Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Tuesday called for a briefing with the director of national intelligence to assess the potential damage to U.S. security posed by classified documents found in President Biden’s former office.
Rep. Mike Turner, Ohio Republican and incoming chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to National Intelligence Director Avril Haines requesting a briefing “as soon as possible.”
“The discovery of classified information would put President Biden in potential violation of laws protecting national security, including the Espionage Act and Presidential Records Act. Those entrusted with access to classified information have a duty and obligation to protect it. This issue demands a full and thorough review,” Mr. Turner wrote.
The GOP lawmaker also called for government intelligence agencies to conduct a full damage assessment in consultation with the intelligence community’s inspector general, an independent watchdog overseeing various agencies.
Republicans weren’t the only ones demanding a briefing on the situation. Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also called for one, though he added that the news reports so far suggest the Biden breach was much less than a similar one by former President Donald Trump.
“Our system of classification exists in order to protect our most important national security secrets, and we expect to be briefed on what happened both at Mar-a-Lago and at the Biden office as part of our constitutional oversight obligations,” he told reporters.
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“From what we know so far, the latter is about finding documents with markings, and turning them over, which is certainly different from a months-long effort to retain material actively being sought by the government. But again, that’s why we need to be briefed,” Mr. Warner continued.
Other Democrats on the Hill pushed back harder on Republican claims.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, insisted Mr. Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland handled the situation in a “professional, nonpartisan” manner.
“Unlike former President Donald Trump, who allegedly obstructed efforts to recover hundreds of classified documents, the handful of classified documents reportedly found at the Biden Center were immediately sent to the National Archives, and President Biden is allowing the Justice Department to operate free of political interference,” Mr. Durbin said in a statement.
On Monday, Mr. Biden’s lawyers confirmed they discovered “a small number” of classified documents at his former office at a Washington think tank last fall, prompting the Justice Department to tap a U.S. attorney to scrutinize the situation.
It is unclear what was in the documents or why the materials were taken to Mr. Biden’s private office. Mr. Biden’s lawyers confirmed that the materials included top-secret files with “sensitive compartmented information,” a designation used for highly sensitive information obtained from spies and intelligence agency sources.
Mr. Garland appointed John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney in Chicago to investigate the situation. A holdover from the Trump administration, Mr. Lausch earned high praise from Mr. Durbin.
“U.S. Attorney Lausch is a by-the-book prosecutor who was confirmed with bipartisan support during the previous administration. I trust that he will handle this investigation with the utmost professionalism and without bias,” Mr. Durbin said.