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Justice Department Finds More Classified Materials At President Biden's Wilmington Home; Search Of Biden's Home Conducted On Permission Of Biden's Legal Team. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 21, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Quote, "DOJ had full access to the president's home, including personally handwritten notes, files, papers, binders, memorability, to-do lists, schedules and reminders going back decades. DOJ took possession of materials it deemed within the scope of its inquiry, including six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials, some of which were from the president's service in the Senate and some of which were from his tenure as vice president. DOJ also took for further review personally handwritten notes from the vice presidential years."
Now both the personal attorney and the special counsel at the White House said that they are trying to comply with all facets of this investigation from the Justice Department, but this comes just one week after the White House had revealed that additional documents had been found at the Wilmington home just the previous week. There have now been three different times that are known so far where that Wilmington home has been searched for documents since they first learned of the classified documents that were found at the Penn Biden Center.
Now just on Thursday, President Biden responded to questions about this investigation when he was traveling out in California. He ultimately believes there is no "there" there. That that is what this investigation will show. He also said that he's been following the advice of his attorneys. And he was specifically asked if he had any regrets about the way that they've revealed and disclosed some of these classified document discoveries. And President Biden simply said no.
Now of course it's interesting to note that the White House and personal attorneys are releasing this statement late on a Saturday night. Of course, there have been a trickling out of revelations regarding these classified documents, something that at times the White House has been criticized for for not being fully transparent in the moment. But this evening, Bob Bauer, the personal attorney for President Biden, is saying that more classified documents were found at the Wilmington residence, done and searched by the Justice Department.
I will also note President Biden is currently here at his beach home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, spending the weekend with his wife. So we will see what more details we might get about these documents in the coming days. f
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And this is the fifth time, I'm told, that classified batches of documents have been found at the president's properties connected to Biden. So that is notable, too. And when you look through the statement, Paula Reid, I want to bring you in, it's notable that they say the -- I shouldn't say agents, we don't know if they were agents or DOJ officials, but it's notable that it talks about the fact that they took information, what they believe to be important for their investigation, including the sixth classified document. And then mentions these handwritten notes that they took when Biden was vice president. How might that be relevant to this investigation, Paula?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (via phone): They're probably going to look into what those notes were about, do they reveal any classified information from a briefing or something like that. I think you really hit on it, though, Pamela, that the Justice Department, here, they are conducting the investigation.
This is a shift because previously it had been the president's attorneys who are conducting these searches of his former office and his two homes in Delaware, and they had come under some scrutiny for using a personal attorney who did not have clearance to view classified information to go through and locate it, and then they'd have to bring in someone that had clearance.
So the fact that the Justice Department is doing this now, that's notable, because we know the U.S. attorney who did the initial review of this matter and eventually recommended a special counsel, he did not even ask for any searches and he did not conduct them himself. So now that this is under the purview of Special Counsel Robert Hur, it's interesting that the Justice Department is leading the way on this thorough search.
Now with this sixth additional what are described as materials, we don't know if these are pages or documents, in addition to the ones we've already learned about, it looks like we're getting closer to approximately 30 different documents with classified markings found in two different locations connected to the president, both a former office and his Wilmington home. And as Arlette noted, this is late on a Saturday that they're revealing this.
So they are at least coming forward with this information. It's not leaking out to the press. Another shift in their press strategy. And clearly they're emphasizing as they have throughout this their cooperation because they believe cooperation is what sets this case apart from the investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information by former President Trump at Mar-a-Lago.
BROWN: Right. And in fairness, I mean, this wrapped up late last night, this search by DOJ. And so, you know, clearly there is a lot that goes into releasing a statement like this of information in a DOJ investigation. No doubt there will be a stark look at this from Republicans, who have been drawing, you know, distinctions between the Biden investigation and the Trump investigation.
I was just interviewing a Republican, Mike Turner, on this show who pointed this out. But now DOJ has searched this home, taking more than around 13 hours to do so, Jeremy Diamond. And it comes on the heels of President Biden saying he had no regrets with these classified documents and the fact that they were at these properties, right?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, to be clear, I think the no regrets comment, he was specifically talking about not having disclosed that information sooner. But nonetheless, this is certainly a White House and a president who believes that ultimately they will be exonerated in this situation, that the president believes that this was inadvertent, that he was surprised that these documents were found.
