Attorney General Merrick Garland

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks following a briefing in Washington, D.C. on July 6, 2022.

(Photo: Bonnie Cash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Garland Appoints Special Counsel Over Classified Biden Documents

The attorney general swiftly appointed a former U.S. attorney to investigate the president's handling of a small number of Obama administration records.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed a special counsel to investigate the classified documents found at President Joe Biden's former office and his home in Delaware, saying the probe would be conducted in "an even-handed and urgent manner."

Robert Hur, a partner at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who worked in the Trump administration, was named as the special counsel who will investigate "the possible unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or other records."

The announcement came the same day the White House confirmed that a "small number" of documents with classified markings had been found in the garage at Biden's residence in Wilmington, Delaware. That discovery was reported to the Justice Department several weeks after Biden's personal attorneys found "a small number of documents with classified markings" in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a think tank opened by the president after his vice presidential term ended in 2017.

Following the first discovery, Voxreported on Thursday, Biden's attorneys notified the National Archives immediately and returned the documents the next day. The FBI went to the president's home in Wilmington following the discovery of the second batch of documents and secured them.

The news of the classified records this week sparked calls from Republicans for an investigation, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) demanding a congressional probe and noting that Biden was among those who criticized former President Donald Trump over the discovery of hundreds classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Florida.

As Vox reported, the two cases appear to have significant differences:

There were purportedly 10 documents with classified markings at the Penn Biden Center and a "small number" at Biden’s Wilmington residence; over 300 were at Mar-a-Lago.

Biden's team claims to have returned the documents as soon as they discovered them, volunteering them to the National Archives without being asked. Trump, when asked by the Archives to return missing documents, gave back some but fought hard against returning others, including reportedly ordering some boxes moved to hide them from visiting government officials.

Trump insisted the classified documents be kept at Mar-a-Lago. Biden's level of involvement in keeping the documents is unclear, but they were reportedly found among other personal documents of his.

Some progressives noted on social media that it took Garland far less time to appoint a special counsel in the case of Biden's classified documents than in the case regarding Mar-a-Lago.

Hur said in a statement Thursday that he "will conduct the assigned investigation with fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment."

"I intend to follow the facts swiftly and thoroughly, without fear or favor," he added, "and will honor the trust placed in me to perform this service."

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday afternoon that the president "takes classified documents and information very seriously."

Jean-Pierre declined to speak in detail about Garland's announcement, saying, "This is a president who believes in the independence of the Justice Department."

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