Joe Biden’s aides found the second stash of classified materials from his time as vice-president in the garage of his home in Wilmington, Delaware, the White House said on Thursday, after completing a new search for sensitive records that needed to be returned to the government.
The revelation came just two days after it emerged that a first batch of classified documents had been retrieved by the US president’s attorneys in early November from his private office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a Washington think-tank where he occasionally worked before his election to the White House.
Richard Sauber, Biden’s special counsel, said in a statement that after the discovery at the Penn Center, the president’s lawyers searched his homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, “where files from his vice-presidential office might have been shipped in the course of the 2017 transition”.
Sauber said the review was completed Wednesday on night and the lawyers “discovered among personal and political papers a small number of additional Obama-Biden Administration records with classified markings”.
He added that “all but one of these documents were found in storage space in the president’s Wilmington residence garage”, while “one document consisting of one page was discovered among stored materials in an adjacent room”. No documents were found in Rehoboth Beach, according to the White House.
When asked by a reporter on Thursday why he had classified documents next to his Corvette in his Wilmington garage, Biden said he would be speaking more about the discovery of the files “God willing, soon”, and quipped: “By the way, my Corvette’s in a locked garage . . . it’s not like they’re sitting out on the street.”
The president then added: “We’re going to see all of this unfold. I’m confident.”
On Tuesday Biden had said he was “surprised” by the existence of classified documents at his private office and did not know what they contained. He added that he believed his advisers had acted appropriately by “immediately” handing them over to the National Archives.
Sauber said the US justice department, which is reviewing Biden’s handling of classified information from his time as vice-president, was also notified of the second batch of documents. “The lawyers arranged for the Department of Justice to take possession of these documents. The White House will continue to co-operate with the review by the Department of Justice,” he added.
The discovery of a second set of documents, which was first reported by NBC on Wednesday, could make it more difficult for Biden to shake off the budding political furore. It has cast a shadow over an otherwise bright spell for his presidency, including a rebound in his approval ratings, ahead of a likely decision and announcement on a re-election bid in 2024.
Biden is now likely to face additional questions regarding his own treatment of classified documents, as well as why he failed to publicly disclose the discovery of the material for weeks. The first documents were retrieved just days before the November midterm elections.
The revelations will also make it more complicated for Biden and congressional Democrats to criticise former president Donald Trump for his mishandling of sensitive government records at his Mar-a-Lago estate in south Florida, even though Trump’s trove was far bigger than Biden’s and Trump resisted handing over the documents for months.
Republicans quickly criticised Biden for his approach to the classified documents and complained of double standards in the way he was being treated compared to Trump. Biden had criticised his rival last year for being “irresponsible” in his handling of the material at Mar-a-Lago.
Mike Pence, the former vice-president, said in a radio interview on Wednesday: “There’s an old saying in the Bible that what you sow, you reap. And I couldn’t help but think that headline yesterday was an example of the truth of that proverb.”
On Thursday Kevin McCarthy, the new Speaker of the House, called for lawmakers to investigate the matter, telling reporters on Capitol Hill: “I think Congress has to investigate this.”
“Now we are finding in two different locations, classified information is out there in the open . . . and we are finding out now . . . that this was discovered before the election,” McCarthy said. “Another faux pas by the Biden administration of treating law differently based upon your political beliefs. Treats President Trump one way but treats President Biden a whole different way.”
Merrick Garland, the US attorney-general, has tapped Jack Smith as a special counsel to investigate Trump over his handling of classified documents and asked John Lausch, a US attorney in Illinois, to review the discovery of the material found at Biden’s office.
Garland was facing more pressure to name a special counsel to examine Biden’s conduct in light of the new revelations. He was expected to make a statement on Thursday afternoon.