But I do think just to kind of step back here and look at how remarkable this is that you have a Department of Justice officials searching the home of the current president of the United States. That in and of itself is a remarkable scene. Now, to be clear, this was done with the cooperation, the full cooperation of the president's attorneys. And they note in this statement from Bob Bauer that it was the attorneys who offered to provide prompt access to his home to allow DOJ to conduct this search.
But nonetheless, this is his home. I mean, he lives at the White House obviously during the week, but he frequently returns to this very same home in Wilmington on the weekends. And so to have his entire home searched by DOJ officials, and we're now learning that those were FBI officials who were conducting this search, is pretty remarkable.
BROWN: Yes. FBI agents. That's what I was wondering earlier, because typically the FBI, the investigative branch under DOJ would conduct searches like this, just as they did at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump. So that is notable that the FBI searched this property of Joe Biden for around 13 hours, finding at least six classified documents and they also took other information, according to this statement from the attorney, the personal attorney of President Biden.
Arlette Saenz, this has not been good for the White House politically. And this drip, drip, drip, this is yet another drip, as I pointed out earlier. The fifth time a batch of classified documents has been found at a property connected to Biden. What are your White House sources saying about this?
SAENZ: Well, this is something that the White House has been struggling with since these first revelations came to light just over -- almost two weeks ago. There has been a lot of criticism towards the White House about their inability to share the information about this promptly, but the arguments that they've been making is that they are limited in exactly what they can share.
Now one thing that's interesting in this statement from Bob Bauer, he does note that this -- as they worked with the Justice Department to conduct this investigation, that there was an agreement not to disclose the search of the Wilmington residence ahead of time, so that kind of speaks to the ways that they are trying to hew to what the Justice Department is trying to pursue and in their argument trying to protect the integrity of the investigation.
But certainly, this is something that the White House is continuing to face criticism from. Some allies perplexed by some of the strategy that they've had around this. Of course the president himself said that he doesn't have regrets about the way that they've decided to disclose this. And he says that he's been following the advice of his attorney. But certainly there are going to be more and more questions about this. And the drip, drip, drip nature of it is surely very complicated and frustrating for the White House.
BROWN: Certainly. And we should note that the initial stance from the White House is not to say anything because of the ongoing investigation. Obviously it was reported by CBS, broke the news of the initial batch. The White House acknowledged that, didn't acknowledge that a second batch had actually been found as well, then had to acknowledge that. And then there have been several more disclosures.
Paula Reid, if you're still there on the phone, as I pointed out earlier, and I just interviewed a Republican who was trying to say that Biden is being treated differently from Trump, and of course there are key distinctions between the two investigations including the fact that there was an obstruction investigation with Trump and they had evidence that classified documents had been moved.
But if you would, help our viewers better understand the parallels and the differences between what just happened here at the president's private residence and what we saw happen at Mar-a-Lago.
REID: The key differences between what we've seen with President Biden and this batch of approximately 30 different documents with classified markings up until now and what happened at Mar-a-Lago, you can see it in two important distinctions.
One is the volume of material. Right now we're at approximately 30 documents of President Biden, where with former President Trump it was approximately about hundreds of documents. And then the other key difference is cooperation. The Biden team has continuously tried to emphasize how from the moment those initial materials were discovered at his former office, they notified the Archives, they notified the Justice Department, and they've been cooperating and handing over anything else that they found.
They said, look, we volunteered to do additional searches, we turned over other materials that we found, and we've been cooperating with the Justice Department. With former President Trump and his team have not been so cooperative. And eventually Mar-a-Lago was searched with a search warrant because there was a belief the documents had been moved, which is part of why he's also under investigation for obstruction.
So the two key differences really are the volume of material and cooperation. But to the average person right now at home, probably not paying any attention to this right now, worried about the price of eggs, worried about, you know, getting daycare for their kids, it's going to be hard to really care too much about those distinctions.
So politically, this really is going to be a problem for the Biden team, for the Biden administration, because most voters are not going to draw a keen distinction, although I will say it's good that they are getting out in front of this new development and not letting it leak out through the press.
REID: But like you said, they said they're not going to comment, but here they're revealing it. As a journalist, I do hope they continue to be as transparent as possible as these things develop in the investigation.
BROWN: Absolutely, because we will find out. Journalists will find out as we did in the case of CBS first breaking this news.
