U.S. officials offer briefing to Congress
WASHINGTON >> U.S. officials have offered to brief congressional leaders on their investigation into the classified documents found at former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence as well as President Joe Biden’s Delaware home and former private office, people familiar with the matter said Sunday.
A briefing could come as soon as this week. But it may not meet demands from lawmakers who want to review the documents taken not just from Mar-a-lago but also from the locations belonging to Biden and the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence.
Six months after federal agents first conducted an unprecedented search of a former president’s home for classified documents, the White House faces bipartisan pressure to share what it found with lawmakers who say they are concerned about the potential damage to national security and intelligence sources. Separate special counsels are investigating the documents found in the possession of Trump and Biden.
Officials have declined to answer most questions in public or private about what they found, citing the ongoing criminal investigations and a separate “risk assessment” of the possible damage to intelligence sources.
Rep. Mike Turner, who heads the House Intelligence Committee, told NBC’S “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the administration notified him it would brief on the documents this week.
“This administration needs to understand we do have national security urgent matters,” said Turner, R-ohio. He also called on the White House to brief him on the Chinese balloon shot down Saturday.
“What’s interesting is that the moment this balloon became public, I got a notice not from the administration that I’m going to get a briefing on this balloon, but they have to rush to Congress now to talk to us about Donald Trump’s documents,” he said, adding that a discussion of Biden and Pence’s records was expected to be included.
Three people familiar with the matter confirmed a congressional briefing was offered to the “Gang of Eight” — the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate and of both intelligence committees. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
Any briefing is not expected
to include direct access to the documents that were seized, the people said.
Sens. Mark Warner, D-VA., and Marco Rubio, R-fla., the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked for that access in a letter last week to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.
The director of national intelligence’s office and Department of Justice both declined to comment Sunday.
The Justice Department says roughly 300 documents with classified markings, including at the topsecret level, have been recovered from Mar-a-lago after being taken there after Trump left the White House. Last August, FBI agents executed a search warrant at the property after developing evidence that led them to believe that Trump and his representatives had not returned all the classified files.
The material taken at that time included roughly 13,000 government documents, including about 100 bearing classification markings. Some of the material was so sensitive that Justice Department prosecutors and FBI counterintelligence investigators required additional security clearances to review them.
A special counsel, Jack Smith, is investigating whether to bring charges against Trump or anyone else related to the documents. Prosecutors have revealed that they are investigating possible violations of multiple criminal statutes, including willful retention of national defense information and obstruction. A grand jury in Washington has been hearing evidence and federal prosecutors have interviewed multiple Trump associates. It is not clear how much longer that investigation will last.
Trump has claimed that the materials were declassified and that he had the power to do so just by thinking about it, though his lawyers have not repeated that claim. They tried to have an independent arbiter conduct an outside review of the documents, though a federal appeals court late last year ended that work and said Trump’s team was not entitled to that assessment.
Biden’s lawyers say they contacted authorities after first discovering “a small number of documents with classified markings” on Nov. 2, 2022, in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. The documents were found as Biden’s attorneys were clearing out the offices.
A second batch of documents — again described by Biden’s lawyers as a “small number” — were found in a storage space in Biden’s garage near Wilmington, Delaware, along with six pages located in Biden’s personal library in his home.
FBI agents on Jan. 20 located six additional items that contained documents with classified markings and also took possession of some of Biden’s handwritten notes, according to Biden lawyer Bob Bauer. The FBI subsequently searched Biden’s vacation home in Delaware but found no classified documents, Bauer said afterward.