U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Jan. 17 that he was “surprised” to learn that classified documents had been discovered at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, where President Joe Biden previously had an office.
Blinken served as Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice president and the two have remained close since Biden became president.
He worked as managing director of the Penn Center in 2018 when it officially opened.
“Just as you heard from President Biden about a week ago I was surprised to learn that there were any government records taken to the Penn Biden Center,” Blinken said during a joint press conference with UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Tuesday.
“I had no knowledge of it at the time,” Blinken added. “The White House of course has indicated that the administration is cooperating fully with the review that the Justice Department has undertaken, and I of course would cooperate fully with that review myself.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel, Richard Hur, to investigate the handling of classified materials and whether or not any person or entity broke the law.
The White House counsel’s office also stressed on Tuesday that Biden is committed to operating with the Justice Department’s investigation into the classified documents.
“It’s important to really understand the distinction here: President Biden is committed to doing the responsible thing and acting appropriately,” White House counsel’s office spokesman Ian Sams told reporters during a conference call.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to tell reporters during a press briefing whether or not the search for more classified documents has been completed.
White House Sidesteps Questions About Additional Documents
“I’m not going to comment from here,” Jean-Pierre said when questioned on the matter. “When it comes to the Department of Justice, when it comes to legal matters, when it comes to legal issues, we have been very clear that we’re not going to comment. We are not going to politically interfere.”
At an earlier press conference on Jan. 12, Jean-Pierre had told reporters that a search for further potential documents had been completed.
At least three batches of classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president have been discovered so far at the Penn Biden Center in Washington—where Biden used an office from mid-2017 until the start of his 2020 presidential campaign—and at as one of his homes in Wilmington, Delaware.
Along with the DOJ investigation into the documents, Republicans also started their own investigation into the matter.
In a statement on Jan. 10, newly appointed House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said he is requesting information from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the White House Counsel’s Office about Biden’s “failure to return highly classified records from his time as vice president,” adding that he is concerned that “NARA’s inconsistent application of the Presidential Records Act and treatment of classified records held by former President Trump and President Biden raise questions about potential political bias at the agency.”
The Presidential Records Act, which was passed by Congress in 1978, states that any records created or received by the President as part of his or her “constitutional, statutory, or ceremonial duties” belong to the United States government and should be handed over to NARA when they leave office.
On Sunday, Comer called on White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain to release the visitor logs for President Biden’s Wilmington residence, as well as to provide documents and communications regarding all of the properties and locations that have been searched.
Biden admin spokesperson Ian Sams has said no such logs exist.