Karine Jean-Pierre grilled about transparency with classified documents

Karine Jean-Pierre was forced to defend Joe Biden against charges of hypocrisy on Thursday as she was grilled in her press briefing on why the White House waited nearly a month to reveal there were additional classified documents in the president’s private possession.

The White House press secretary was specifically interrogated – for the majority of her time at the podium – about Biden’s promise to have a transparent administration in the wake of new details provided by the Justice Department in its probe of the president’s classified cache.

Attorney General Merrick Garland revealed on Thursday that Biden’s personal lawyer informed the Justice Department on December 20th that they had found classified documents in his garage at his Wilmington home.

The White House had not revealed that information until Thursday – a few hours before Garland announced he was appointing a special counsel to investigate the matter. 

It had plenty of opportunities – including when White House counsel Richard Sauber put out a statement on Monday about classified documents dating back to Biden’s time as vice president being discovered at the office of his D.C. think tank.

Karine Jean-Pierre was grilled in her press briefing on why the White House waited nearly a month to reveal there were additional classified documents in Joe Biden's personal possession

Karine Jean-Pierre was grilled in her press briefing on why the White House waited nearly a month to reveal there were additional classified documents in Joe Biden’s personal possession

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate classified documents in Biden's possession

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate classified documents in Biden’s possession

Additionally, Biden, Jean-Pierre and other officials had been asked in the proceeding days about the matter, including if there were other classified documents in the president’s personal possession.

But neither the president, Jean-Pierre nor other officials disclosed the Wilmington documents.

Jean-Pierre said it was because Biden’s personal lawyers were in the process of conducting a review of other locations where classified documents might be stored and that review was not completed until Wednesday night.

‘There was a process happening that was currently ongoing,’ she said.

‘This was the right thing to do,’ she noted.

She also argued the administration had been transparent because it disclosed the matter to the National Archives and the Justice Department immediately after the documents were discovered.

‘We have been transparent here. That is why the minute that his lawyers found those documents, they reported it. They reached out to the Archives and the Department of Justice, and they did that voluntarily, and they were not compelled to do it. They did it voluntarily,’ she emphasized.

There were more classified documents in Joe Biden's Wilmington home

There were more classified documents in Joe Biden’s Wilmington home 

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Garland announced Thursday afternoon he was naming Robert K. Hur, a former federal prosecutor appointed to that position by Donald Trump, as special counsel in the case.  

And, in his short statement, Garland revealed a detailed timeline of when the classified documents were originally discovered and how the initial Justice Department investigation began.

In total, there have been three discoveries of classified materials – at the Penn-Biden Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C.; in Biden’s garage at his Wilmington, Del., home; and an additional discovery at Biden’s Wilmington home.

Garland said the National Archives informed the DoJ of the first discovery of documents on Nov. 4th and the FBI began an investigation five days later.

Timeline of Biden document discovery and initial investigation 

Nov. 2: 10 classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C., by President Joe Biden’s lawyers.

Nov. 3: The National Archives was notified of the discovery

Nov. 4: The National Archives’ Office of Inspector General contacted a prosecutor at the Department of Justice and told them that classified material had been discovered at the Penn Biden Center. The documents were secured at an Archives facility

Nov. 8: 2022 midterm election 

Nov. 9: The FBI commenced an assessment to determine whether classified material had been mishandled

Nov. 14: Attorney General Merrick Garland assigned the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John Lausch, to determine if a special counsel was needed

Dec. 20: The president’s personal attorney informed Lausch that additional documents with classification markings were found in Biden’s garage in Wilmington, Delaware. The FBI secured those documents

Jan 5: Lausch advised Garland that a special counsel should be appointed

Jan. 9: White House publicly announces classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president found at the office of his D.C. think tank 

Jan 12: The president’s personal attorney informed Lausch that an additional document was discovered at Biden’s Wilmington home

Jan. 12: White House publicly announces additional classified documents were found in Biden’s Wilmington home

On Nov. 14th, Garland assigned the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John Lausch, to determine if a special counsel was needed. 

On Dec. 20th, Biden’s personal attorney told Lausch that additional files were found in Biden’s Wilmington garage.

On Jan. 9, the White House publicly announces classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president found at the office of his D.C. think tank – but made no mention of the documents found in the Wilmington garage.

On Thursday, Jan. 12, the president’s personal attorney informed Lausch that an additional document was discovered at Biden’s Wilmington home. 

The same day White House publicly announces additional classified documents were found in Biden’s Wilmington home.

Jean-Pierre was asked over and over again, by at least nine different reporters, why the December 20th discovery wasn’t disclosed immediately or at least with the other disclosure.

She had been asked the previous day – 24 hours before the announcement that there were more classified material discovered – if there were any classified documents in Biden’s Wilmington home. She responded: ‘I’m just not going to speak to this. I’m going to let the process continue. It’s an ongoing process.’ 

The White House was already under fire for waiting almost two months to disclose that classified documents were found on Nov. 2nd at Biden’s think tank office as his lawyers packed it up in preparation for it to be closed. 

Jean-Pierre also was asked why the White House argued it was being transparent because it informed a federal agency but did not disclose the matter publicly to the American people. 

CNN’s Phi Mattingly noted that ‘the review was underway when the President spoke about the first set of documents – you’re now saying that you didn’t talk about the second set of documents discovered almost a month prior? Because the review was underway. I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense. I think it was underway the entire time. The only difference was that reporters had information on the first set of documents.’

The White House was forced to admit on Monday – in the wake of a report from CBS News – that there were classified documents found at the D.C. office housing the think tank Biden founded after leaving the vice presidency. 

‘Well, let me unconfuse you for a second Phil,’ Jean-Pierre responded. ‘Look, we’re trying to do this by the book. And I said yesterday this was under review by the Department of Justice.’