And just from a legal perspective, because I know you have a legal background, too, Paula. The fact that more documents were found that doesn't necessarily mean legal trouble for President Biden, correct?
REID: It does not increase the legal risk here. And speaking to sources close to the investigation, there's no evidence at this point that there's sufficient evidence to charge anyone with mishandling classified information. It appears to, at this point, be inadvertent. But there's going to be an investigation. So far there's been a review that was pretty superficial. Now Special Counsel Robert Hur, he will conduct a full investigation. He will likely impanel a grand jury. He'll be able to conduct interviews, reinterview people who have already been spoken with.
Once you do that, the turning over rocks, you'll never know what you uncover, but right now I am told by someone who's pretty familiar with what was uncovered in the review that the legal risk here on a scale from one to 10 is about a two to a three. The greatest risk being that someone says something that they know not to be true to investigators. So the fact that they found more materials doesn't increase the legal exposure.
But it certainly is going to raise a lot of questions in the court of public opinion. The biggest one being how much more? Is this it? Because we know from our reporting that there are potentially other locations that could be searched.
BROWN: Right. You and Evan Perez reported that searches were going to happen and we have learned tonight that the FBI searched the president's private residence in Wilmington yesterday for around 13 hours and took items that it deemed within the scope of its inquiry, including six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials, including handwritten letters.
And again, just to take a step back for our viewers who may just be tuning in to understand what this means, Jeremy Diamond, the sitting president's private residence was just searched for classified documents. What is the precedent for this? I mean, this is a pretty extraordinary moment. DIAMOND: It certainly is. I can't point you to a precedent. I mean,
obviously even just seeing a former president's residence searched, that was, of course, under very different circumstances and that's important to note here, that, you know, when Mar-a-Lago was searched for classified documents by the FBI, that was done not with the former president's cooperation, but with a search warrant, and executing that search warrant after months of attempts to get that kind of cooperation that we are, frankly, largely seeing in this situation between President Biden and his personal attorneys and the Department of Justice.
And that is to say that, obviously, at every turn we have seen, while the public transparency has been less than ideal throughout this process, what we have seen from them is as soon as they find a document, notifying DOJ, and now they have gotten to the point where documents were found at the Penn Biden Center, the president's former office in Washington, D.C., at the Wilmington home, and documents found not once but twice there. And so now DOJ effectively taking over that search.
And I am -- I do want to highlight something that Bob Bauer said in his statement back on January 14th when he outlined the timeline of some of these discoveries.
And one of the things that they did note is that during that January 11th search of the Wilmington home, which was the second search by personal attorneys of that home where they did discover one document which ended up being five pages of documents with classified markings, they said in that statement that once the president's attorneys found that document, they, quote, "suspended their search of the specific space where it was located."
And now we're learning that the Department of Justice and the president's personal attorneys have essentially been working out an agreement for the Department of Justice to come in and search that home directly. Now it's not clear whether these six additional documents that have now been discovered, that were found yesterday, whether those were found in that exact same space, which is a question that I'm asking of the president's legal team.
But certainly there's an indication that that search was suspended once they found an additional classified document. And since then, now Department of Justice officials, FBI agents specifically, going into the president's home with the president's personal attorneys, and White House counsel officials monitoring that search, conducting a search of the entire home and taking back six documents containing classified markings, other materials that were surrounding it, and also some of the president's personal handwritten notes from his vice presidential years.
BROWN: And we've been talking about how the FBI agents were the ones that searched the president's private residence.
I want to bring in Andrew McCabe. Andrew, what sticks out to me, again, because parallels will be drawn,
right, between what's happening here, what happened with former President Trump, the president's personal attorney made it clear in his statement that this was all done through coordination, that they were made well aware of this in advance. They told DOJ they could come search the property. That is different than a search warrant and showing up and surprising the person at the house.
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Oh, very, very different. The end result is the same. Right, Pam? The FBI and DOJ attorneys participating get to go in and do the kind of search that the FBI and the department rely upon to be sure that there's no more material in any given location. So obviously they're able to do that here. But the way we got here, very, very, very different.
In this case, for whatever public relations or political missteps they have had, you have to give the president's team credit for at least being incredibly proactive and I would say proactively cooperative from the very beginning. And even last week when we heard that there were documents found in the Wilmington residence, you know, at that point I was suggesting in several appearances, and I think agreed, like that was the time to bring DOJ in, give them the opportunity with the bureau to say, hey, search wherever you want, look at everything you want to look at, and you tell us what you think maybe needs to go.
