Congressional investigators have opened a probe into whether the White House blocked the National Archives from releasing a public statement regarding dozens of classified documents that were supposed to be in the agency’s secure custody, but were instead discovered illegally unsecured in then-candidate Joe Biden’s home and former office.
House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-KY) has now formally demanded White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients to answer questions as to whether White House staff suppressed the National Archives and Records Administration from issuing a public statement regarding President Biden’s mishandling of classified information, the Committee reports.
Comer also reiterated previous requests for information about the White House’s handling of Biden’s classified documents scandal, which have so far been ignored.
“The Committee on Oversight and Accountability continues to investigate President Biden’s mishandling of highly classified documents,” wrote Comer in a letter to Zients, beginning the process of an investigation.
“The Committee has previously written the White House regarding this matter on January 10, 2023; January 13, 2023; and January 15, 2023. However, the White House has produced no documents and neglected to provide a substantive response to the Committee’s requests. Meanwhile, reports indicate the Federal Bureau of Investigation continues its search for more classified documents, most recently at the University of Delaware. The Committee is concerned about President Biden’s lack of transparency given the serious national security implications of his conduct,” writes Comer.
The request comes after investigators learned the White House may have suppressed a NARA statement regarding Biden’s alleged mishandling of documents, after issuing such a statement against former President Donald Trump.
“On January 31, 2023, the Committee conducted a transcribed interview with National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) general counsel, Gary Stern. The interview revealed that on January 9, 2023, when CBS broke the news that President Biden stored classified materials at Penn Biden Center, NARA drafted a statement and someone outside of NARA withheld its release from the public,” the Committee reports.
In that interview, Stern claimed the statement was suppressed upon “DOJ [Justice Department] guidance,” but did not elaborate.
However, “Mr. Stern confirmed with Committee counsel that President Biden can publicly release his communications between his attorneys and NARA but has still failed to do so,” the Committee reports.
“Indeed, the Committee learned that President Biden is ‘free to release’ all of his representatives’ communications and be completely transparent with the American people, if he chooses,” Comer writes to Zients.
“The Committee’s transcribed interview with NARA General Counsel Gary Stern raises more questions regarding the Biden Administration’s involvement in suppressing information related to President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents,” Comer writes.
“In addition to the requests on January 10, 13, and 15, Chairman Comer is now seeking to determine who, if anyone, at the White House instructed NARA to withhold public statements regarding President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents,” the Committee reports.