The following is a news analysis.
Updated Sat. Jan. 21, 2023
Confused? No wonder.
The discovery of classified documents in President Biden's possession was covered up from the public for months, at least. We're left to take the word of the people involved, and Biden's own representatives, as to timing and details of event with no independent way to confirm them. As of this publication we have been informed of four separate document discoveries dating back to last November.
Far less significant discoveries have merited SWAT-style raids by the FBI. But here, according to White House accounts, Biden's own lawyers have been permitted to continue searching, even after multiple discoveries.
The Presidential Records Act requires all presidential and vice-presidential documents to be transferred to the National Archives once the official leaves office. Classified information is not permitted to be in private possession outside of strict rules and controls.
Unlike the case of former President Trump's documents, which is also under investigation, President Biden is not claiming to have had a right to possess the classified documents. In fact, he says he does not know their contents. Trump, on the other hand, had been actively negotiating with authorities, arguing he had a right to the documents, when the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago home on August 8, confiscated and photographed the documents, then leaked information and photos to the press. Trump has said he used his presidential authority to declassify the documents in question prior to leaving office.
Biden Classified Document Timeline
Sept. 18, 2022:
Biden grants an interview to 60 Minutes commenting on the Trump document case. In part, Biden said he thought, "'How that could possibly happen? How one, anyone could be that irresponsible.' And I thought, 'What data was in there that may compromise sources and methods? By that I mean names of people who helped or' the, et cetera. And it just, totally irresponsible."
Nov. 2, 2022: Discovery #1
"Roughly" 10 classified documents are reportedly found at Biden's "Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement" in Washington DC. Biden's lawyer claimed other Biden lawyers "were packing files housed in a locked closet to prepare to vacate office space" when the documents were discovered. They were reportedly in a folder in a box co-mingled with unclassified papers.
It was less than a week before the Congressional Midterms elections and Biden was reportedly notified, but he and the White House kept the discovery secret from the public.
Biden's attorney says the White House counsel's office notified the National Archives.
Thurs. Nov. 3, 2022: The National Archives reportedly take the materials and notify the Justice Dept. It's unclear what happened to the documents at that point.
Tues. Dec. 20, 2022: Discovery #2
More classified documents are reportedly discovered at a former private officer of Biden's. This discovery is also kept under wraps.
Sat. Jan. 7, 2023: Republicans in the House of Representative elect their Speaker, or their leader, allowing them to commence business as the majority.
Weds. Jan. 11, 2023: Discovery #3
Biden's attorneys reportedly discover "a" classified document in a room adjacent to Biden's garage at his Delaware home, though the room was not further described.
Thurs. Jan. 12: Discovery #4
Five more pages of classified documents are reportedly discovered at Biden's Delaware home, though the discovery is not revealed to the public at this time. Biden's lawyer says he, the lawyer, had traveled there "to facilitate providing the document the President's personal counsel found on Wednesday to the Justice Department" and that "While I was transferring it to the [Dept. of Justice] officials who accompanied me, five additional pages with classification markings were discovered among the material with it, for a total of six pages. The DOJ officials with me immediately took possession of them."
Also on Thurs. Jan. 12, Biden Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints the U.S. attorney in Chicago to see if an investigation should be opened into the Biden documents snafu.
Sat. Jan. 14:
The White House announces Thursday's document discovery.
Thurs. Jan. 19:
Biden makes a statement saying, “I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there. I have no regrets, I’m following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. That’s exactly what we’re doing, there’s no there there."
Fri. Jan. 20: Discovery #5
The Justice Dept. reportedly finds six new classified items inside Biden’s Delaware home during a search. The event is not announced at the time.
Sat. Jan. 21:
Biden's attorney announces the Friday find. According to a statement from a Biden attorney: "DOJ took possession of materials it deemed within the scope of its inquiry, including six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials, some of which were from the President’s service in the Senate and some of which were from his tenure as Vice President. DOJ also took for further review personally handwritten notes from the vice-presidential years."