You know, put it on them. Get the president and his team out of the position of having to sign some sort of attestation that there are no more documents where everything has been done. Let the government do that search. And clearly that's what they were inclined to do and that's what they accomplished yesterday.
BROWN: As we know, there has also been classified information found at the Penn Biden Center. Do you expect the FBI to search that and other properties connected to Joe Biden?
MCCABE: Yes. I have no reason to believe that they would refrain from allowing the bureau to search any other location where documents might be present. That would be, again, the smart kind of very cooperative way to handle this. And that's the footing that they seem to have been on from the beginning.
Now let's compare that a little bit to what led to the search warrant in the Trump document situation. There, you had the National Archives reach out to the Trump team originally. So there was no proactive contact from Trump saying, I have these documents. It was the National Archives that reached out and said, hey, we think you might have materials that should have come to us.
Negotiations took place over months. Nothing was forthcoming. Finally, months later, they sent 15 boxes back to the Archives, but made the proactive decision to retain many, many more boxes and what we now know are many more classified documents. So from the very beginning it was a completely different tact. The Justice Department gets involved. They ask. They don't get anything. They have the infamous meeting down there where they were given some documents but not all of what was there. And then they had hard evidence that there were still documents on the
premises in the form of the video surveillance that they got from the Trump team. So at that point, they had probable cause to believe that there was evidence on the premises. And that's what gets you a search warrant.
BROWN: Right. There was an obstruction of justice investigation open at that point. And again we've been trying to emphasize that on this show, the clear difference there. And I'm wondering as I'm reading through the statement again from the president's personal attorney, it stands out to me that the attorney made a point to say there wasn't just six classified documents that were taken. Other materials were taken too that they believed was in the scope of its inquiry, including handwritten letters from when Joe Biden was vice president.
What would the significance of those other materials be in an investigation like this?
MCCABE: Well, let's remember that those -- you know, we're all very focused on the classified things. But there are many other records that constitute presidential records or executive records that are supposed to go to the National Archives when you're no longer in that position. And that would certainly account for President Biden's time as vice president. So it's certainly possible that other non- classified material that the agents came across during the scope of the search was taken to be evaluated to see if it qualifies as some of those executive records that have to be in the custody of the Archives rather than in the custody of the person who generated them.
You know, Pam, when I was acting director of the FBI for three months, everything I read during the day, every note that I took, every, you know, piece of intelligence that came across my desk, all of that went into a special box, was reviewed by the staff every day to determine which pieces of paper, which documents, what have you, had to go to the National Archives ultimately at the end of the time that I sat in that chair because the same rules apply for positions like Cabinet secretaries and of course the director of the FBI.
BROWN: All right. Andrew McCabe, thanks so much.
We're going to take a quick break and we'll be back right after.
BROWN: We are back with tonight's breaking news. Additional classified documents found at the Wilmington home of President Biden after an FBI search.
Arlette, bring us up to speed with this latest revelation from the president's personal attorney.
SAENZ: Yes, Pamela. President Biden's personal attorney Bob Bauer releasing a statement in just the last hour, saying that more documents -- materials bearing classified markings were found at President Biden's Wilmington, Delaware, home.
Now this was found during a search that was conducted by the Justice Department. And a source tells us our colleague Evan Perez that it was actually carried out by the FBI. This was all done in coordination and cooperation with President Biden's personal attorneys and the White House counsel's office. Both entities had people on hand during that search process.
Now, the Biden attorneys opened up the home to FBI officials, to the Department of Justice so that they could search the living, the working and the storage areas at that Wilmington home. As they were going through various documents tied to President Biden, they found an additional six materials bearing classified markings. They also took into their possession some other materials that were also on hand.
This is the fifth known instance where a search was conducted at that Wilmington residence and then also at the Penn Biden Center, where classified documents were turned up. Of course, it's important to know that this was a search that was conducted by the Justice Department. In the past, it had been President Biden's personal attorneys who had been on hand for those searches.
And just to kind of run you through what we know about the various classified documents that have been found, there was that first batch found on November 2nd at the Penn Biden think tank, that was the private office that President Biden used in the years after he left the Obama administration. There's also that December 20th search at the Wilmington, Delaware, home where more documents were turned up.
