White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told the media six times last Thursday that the search for classified documents in Joe Biden‘s personal possession was ‘complete’ only for White House counsel Richard Stauber to find five more in the president’s Wilmington, Delaware home later that evening.
President Biden and his administration have been under fire for not immediately and publicly disclosing when the classified materials were found – despite the opportunities to do and while they were facing questions about the matter.
Jean-Pierre, in particular, has been grilled in her daily press briefings about the lack of transparency. But now she faces questions about when she knew about the document discoveries and the information she has delivered in her press briefings.
As Jean-Pierre is the face and voice of the administration, her briefings are meant to inform the public about the work of the Biden administration but also is a time for the administration to be held accountable – via questions from the media – for its actions.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said six times last Thursday that the search for classified documents was complete – only for five more to be found
Timeline of Biden document discovery and initial investigation
Nov. 2: 10 classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C., by President Joe Biden’s lawyers.
Nov. 3: The National Archives was notified of the discovery
Nov. 4: The National Archives’ Office of Inspector General contacted a prosecutor at the Department of Justice and told them that classified material had been discovered at the Penn Biden Center. The documents were secured at an Archives facility
Nov. 8: 2022 midterm election
Nov. 9: The FBI commenced an assessment to determine whether classified material had been mishandled
Nov. 14: Attorney General Merrick Garland assigned the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John Lausch, to determine if a special counsel was needed
Dec. 20: The president’s personal attorney informed Lausch that additional documents with classification markings were found in Biden’s garage in Wilmington, Delaware. The FBI secured those documents
Jan 5: Lausch advised Garland that a special counsel should be appointed
Jan. 9: White House publicly announces classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president found at the office of his D.C. think tank
Jan 12: The president’s personal attorney informed Lausch that an additional document was discovered at Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home
Jan. 12 AM: White House publicly announces additional classified documents were found in Biden’s Wilmington home
Jan. 12 PM: White House counsel Richard Sauber travels to Biden’s Wilmington home – finds five more classified documents
Jan. 14: White House publicly discloses the documents Sauber found in Biden’s Wilmington home
The situation is rapidly escalating into a crisis for the White House. House Republicans have started a series of investigations and the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to look into the matter. Even some Democrats have struggled to defend Biden and Donald Trump, who faces his own investigation about classified material he had at Mar-a-Lago, has accused everyone of a double standard.
The White House counsel’s office said last week that after the first tranche of classified documents were discovered by Biden’s personal attorneys as they shut down his D.C. think tank, a search was done of his Wilmington and Rehoboth homes for additional materials.
‘The lawyers completed that review last night,’ Stauber said in a statement Thursday morning.
He announced one more classified document had been found in a room in Biden’s Wilmington home.
In her briefing on Thursday afternoon, Jean-Pierre said six times the search for any additional classified documents was finished.
Her statements on Thursday:
- ‘After the search concluded last night, we released a statement disclosing the facts from that search.’
- ‘That search was completed last night. And now this is in the hands of the Justice Department.’
- On the search: ‘You should assume that it’s been completed, yes.’
- ‘They completed the search with documents being found last night.’
- ‘The search is clearly complete, and therefore we shared the information with all of you.’
- ‘Look, I can just refer you to what his team said: The search is complete. He is confident in this process. And I will leave it there.’
But Stauber, who has a security clearance, went to Biden’s Wilmington home that Thursday evening and discovered five more classified documents in the paperwork there.
That discovery was not announced until Saturday morning.
‘Because I have a security clearance, I went to Wilmington Thursday evening to facilitate providing the document the President’s personal counsel found on Wednesday to the Justice Department,’ Stauber said in a statement made two days after the documents discovery.
‘While I was transferring it to the DOJ 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.’
President Joe Biden has made very few comments about the classified documents found in his personal library and garage in his Wilmington, Delaware home as well as his former office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden’s personal home in Wilmington, Delaware
The Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement office is located in this Washington, D.C. office building where President Biden’s personal lawyers discovered several classified documents in November 2022
Jean-Pierre also didn’t disclose the discovery of the documents when she briefed the press on Friday January 13 – the day after they had been found.
So, when she faced reporters again this week, she was asked if she knew about the documents during that Friday briefing.
She said she shared what she had been told by the White House counsel’s office.
‘I have been forthcoming from this podium,’ she responded in Tuesday’s press briefing. ‘I was repeating what the [White House] counsel was sharing at that time.’
She was pressed again by CBS White House correspondent Weijia Jiang, who asked her if she knew about the additional five documents when she spoke to the press on Friday afternoon.
‘I literally just answered that question,’ Jean-Pierre responded.
When Weijia said she didn’t hear the answer, Jean-Pierre told that ‘you’re not too far’ from the reporter who asked it.
When pressed on when the press office originally found out Biden had classified documents in his personal possession, Jean-Pierre told Weijia that it was ‘when your team was doing a story.’
The CBS story about classified documents in Biden’s possession was published on January 9th. The White House publicly acknowledged Biden had the material after CBS published its piece.
Jean-Pierre also got snappy with a reporter who asked if Biden, while he spent the past weekend in Wilmington, had searched his home to see if he had more classified documents.
‘Are you listening to the question that you’re asking me?,’ she asked in response.
In total, there have been four discoveries of classified materials: at the Penn-Biden Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C.; in Biden’s garage at his Wilmington, Del., home; one document discovered in his ‘personal library’ in the same home and then four more documents found in his home.
All date back to Biden’s time as vice president under Barack Obama but the White House won’t answer as to what topics the materials cover.
The administration waited until January – until well past the November midterm election on November 8 – to announce documents found at Biden’s DC think tank on November 4th, which was four days before voters went to the polls.
The counsel’s office then made two more announcements in the following days – regarding documents found at Biden’s garage in his Wilmington home and then a third document found in a room at that house.
On Saturday, the administration announced five more pages containing classified information were found at Biden’s Wilmington home.