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FBI took evidence from Biden’s Delaware home

By Sarah May
|
February 5, 2023

As President Joe Biden's classified documents scandal continues to take new twists and turns, the FBI on Wednesday conducted a search at his beach house in Rehoboth, Delaware, ultimately seizing materials that included handwritten notes for further investigative analysis, as Politico reports.

Bob Bauer, a personal attorney for Biden, indicated that nothing bearing classified markings was found in the residence, though “the DOJ took for further review some materials and handwritten notes that appear to relate to his time as vice president.”

Rehoboth home searched

As The Hill reported, federal investigators converged on Biden's beachfront property on Wednesday morning in a development that came on the heels of prior discoveries of classified documents at a Washington office of Biden's University of Pennsylvania-affiliated think tank as well as at his Wilmington, Delaware home.

After media outlets began reporting on the agents' presence in Rehoboth, Bauer stated that the search was undertaken with his client's “full support and cooperation” and had not been kept from the press but was done without prior notice due to internal Justice Department rules.

“Under DOJ's standard procedures, in the interests of operational security and integrity, it sought to do this work without advance public notice, and we agreed to cooperate, the president's lawyer explained.

Bauer added that agents were present at the property from roughly 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. and that no classified documents were found in the residence.

Notebooks seized

Even so, as Politico noted, the agents did not leave Rehoboth empty-handed, as there were certain materials and handwritten notes taken from the scene, though it remains unclear what their precise contents may have been.

NBC News reported in late January that notebooks belonging to the president were also seized during the FBI's search of the president's Wilmington mansion.

The outlet explained that the reason those materials were taken had to do with the fact that Biden's own notations on the pages make reference to official business he conducted while serving under former President Barack Obama, and because those musings include information about his diplomatic work as vice president, it is possible that they also make reference to classified information.

As such, the lack of formal classified markings on the notebooks themselves may be irrelevant, and the notes therein could assume that heightened security status simply because of the sensitive topics on which they touch.

Government property?

NBC News further noted that other notebook jottings found in Biden's possession may not contain or reference classified details but may still fall under the umbrella of federal government property pursuant to the Presidential Records Act simply because they relate to official vice-presidential business.

The Washington Examiner noted that if the aforementioned notebooks mixed writings about personal matters with those covering government matters, they could potentially retain their status as personal property, provided Biden did not share them with federal staffers while vice president.

But, if the writings had been shared with government employees, they would be considered official records, as explained by former National Archives litigation director Jason Baron.

Details about the number of notebooks seized by the FBI in the various searches of Biden properties remained unclear, but a source close to the probe told the Examiner that a large amount of material was involved.

Investigation continues

Since news of Biden's classified documents scandal began to break, there has been a growing chorus of complaints from journalists frustrated by the lack of timely and accurate information on the situation coming from the White House, but administration officials continue to dispute that characterization, as Politico notes.

“We have been pretty transparent from the beginning with providing information as it occurs throughout this process,” said White House counsel's office spokesperson Ian Sams.

Remarking on Biden's willingness to cooperate in the investigatory process, Sams added, “He believes in giving them the space to conduct a thorough review, and to conduct that review efficiently. That's why he's moving quickly to give them the access to his home in Wilmington, to give them access to his home in Rehoboth so they can do a full search, so they are able to get access to the information to move ahead in their review.”

Despite Bauer's seeming attempt to dismiss the newsworthiness of the Rehoboth search by pointing out the lack of classified document discoveries there, others – including Fox News' Jesse Watters – believe that the seizures of handwritten notes are indicative of a far deeper probe of something beyond the negligent handling of government materials. Whether that assessment proves to be an accurate one, only time will tell.