And then just last week, on January 11th, there was a search. And then the following day, January 12th, more materials were also found.
I will also note President Biden is currently spending the weekend here at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with his wife Jill Biden. That home has also previously been searched by only -- that we know so far by the personal attorneys.
Now, what the personal attorneys are trying to make clear is that they were doing this all in cooperation with the Justice Department. Now also note there was a previous statement that they have released just last Saturday where they have said, when the documents were found just a few days prior to that, that they stopped their search and notified the Justice Department.
The area around there was not further searched until the White House special counsel went up last Thursday to hand over and facilitate the transfer of documents to the Justice Department, at which point more documents were found.
Now, just on Thursday, President Biden did say that he believes ultimately these investigations will show there's no "there" there. He said that he's been following the advice of his attorneys throughout this process. They're trying to cooperate with the special counsel's investigation. He also responded to a question about whether he regrets the way that they've been disclosing the discovery of these classified documents.
The White House has come under a lot of criticism for not being more forthright and forthcoming with the information initially. And President Biden said he doesn't have regrets into that matter.
Now, the search of the Wilmington, Delaware, home with the Justice Department was conducted just yesterday. Bob Bauer said that it took about 13 hours as they sifted through the various rooms of the home. And then now, just the next day, close to 7:00 was when they announced the findings of this search of the Wilmington residence.
But certainly, this just adds to the drip, drip, drip nature that we've seen from this classified documents saga, which the White House has been grappling with for almost two weeks now.
BROWN: And I just was -- as I'm reading through this lawyerly statement from the President's personal attorney, clearly, they have to be very careful about what they say and the words they choose.
But they said there are six items consisting of documents with the classification marking. So that could be there are some more pages than six pages, right, that they were very clear to say six items consisting of documents, and then also it says, classified markings, I should say, and surrounding materials, some of which were from the President's service in the Senate.
Do we know though, and again, this is just coming out, so that's okay, if you don't know the answer, but if some of the classified markings, some of the documents with those markings came from his time in the Senate, or some of the additional material they took came from his time in the Senate?
SAENZ: No, we simply don't know the timeframe for a lot of these documents. I will note that when it comes to the documents that were found at the Penn Biden Center, we did have some reporting that they were from -- dated from the years that when President Biden was in the White House as Vice President, but we don't have any further detail about the documents that were found, materials that were found at the Wilmington residence. We don't have timeframes for that.
But certainly, President Biden has been in public office for quite some time, certainly more than three decades in the Senate, then his eight years in the White House with President Obama and then now as President for the past two years. So we will see whether we will learn more about these documents.
You know, they had been very tight lipped about what exactly these documents do entail about -- but that's all certainly things that the Special Counsel will be looking into as this investigation gets underway.
BROWN: All right, thanks, Arlette. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:35:00]
BROWN: And we are back with our breaking news that the FBI searched the private residence of President Joe Biden yesterday, on Friday for around 13 hours. This was with the consent of his private attorneys and the White House Counsel's Office according to the statement from the President's personal attorney.
And during that search, the statement says the FBI discovered six additional classified documents, six additional classified documents making the total around approximately 30 classified documents that have been found at various locations connected to Joe Biden.
The statement also says that the FBI took other materials, including handwritten letters from Joe Biden, also documents around the time he was a Senator to assist in this investigation.
So a lot to uncover here, a lot to discuss. I want to bring you in, Andrew McCabe. This is pretty extraordinary if we take a step back, the FBI searching the private residence of a sitting President.
Now again, we are told there was no search warrant. This was all with the consent. And the statement says that the President's personal legal team and the White House Counsel's Office was present there during that search, but it is a pretty remarkable development.
MCCABE: It's unbelievable.
I mean, I can't think of a time in history when we've ever been presented with quite this, you know, this fact pattern. It was unprecedented when the FBI had to execute a search warrant at a former President's residence. The reverberations of that action are still echoing today in a very significant and challenging way, I think, in popular culture.
And now, here we have it again. Here, the FBI is into the current President's home conducting a search in the way that FBI agents do, I'm sure, very thorough, documenting everything, taking photographs of the things they find and where they find those items, and doing it all under the watchful eyes of the President's personal attorneys, and the White House Counsel representatives, and that's entirely appropriate.
