Special counsel investigating Biden's handling of classified documents has completed probe, AG says

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department special counsel investigating President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents has completed his inquiry and a report is expected to be released soon to Congress and the public, Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers in a letter Wednesday.

Garland did not detail the conclusions of the report from special counsel Robert Hur, but said he was committed to disclosing as much of the document as possible once the White House completes a review for potential executive privilege concerns. That process is expected to be completed by the end of the week, said Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House counsel’s office.

The yearlong investigation centered on the improper retention of classified documents by Biden from his time as a U.S. senator and as vice president. Sensitive records were found at his Delaware home and at a private office that he used in between his service in the Obama administration and becoming president.

The resolution of the investigation arrives in a pivotal year for the president as he pursues reelection in a deeply polarized political climate. Though the probe’s outcome is expected to lift a legal cloud over Biden, criticism of his handling of classified records could blunt his ability to attack Donald Trump — his presumptive opponent in November — over a pending indictment charging the former president with hoarding top-secret files at his Mar-a-Lago estate and obstructing FBI efforts to get them back.

Trump and other Republicans are likely to challenge the legitimacy of the investigation by noting that it was launched by the Biden Justice Department.

But Garland sought to insulate the department from claims of bias and conflicts of interest by last year appointing Hur, a former U.S. attorney for Maryland during the Trump administration, to handle the Biden investigation and by naming a different special counsel, Jack Smith, to oversee investigations into Trump.

While the Trump investigation resulted in dozens of felony charges against the ex-president last year, the outcome of the Biden probe is expected to be different. Justice Department policy prohibits the indictment of a sitting president and, unlike in the Trump investigation, no evidence has emerged to suggest that Biden engaged in comparable conduct or willfully held onto records he wasn’t supposed to have.

Even so, the White House’s response to the discovery of classified documents early last year was delayed and incomplete.

The White House did not disclose the Justice Department’s investigation until January 2023, when it acknowledged the discovery two months earlier of a “small number” of classified documents by Biden lawyers as they closed an office at the Penn Biden Center, a think tank affiliated with the Ivy League school. Biden has said he was surprised by the initial trove discovered by his lawyers.

The FBI subsequently conducted a 13-hour, top-to-bottom check of his Wilmington, Delaware, home, where agents located documents with classified markings from his time as a vice president and senator and took possession of some of his handwritten notes. Biden’s personal lawyers have also revealed that they had found a document bearing classified markings while searching the Wilmington property but said they had not found others during a separate inspection of his Rehoboth Beach home.

The looming conclusion of the investigation had been foreshadowed last fall when Biden sat for a voluntary interview at the White House with Hur’s team. Interviews of key subjects in an investigation are often done near the end.

Justice Department regulations require Congress to be notified of any investigative steps or proposed actions by a special counsel that were rejected by department leadership. There were no such actions, Garland wrote.

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