The Justice Department is examining a “small number” of classified documents found at the Biden think tank

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A “small number of documents” with secret markings that appear to be from the Obama administration were found in a Washington, D.C. think tank linked to President Joe Biden and are being reviewed by the Justice Department and National Archives, a lawyer of the White House. said Monday.

The documents were discovered in a locked cabinet by Biden’s lawyers days before the midterm elections as they prepared to leave office space at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, Richard Sauber, special counsel for the president, said in a statement. .

A source familiar with the case told NBC News that Biden only learned of the classified documents stored in his former office when he was informed by his lawyers that they had discovered them.

TBEN News first reported on the documents and that they were being reviewed by a US attorney in Chicago.

A source familiar with the case confirmed to NBC News that Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John R. Lausch, to look into how classified material ended up at the Penn Biden Center. The rating was purposely assigned to Lausch, a Trump appointee, to avoid a conflict of interest, the source said.

Sauber said the White House is cooperating with the Justice Department and the National Archives regarding the discovery of the documents found in an office that Biden used “periodically” from mid-2017 until the start of his 2020 presidential campaign.

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The White House is cooperating with the National Archives and the Justice Department regarding the discovery of what appear to be records of the Obama-Biden administration, including a small number of documents with secret markings,” Sauber said.

According to Sauber, the classified material was discovered by Biden’s personal attorneys on Nov. 2, and the White House counsel’s office notified the National Archives, which took possession of the material the next morning.

“The documents were not the subject of any previous request or investigation by the archives,” Sauber said. “Since that discovery, the president’s personal attorneys have worked with the Archives and the Justice Department to ensure that every Obama-Biden administration is rightfully in possession of the Archives.”

The news of the documents found comes about five months after FBI agents executed a search warrant at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The search uncovered more than 100 documents with classification marks, including some marked top secret.

Last month, two more documents with secret markings were found in a Florida storage facility not far from Trump’s resort in Palm Beach and were turned over to the FBI.

The National Archives said last February that Trump should return 15 boxes of documents that were mistakenly taken from the White House, adding that it believed more documents should be turned over once the former president is seized in January 2021. left office.

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The FBI search in August came after a grand jury issued a subpoena in May seeking all remaining sensitive documents.

Trump posted on his Truth Social account about the Penn Biden Center documents, saying, “When is the FBI going to raid Joe Biden’s many homes, maybe even the White House? These documents have certainly not been released.”

Rep. James Comer, the new chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, told reporters Monday night that he plans to send a letter to the White House Counsel’s Office and the National Archives requesting information about the documents.

The Kentucky Republican added that based on research by his investigators following the Mar-a-Lago search, it was not unusual for former presidents to accidentally leave office with classified documents. He also made it clear that he thought it unlikely that Biden had done anything wrong, and that he was more concerned that Trump might have been treated unfairly.

“There are many people in America who think that there is a two-tier legal system in America. That there is a difference in the way Republicans and Democrats are treated,” Comer said.

Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, emphasized what he said appeared to be swift action on the part of Biden’s lawyers.

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“President Biden’s lawyers appear to have taken immediate and appropriate action to notify the National Archives of their discovery of a small handful of classified documents found in a locked cabinet at the Penn Biden Center so that they can be returned to the federal government,” Raskin said. said: “I am confident that the Attorney General has taken appropriate steps to carefully review the circumstances surrounding the possession and discovery of these documents and make an impartial decision as to any further action that may be required.”

After leaving office in January 2017, Biden was named Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor of the University of Pennsylvania and the head of the new think tank. The school formally opened a series of offices for the center in February 2018, including an office for Biden’s personal use while he was in Washington.

During a 2018 interview after the formal opening of the offices, Biden told MSNBC, “I no longer have access to classified information.”

Biden did not answer shouted questions from reporters on Monday, ahead of a bilateral meeting with Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, about how classified documents were found in his private office.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com