This is a consent search. They are not there on a search warrant. And so the terms of that search can be whatever the parties agreed to. But I can tell you that the FBI and the Department of Justice would not have gone in and done this -- agreed to do this search in any way that they thought might compromise their thoroughness or compromise the results.
So you can bet that they did a stem to stern job here.
BROWN: So just to be clear, for a consent search, it wouldn't be unusual for the private attorneys to be there as the search is being conducted, right?
MCCABE: It wouldn't. You know, consent searches happen very frequently often with the participation of the attorney of the person who is being searched present.
Typically, you don't want to have the actual person whose stuff is being searched present, because that can be, you know, an emotional and distracting kind of influence on the search itself, but having attorneys involved in a consent search is pretty standard.
BROWN: And we should note again, that President Joe Biden was at his home in Rehoboth Beach during the search, and we're told that that was not intentional that that is where he often spends his weekends.
But in terms of the legal analysis part of this, right, there's the political and the fact that it looks really bad that once again, the fifth time another batch of classified documents were taken from a property connected to the President that looks really bad and politically, could be damaging.
But legally, the fact that more classified documents were found, that's not necessarily going to create more issues legally. Right? It's more about what was in those documents. Right? And whether there was any intent to obstruct.
MCCABE: Yes, that's absolutely right. So first, this actually helps the President's team a bit because now they can conclusively say, hey, there is no more stuff here. The government experts came in, they looked under every rock for themselves and we are confident in saying there's nothing more.
So they can kind of hopefully stop this drip, drip, drip of constant updates. So that's helpful for them.
MCCABE: In terms of the amount of materials that have been seized, well, it is true in mishandling cases and in removal of classified cases, the amount of material can be relevant to the government's effort to prove intent. So if somebody has an astronomically large amount of classified material, let's say in their home, the government can make the argument that there is no way you didn't know it was there because it was all over the place, it was in plain sight.
That is clearly not the case here. These are 30 documents presumably squirreled away in boxes. We've heard some of them came out of a locked garage. So, it doesn't seem like that's the case here. So the volume I don't think is a big thing here.
BROWN: Well, and there has been around 30, approximately 30 classified documents, found at these properties and you mentioned, Andy, that the President's lawyers can say, look, the search has been done, they found what they found. But the reality remains, there are other properties that are attached to Joe Biden, including the property where the first batch was found at the Penn Biden Center and his Rehoboth Beach property, among other places, right, Paula Reid?
And so the searches could happen at those properties at another date, and potentially more documents could be found, right? Now, we don't know, but that is clearly a potential possibility. PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Absolutely. No one can say definitively that there will not be other searches of other locations and we are seeing here, we're seeing new searches of previously searched locations.
But the big difference here, and I think this really is a shift and indicative of how this will change under Special Counsel Robert Hur is that the Justice Department here is doing the search.
Now, yes, the Biden team granted permission. This was not done with a search warrant, but I'm curious who initiated this. We know Rob Hur's office is not fully up and running yet. Previously, the US attorney who conducted the initial review, he did not ask for any searches. The Biden team volunteered to do them. So, it's interesting to see this shift.
We have a much more thorough, it looks like search, that was done over the course of almost an entire day conducted by the FBI, though the Biden team was present. They came under a lot of scrutiny for how they personally conducted these initial searches, particularly the way that they used a personal attorney who didn't have proper clearance to evaluate the classified material to go and locate it, then stop, then wait for someone with clearance to come and then that person passed it up to the Justice Department.
There were a lot of questions about whether that was potentially creating additional witnesses, additional complications, but the fact that the Justice Department is doing this search, that is significant.
Now, Pamela, I will also tell you that I am hearing from Trump lawyers this evening getting a lot of --
BROWN: I am sure you are.
REID: Oh, yes, they have a lot to say about this. They are of course trying to argue that there is a double standard asking why he was able -- the President was just able to get permission for this search. But again, we know there were differences with Mar-a-Lago even though the former President called what happened there a "raid," even a Trump- appointed Federal Judge has corrected that and said, no, that was not a raid. There was a duly executed search warrant that was obtained after there was a belief that classified information was being moved around.
I've asked them if they want to put something on the record, put a statement, we'll see if they want to put out something, but they have a lot to say about this tonight.
And again, they're trying to argue there is a double standard. They don't want to highlight the differences in these cases. But as we've talked about earlier, Pamela, I mean, most voters aren't really going to see the nuance and the difference between these two cases.
