Materials found in a private office last fall during Joe Biden’s tenure as vice president include U.S. intelligence memos and 10 classified documents covering topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom, a source familiar with the matter said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has received a preliminary report on the documents, a law enforcement source said, and now faces a critical decision about how to proceed, including whether to launch a full-scale criminal investigation.
John Lash Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago, has repeatedly briefed Garland. No further briefings are planned but will be held if necessary, a source said.
According to well-informed sources, the classified documents are dated between 2013 and 2016. They contained three or four boxes of unclassified documents covered by the Presidential Records Act.
Most of the items in the office include personal Biden family documents Beau Biden‘s funeral and obituaries, the source told CNN. It is unclear whether the boxes containing the classified documents contained personal items.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed the U.S. attorney in Chicago, which is controlled by the Trump administration, to investigate the matter, CNN previously reported. Garland made the move after receiving a recommendation from the National Archives and Records Administration.
The documents were discovered on November 2, six days before the midterm elections, but the matter only became public on Monday due to news reports.
Biden’s personal attorney is closing the downtown DC office Biden used as part of his work at the University of Pennsylvania, a source told CNN. The lawyer saw a manila folder labeled “Private,” opened the envelope, and noticed confidential documents inside. The lawyer closed the envelope and called Nara, the source said.
After communicating with NARA, Biden’s team moved several boxes out of an abundance of caution, even though many of the boxes contained personal items, the source said.
Lash has already completed the initial part of his investigation and presented his initial findings to Garland, a law enforcement source said.
That means Garland must now decide how to proceed. Garland was personally involved in making some key decisions related to the Trump documents investigation and the decision to send the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago.
In the Trump case, special counsel Jack Smith took over both the criminal investigation into Trump’s post-2020 campaign activities and the investigation into classified documents the former president took to his Florida resort. The Biden study is nowhere near that level.
Garland was one of two remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by Trump to lead the Lash Biden documents investigation, and to avoid a conflict of interest because he was not appointed by Biden, people explained.
In addition to Garland, Lash has held additional briefings with other Justice Department officials.
At this point, Lash is not expected to do any additional “fact-gathering,” the source said.
In an awkward moment on Monday, Garland sat with Biden at a diplomatic summit in Mexico while reporters raised questions about the investigation. Both ignored the questions.
Lash was one of the Trump-era incumbents not asked to resign after Biden takes office in 2021, and Illinois’ two Democratic senators supported Michael’s decision to keep him in his post in part because of his handling of the politically sensitive investigation. Madigan, the Democratic former Illinois House Speaker, was indicted on corruption charges.
The turn of events, along with classified documents found in Biden’s former office, has put some politicians in a tough spot.
Trump has responded to social media posts criticizing Biden and publicly slamming the FBI for searching Biden’s offices and even the White House for mishandled documents.
Key Democrats on Capitol Hill have expressed confidence in Biden’s handling of government supplies.
Newly empowered House Republicans have already pledged to expand their oversight probes to include the subject of the Biden documents, and some see NARA as a target for additional scrutiny.
On Tuesday, the new GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee asked the Director of National Intelligence to conduct a damage assessment of classified records found in Biden’s personal office.
“Those entrusted with access to classified information have a duty and obligation to protect it,” wrote Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio. “This issue requires a thorough and thorough review.”
Clarification: The story has been updated to specify where the classified documents were found in Biden’s office.
This story has been updated with additional details.