FBI searches Biden’s vacation home; no classified documents
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI on Wednesday searched President Joe Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware without uncovering any classified documents, the latest round in an extraordinary series of searches of the property of him and his predecessor
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI on Wednesday searched President Joe Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware without uncovering any classified documents, the latest round in an extraordinary series of searches by his and his predecessor.
Agents took some handwritten notes and other materials related to Biden’s time as vice president for review, just as they did last month when they searched his home in Wilmington, where they also found classified items. Investigators searched his former office at a Washington think tank that bears his name in November, but it’s not clear if they took anything.
The searches of Biden, conducted with his blessing, have come as investigators work to determine how classified information from his days as a senator and vice president ended up in his home and former office — and whether an abuse had criminal intent or was just a mistake in a city where the unauthorized handling of secret documents is not uncommon.
Searches of property by law enforcement agencies are a routine part of criminal investigations, but it’s not uncommon for the FBI to search the home of a sitting president, even as Biden and his associates have attempted to compare his actions to those of his predecessor.
Former President Donald Trump is facing a criminal investigation by the Special Counsel over his keeping of several hundred classified documents and other government records at his Mar-a-Lago, Florida estate — and his resisting their release, which resulted in an FBI warrant and search led to seize them last August.
On Wednesday, Biden’s personal attorney Bob Bauer said that Justice Department-authorized FBI agents spent three and a half hours searching the president’s beach house and that “no documents with classified markings were found.”
In a statement disclosing the search, Bauer attempted to portray Biden and his team as fully transparent and cooperative. He described the search as “planned” and “another step in a thorough and timely DOJ process that we continue to fully support and facilitate.”
He didn’t mention Trump by name, but the statement appeared aimed at contrasting the Biden investigation with the Trump case, which saw months of unsuccessful efforts by the Justice Department to recover all classified records taken to the former president’s Florida estate in the August culminated in the search warrant and removal of nearly three dozen boxes of documents and other items.
Searches at Biden’s former office and Delaware homes, on the other hand, were all voluntary and carried out without warrants. But the fact that the FBI conducted its own search reflected the Justice Department’s determination to find all sorts of classified items, rather than relying on assurances that such documents had been found.
Biden said he was surprised by the first find his attorneys uncovered in November when they were vacating an office at the Penn Biden Center.
The latest search follows the FBI’s 13-hour top-to-bottom inspection of his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where agents found documents with secret markings from his tenure as vice president and senator, and also took possession of some of his handwritten notes.
A week earlier, Biden’s personal attorneys announced they had found a document with secret markings when they searched the Wilmington property, but said they found no others during a separate inspection of the Rehoboth Beach home.
The White House announced the Justice Department’s investigation just last month when it confirmed the discovery of a “small number” of classified documents by Biden attorneys on Nov. 2 as they shut down an office at the Penn Biden Center, a think tank affiliated with him the Ivy League school.
Although officials have not disclosed it, The Associated Press and other news organizations reported Tuesday that the FBI conducted a voluntary search of that office later in November.
The administration’s public response was delayed and incomplete. There are many unanswered questions — what information the documents contained, exactly how many were discovered, and why he had them in his possession, although Biden’s attorneys and the White House counsel insist they are as transparent with the public as possible.
“I think we’ve been pretty transparent from the start,” White House Office spokesman Ian Sams said on Wednesday. “We want to be careful to respect the integrity of this ongoing investigation very much.”
Sams reiterated that Biden was working with judicial investigators.
“The President has been fully cooperative in granting unprecedented access to his home … every single room of his home in Rehoboth as well as that in Wilmington,” he said.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday’s search.
Biden’s attorneys have called keeping the records a “mistake.” The Department of Justice has historically filed criminal charges related to misuse of classified records only if it can show, among other things, that an individual acted knowingly by improperly removing or maintaining confidential records.
The investigation into the Biden documents is being handled by a special counsel, Robert Hur, a former senior Justice Department official during the Trump administration who served as the chief federal attorney in Baltimore. He begins work this week, taking over a months-long investigation already being conducted by FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors.
Attorney General Merrick Garland had hired US Attorney John Lausch to conduct an initial review before announcing Hur’s appointment last month.
In a separate investigation that preceded the Biden probe, Special Counsel Jack Smith is investigating Trump’s safekeeping of about 300 documents with secret markings that were brought to Mar-a-Lago from the White House. Agents were granted a search warrant to obtain classified documents last August after the Justice Department said it had been months of resistance from Trump and his proxies to return the records to the government.
Investigators in the Biden case have previously conducted interviews, including with Biden’s former executive assistant, who helped pack the boxes going to the Penn Biden Center. It’s not yet clear if and when the Justice Department might attempt to question Biden himself.
The Bidens bought their Rehoboth Beach home, which overlooks a state park adjacent to the beach, in June 2017, months after he left the vice presidency.
Eric Tucker, Colleen Long and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press