Garland appoints special counsel to probe classified documents found in Biden’s office, home

Speaking at the Justice Department on Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the appointment of Robert Hur as a special counsel to investigate classified documents found at President Biden’s residence in Wilmington, Del., and at an office Biden used after he served as vice president.

Video transcript

MERRICK GARLAND: I'm here today to announce the appointment of Robert Hur as a special counsel pursuant to Department of Justice regulations governing such matters. In keeping with those regulations, I have today notified the designated members of each House of Congress of the appointment. I'm joined today by John Lausch, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, who conducted the initial investigation into the matter that I will describe today.

On the evening of November 4, 2022, the National Archives Office of Inspector General contacted a prosecutor at the Department of Justice. It informed him that the White House had notified the Archives that documents bearing classification markings were identified at the Office of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement located in Washington, DC. That office was not authorized for storage of classified documents. The prosecutor was also advised that those documents had been secured in an Archives' facility.

On November 9, the FBI commenced an assessment consistent with standard protocols to understand whether classified information had been mishandled in violation of federal law. On November 14, pursuant to Section 600.2B of the Special Counsel Regulations, I assigned US Attorney Lausch to conduct an initial investigation to inform my decision whether to appoint a special counsel.

Mr. Lausch has served as the US Attorney in Chicago since 2017. Before that, he spent more than a decade as an assistant US attorney in that same office. I selected him to conduct the initial investigation because I was confident his experience would ensure that it would be done professionally and expeditiously.

On December 20, President Biden's personal counsel informed Mr. Lausch that additional documents bearing classification markings were identified in the garage of the president's private residence in Wilmington, Delaware. President Biden's counsel informed Mr. Lausch that those documents were among other records from the period of the president's service as vice president. The FBI went to the location and secured those documents.

On January 5, 2023, Mr. Lausch briefed me on the results of his initial investigation and advised me that further investigation by a special counsel was warranted. Based on Mr. Lausch's initial investigation, I concluded that under the Special Counsel Regulations it was in the public interest to appoint a special counsel. In the days since, while Mr. Lausch continued the investigation, the department identified Mr. Hur for appointment as special counsel. This morning, President Biden's personal counsel called Mr. Lausch and stated that an additional document bearing classification markings was identified at the president's personal residence in Wilmington, Delaware.

When I first contacted Mr. Lausch about this matter, he said he could lead the initial investigation but would be unable to accept any longer-term assignment because he would be leaving the department in early 2023 for the private sector. US Attorney Lausch and his team of prosecutors and agents have conducted this initial investigation with professionalism and speed. I am grateful to them.

Earlier today, I sign-- I signed an order appointing Robert Hur as special counsel for the matter I've just described. The document authorizes him to investigate whether any person or entity violated the law in connection with this matter. The special counsel will not be subject to the day-to-day supervision of any official of the department, but he must comply with the regulations, procedures, and policies of the department.