WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday addressed the controversy over classified documents found at a former office of his in Washington, saying he was “surprised” when he learned of their existence and that his attorneys have been “cooperating fully” with the government’s review of the records.
“People know I take classified documents and classified information seriously,” Biden said in response to a question at a news conference in Mexico City. “I was briefed about this discovery and surprised to learn that there were any government records that were taken there to that office. But I don’t know what’s in the documents; my lawyers have not suggested I ask what they were.”
There were less than a dozen documents with classified markings found in the office used by Biden while he was out of office, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The White House on Monday confirmed a CBS News report that a “small number of documents” with classified markings that appeared to be from the Obama administration had been found at a think tank tied to Biden.
The acknowledgment launched a flurry of criticism from Republicans and former President Donald Trump, whose Florida home was raided last year in search of documents he had removed from the White House.
Congressional Republicans have now launched an investigation into the Biden documents. Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, chair of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to White House counsel Stuart Delery on Tuesday requesting “documents and information related to the White House’s handling of this matter.”
The sources who confirmed the number of documents found in the Biden office spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details about the ongoing investigation.
The documents were discovered on Nov. 2 in a locked closet by Biden’s attorneys as they prepared to vacate office space at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, said in a statement.
The University of Pennsylvania leased a suite of offices for the center in February 2018, including an office for Biden’s personal use when he was in Washington.
The documents in Trump’s possession were found in his Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, and were obtained in part from requests from the National Archives and then, later, through a search warrant executed by the FBI.
In all, federal investigators recovered over 300 documents with classification markings from Trump.
Ginger Gibson and Ryan Nobles contributed.