White House refuses to answer key questions about Biden classified … – USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The White House refused to answer key questions about classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s former private office, citing an ongoing Justice Department review of the matter.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, fielding a barrage of questions on the topic for the first time Wednesday, would not disclose when Biden learned about the existence of the documents. She also declined to say why the White House did not announce the discovery publicly when Biden’s personal attorneys found the materials Nov. 2, days before the midterm election. 
“At this time, I’m not going beyond what the president said yesterday,” Jean-Pierre said at a press briefing, referring to remarks Biden made Tuesday in Mexico City to reporters. “It’s an ongoing process. We’re going to respect the process.”
She added: “He laid out what he knew, when he knew it.” 
More: Biden says he was ‘surprised’ government records had been found in a private office, doesn’t know what’s in them
Biden is facing scrutiny over classified documents found in November at his former private office at the Penn Biden Center, which Biden used after the end of the Obama administration in 2017 until his presidential campaign in 2020.
While packing files, the president’s attorneys found a “small number” of documents from the Obama-Biden administration, according to the White House, which confirmed the existence of the documents after CBS News first reported the revelation Monday. The White House hasn’t provided any details about the contents of the documents.
Biden told reporters Tuesday he was “surprised to learn” about the documents and did not know what they contained, but he did not say when he learned about them. 
“My lawyers have not suggested I ask what documents they were,” Biden said. “They’ve turned over the boxes to the Archives and we’re cooperating fully.”
Jean-Pierre said how the documents got to the Penn Biden Center office – including who took them there – are part of the Justice Department’s review. She also pointed to the ongoing review when asked whether she can assure additional classified documents are not in other offices.
The Justice Department tapped John Lausch Jr., the chief federal prosecutor in Chicago who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, to lead the review. Lausch’s initial review is nearing completion, according to a person familiar with the matter. The report will then be referred to Attorney General Merrick Garland.  
The discovery of the Biden documents drew immediate comparisons to the hundreds of classified documents the Federal Bureau of Investigation recovered at the home of Trump. 
Republicans seized on what Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., head of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee in the new Republican majority, called a “two-tier justice system.” Comer vowed his committee will investigate the matter.
More: President Joe Biden classified documents: What we know and how discovery compares to Trump
Yet there are several significant distinctions including the vastly fewer documents found at Biden’s office.
Biden’s attorneys voluntarily notified the National Archives about the documents, according to the White House. The FBI received a search warrant of the Mar-a-Lago estate in August to seize more than 100 of Trump’s documents after he resisted repeated requests from the National Archives under the Presidential Records Act.
The government cited evidence of violations of the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice to obtain the warrant to search Mar-a-Lago. Garland appointed a special counsel, Jack Smith, to investigate Trump’s documents as part of a broader inquiry on the former president’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison and Michael Collins @mcollinsNEWS.

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