Special counsel to look into Biden's handling of classified files

Washington, Jan 13 (IANS): US Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a former Justice Department official as special counsel to probe President Joe Biden's handling of two batches of classified documents which were found at an office he used after his term as Vice President and his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Robert Hur, who had served in the Department when Donald Trump was President, will lead the investigation, the BBC reported.

The first batch of files were found on November 2, 2022 at the Penn Biden Center, a think-tank near the White House which Biden had used as office space from mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 presidential campaign.

In a statement on Thursday, Garland said the second batch of files were located on December 20, 2022 at the President's private residence in Wilmington.

He added that on Thursday morning, Biden's lawyers called investigators to notify them of an additional document, also found at the President's private home.

After an initial probe by US Attorney John Lausch, Garland said his office decided that a special counsel was needed to investigate Biden's handling of the files due to the "extraordinary circumstances" of the matter.

"This appointment underscores for the public the department's commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions undisputedly guided only by the facts and the law," the BBC quoted the Attorney General as saying.

Meanwhile, Hur said he will investigate the issue "with fair, impartial and dispassionate judgement".

Responding to the development, White House lawyer Richard Sauber said Biden has cooperated fully with the Justice Department's review, and will continue to do so.

"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," he said.

The lawyer also said that an additional search in Biden's home garage uncovered "among personal and political papers a small number of additional Obama-Biden Administration records with classified markings".

Lawyers also searched Biden's home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, but found no additional files.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Biden reiterated again that his lawyers had notified officials of the discovery and that he takes the matter seriously.

He added that the additional documents found were locked in a garage next to his 1960s Chevrolet Corvette sports car, "not sitting out in the street".

The discovery of the documents have been called a political embarrassment for Biden, as it comes during an ongoing investigation into Trump's own alleged mishandling of classified files.

The US Presidential Records Act requires all presidential and vice-presidential documents to be turned over to the National Archives.



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