials that former President Donald Trump took with him after leaving the White House, which prompted a criminal inquiry and a raid by federal agents on his South Florida residence last summer.
According to the Justice Department, FBI agents were sent to search Mar-a-Lago only after attorneys for Trump repeatedly failed to return presidential records, including dozens of classified documents, that had been removed from the White House following the end of his term in January 2021 — allegedly failing to turn them over even after receiving a grand jury subpoena in May 2022. Attorneys for the government have said the documents recovered during the Mar-a-Lago raid were “likely concealed and removed” from a storage room as part of an effort to “obstruct the government’s investigation” into the potential mishandling of classified materials.
Trump responded to news of the special prosecutor’s appointment in the Biden case in a post on Truth Social, his social media platform.
“Merrick Garland has to immediately end [the] Special Counsel investigation into anything related to me because I did everything right, and appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Joe Biden who hates Biden as much as Jack Smith hates me,” the former president wrote.