She added: ‘I’m telling you that there’s a process. I just laid out what the process is. And I’m telling you that we’re trying to do this by the book, and it was an ongoing process. I’m not going to get beyond that. That is how this works.’

CBS Ed O’Keefe grilled her repeatedly on the transparency issue. On Biden’s first day in the White House, his then-press secretary Jen Psaki promised that the president plans to ‘bring transparency and truth back to the government to share the truth, even when it’s hard to hear.’

O’Keefe asked about that vow. 

‘When you talk about we’re being transparent. Who’s we and what is the definition of transparent in this case? Is it the lawyers being transparent legally, for the Archives and the Justice Department, or is it the White House at large being transparent with the general public?,’ he said.

Jean-Pierre didn’t answer directly, repeating her often-used phrase that the president and White House staff take the matter of classified documents ‘seriously.’  

She also noted that Richard Sauber, the White House special counsel, has made statements on the matter.

‘They haven’t laid out everything Karine and you know it,’ O’Keefe responded.

She responded that she couldn’t speak in more detail because of the Justice Department investigation. 

‘I can’t talk about this right because the Department of Justice is reviewing it. There is a review happening Ed right now and you know this,’ she said.

And she wouldn’t commit to bringing White House Counsel Richard Sauber come to the press room to answer questions about the situation. 

‘You need to acknowledge then there’s going to be a limit and transparency, public non legal transparency, and what can be shared and set by this way,’ O’Keefe said.

‘I disagree. There has not been a limit of transparency,’ Jean-Pierre responded. ‘I disagree with you on that.’

Robert K Hur, 50, (center) was named special counsel to investigate Biden's classified files

Robert K Hur, 50, (center) was named special counsel to investigate Biden’s classified files

The White House press secretary also noted any further disclosures would come from the Justice Department. 

‘There’s an ongoing process and you heard directly from the Attorney General today and that is the process. That is how this is going to go. It is not going to come from here for me at this podium. It is going to come from the Department of Justice.’ 

NBC’s Kristen Welker asked if the White House holding onto the information for months ‘undercuts the president’s promise of being transparent?’

‘But here’s the thing, they were transparent. There was transparency in doing what you’re supposed to do when these when these items were discovered, Jean-Pierre argued.

‘Not with the American people,’ Welker responded.

The White House over the past few days has faced dozens of questions on why the discoveries of classified documents have not been revealed until now and who was handling them.

Republicans, in particular, have hammered the administration for not disclosing the information before the midterm election. The first set of documents were found five days before voters went to the polls. 

Biden told reporters at the White House on Thursday that he was ‘cooperating fully and completely’ with a Justice Department investigation as to how and why classified information and government records were improperly stored.

Peter Doocy of Fox News asked the president how he could keep ‘classified materials [in his garage] next to your Corvette. What were you thinking?’ – a reference to his classic 1967 Stingray which his son, Hunter, had rebuilt for him as a Christmas present.

‘By the way, my Corvette’s in locked garage, okay? It’s not like it’s sitting out in the street,’ Biden shot back. He confirmed the documents were kept in a locked garage, saying, ‘Yes – as well as my Corvette.’

‘People know I take classified documents,’ classified materials seriously,’ Biden said, beginning to read a prepared statement.

‘I’m going to get a chance to speak on this soon, God willing,’ he added, as reporters shouted questions. ‘We’re going to see all this unfold.’

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A second batch of classified documents were found in a garage ‘storage space’ in President Biden’s Wilmington home, the President’s counsel revealed on Thursday 

The tense back and forth comes after Biden dodged questions during a trip to Mexico about whether he mishandled documents. 

He said lawyers ‘discovered a small number of documents with classified markings in storage areas and file cabinets in my home and my – my personal library.’ 

‘The Department of Justice was immediately notified, he said. ‘We’re going to see all this unfold, I’m confident …’ he said.  Biden’s voice trailed off, leading to a chorus of shouted questions. ‘Thank you very much,’ he concluded. 

Then, amid the cacophony of questions, he pointed to the back of the auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where he was speaking. ‘Hey how you doing? Good to see you!’ he yelled, then walked off stage. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland’s full statement on a special counsel 

Good afternoon.

I am 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 am joined today by John Lausch, the U.S. 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 [Counsel] 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, D.C. 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 600.2(b) of the Special Counsel regulations, I assigned U.S. Attorney Lausch to conduct an initial investigation to inform my decision whether to appoint a Special Counsel.

Mr. Lausch has served as the U.S. Attorney in Chicago since 2017. Before that, he spent more than a decade as an Assistant U.S. 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. U.S. 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 signed an order appointing Robert Hur as Special Counsel for the matter I have just described. The document [order] 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.

Mr. Hur has a long and distinguished career as a prosecutor. In 2003, he joined the Department’s Criminal Division, where he worked on counterterrorism, corporate fraud, and appellate matters. From 2007 until 2014, Mr. Hur served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, where he prosecuted matters ranging from violent crime to financial fraud. In 2017, Mr. Hur rejoined the Department as the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General. In 2018, he was nominated and confirmed to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland. As U.S. Attorney, he supervised some of the Department’s more important national security, public corruption, and other high-profile matters.

I will ensure that Mr. Hur receives all the resources he needs to conduct his work.

As I have said before, I strongly believe that the normal processes of this Department can handle all investigations with integrity. But, under the regulations, the extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a Special Counsel for this matter.

This appointment underscores for the public the Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law.

I am confident that Mr. Hur will carry out his responsibility in an even-handed and urgent manner, and in accordance with the highest traditions of this Department. Thank you all.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11629703/Karine-Jean-Pierre-grilled-transparency-classified-documents.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Karine Jean-Pierre grilled about transparency with classified documents

Emma Colton

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