By HOPE YEN and AAMER MADHANI
WASHINGTON (AP) — Newly empowered House Republicans on Sunday demanded the White House turn over all information related to its searches that have uncovered classified documents at President Joe Biden’s home and former office in the wake of more records found at his Delaware residence.
“We have a lot of questions,” said Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.
Comer, R-Ky., said he wants to see all documents and communications related to the searches by the Biden team, as well as visitor logs of the president’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, from Jan. 20, 2021, to present. He said the aim is to determine who might have had access to classified material and how the records got there.
The White House on Saturday said it had discovered five additional pages of classified documents at Biden’s home on Thursday, the same day a special counsel was appointed to review the matter.
In a letter Sunday to White House chief of staff Ron Klain, Comer criticized the searches by Biden representatives when the Justice Department was beginning to investigate and said Biden’s “mishandling of classified materials raises the issue of whether he has jeopardized our national security.” Comer demanded that the White House provide all relevant information including visitor logs by the end of the month.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Comer referred to Biden’s home as a “crime scene” though he acknowledged that it was not clear whether laws were broken.
“My concern is that the special counsel was called for, but yet hours after that we still had the president’s personal attorneys, who have no security clearance, still rummaging around the president’s residence, looking for things — I mean that would essentially be a crime scene, so to speak,” Comer said.
While the U.S. Secret Service provides security at the president’s private residence, it does not maintain visitor logs, agency spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Sunday.
“We don’t independently maintain our own visitor logs because it’s a private residence,” Guglielmi said. He added that the agency does screen visitors to the president’s properties but doesn’t maintain records of those checks.
The White House confirmed that Biden has not independently maintained records of who has visited his residence since he becoming president.
“Like every President in decades of modern history, his personal residence is personal,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said. “But upon taking office, President Biden restored the norm and tradition of keeping White House visitors logs, including publishing them regularly, after the previous administration ended them.”
Indeed, President Donald Trump’s administration announced early in his presidency that they wouldn’t release visitor logs out of “grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.” Democrat Barack Obama’s administration initially fought attempts by Congress and conservative and liberal groups to obtain visitor records. But after being sued, it voluntarily began disclosing the logs in December 2009, posting records every three to four months.
A federal appeals court ruled in 2013 that the logs can be withheld under presidential executive privilege. That unanimous ruling was written by Judge Merrick Garland, who is now serving as Biden’s attorney general.
Asked about Comer’s request for logs and communications regarding the search for documents, Sams responded: “I would simply refer you to what Congressman Comer himself told CNN this morning: ‘At the end of the day, my biggest concern isn’t the classified documents to be honest with you.’ That says it all.”
In that CNN interview, Comer had added that House Republicans did not trust the Justice Department to give the matter of Biden’s classified documents an appropriate level of scrutiny. The House Judiciary Committee on Friday requested that Garland turn over information related to the discovery of documents and Garland’s appointment of special counsel Richard Hur to oversee the investigation.
White House officials “can say they’re being transparent, but it’s anything but,” the committee chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
White House lawyer Richard Sauber said in a statement Saturday that a total of six pages of classified documents were found from Biden’s time serving as vice president in the Obama administration during a search of Biden’s private library. The White House had said previously that only a single page was found there.
The latest disclosure was in addition to the discovery of documents found in December in Biden’s garage and in November at his former offices at the Penn Biden Center in Washington.
Sauber said that Biden’s personal lawyers, who did not have security clearances, stopped their search after finding the first page on Wednesday evening. Sauber found the remaining material Thursday, as he was facilitating their retrieval by Justice Department. Sauber did not explain why the White House waited two days to provide an updated accounting. The White House is already facing scrutiny for waiting more than two months to acknowledge the discovery of the initial group of documents at the Biden office.
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, said the Justice Department rightfully appointed special counsels to “get to the bottom” of the Biden classified documents matter as well as in a separate investigation into the mishandling of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s private club and residence in Florida.
But Raskin also stressed key differences between the two cases, including that Biden’s team readily handed over documents to the National Archives compared with Trump’s repeated resistance to such requests.
“We should keep a sense of proportion and measure about what we’re talking about,” Raskin told CNN.
Asked Sunday if his oversight committee would investigate Trump’s handling of classified documents as well, Comer demurred.
“There have been so many investigations of President Trump, I don’t feel like we need to spend a whole lot of time investigating President Trump, because the Democrats have done that for the past six years,” he said.
Madhani reported from Wilmington, Delaware.