BROWN: That's exactly right. I mean, politically, they can do that because people, you know, are just going to look at what they see and jump to conclusions and maybe not focus on the critical nuance here. That as you point out, there was an obstruction investigation with Donald Trump because the FBI developed evidence classified documents had been moved even after a Trump lawyer said all the classified documents had been turned over, but that is a really important context.
We're going to take a quick break, but we have much more on this breaking news. Stay with us.
BROWN: And we are back with tonight's breaking news: Additional classified documents found at the Wilmington home of President Biden after an FBI search, and we now have a statement from Richard Sauber, that Special Counsel to the President saying: "President Biden directed his personal lawyers to be fully cooperative with the Justice Department as part of its ongoing investigation. That has been the case since a small number of materials were initially discovered at the Penn Biden Center."
"His team voluntarily and promptly disclosed the initial discovery to the Archives and subsequent discoveries to DOJ as is the proper protocol since the beginning."
"The President has been committed to handling this responsibly because he takes this seriously."
Dana Bash, I want to bring you in.
It is clear that the President's attorneys are trying to emphasize that they have been transparent. They have been forthcoming. They have been working hand in glove with DOJ, being cooperative and letting them come to do, giving them the consent, we should say to do the search at the President's private home yesterday.
There is the legal aspect of this, but there is also the political aspect of this, the fifth time by our count, that a batch of classified documents has been discovered at a property connected to Biden. What are the political implications for President Biden on this -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): I mean, they are vast because, you know, we've all been using the term drip, drip, drip over the past couple of weeks and at a certain point, the drip, drip, drip causes a lot of water damage, and we are not sure if they're at the point right now, just politically speaking, but it's definitely not good.
BASH: I mean, we are looking at images of the President's home in Wilmington, Delaware where the DOJ, the FBI, I should say, was there. I mean, this is a sitting President and the FBI is there conducting a search. Yes, it was voluntary, meaning they didn't have to have a search warrant, according to as you just said, according to the President's counsel. Yes, they say they have been cooperating and the nuance is there, but it is very important. That is a very, very big difference with the Trump situation.
But we don't know, so many more things than we do know, at this point. We don't know why all of these documents continue to come out in different stages. And much more importantly, we don't know why and how they got there in the first place.
BROWN: And what was in the documents? You know, we know that some of them had top security clearance or top security markings, I should say. You know, there's still a lot of questions that remain Dana, but just big picture for our viewers, some who may just be tuning in right now. It is pretty extraordinary for a sitting President to have his private residence searched by the FBI for 13 hours.
Can you remember a time in history where something similar has ever happened like that?
BASH: Certainly, not in modern history, and not that we know of. Absolutely not.
Again, we should just underscore that these are classified documents that we believe -- we don't know -- but we believe are from his time as Vice President.
So from his time when he served for eight years, that went from 2009 to 2016. But the answer is no, and it is extraordinary. It underscores the sort of main question that you asked me, which is the politics of this, and the politics of it are all wrapped up in what Donald Trump did and what the people around him did with regard to taking classified information.
But more importantly, you know, sort of dragging their feet on giving it back and it being a very different situation, but the fact of the matter is that this classified information is in his personal home, was in his personal office, and there is definitely a level of frustration that CNN has reported on, our colleagues have reported on, I've certainly heard from Biden sources that the President himself feels, because he feels that he is following the rules right now and he is doing what he needs to be -- what he needs to do to right this wrong, which it is a wrong, you are not supposed to have classified information there.
BASH: But because there's a Special Counsel, and because they are following sort of the rules, they don't want to do anything that will appear to influence or change the investigation, and so that's why they're trying to stay quiet.
It's very difficult because we are talking politics, it is a very difficult political situation for the President, and so, it is understandable that he is frustrated. But it's also frustrating for, you know, for people who are looking at this and very confused about why this classified information was there in the first place, even though there is no indication that it was anything other than sloppiness, and not anything nefarious.
BROWN: And we should also note that you are right to point out, as far as we know, and there is a lot we don't know, but that these are documents from his time as Vice President, but also this statement from Biden's personal attorney that says that there were also materials recovered from his service in the Senate.
We do not know if those were classified documents, or if those were some of the additional materials that were taken as part of the search yesterday. We do know that some of the materials were taken that the FBI thought would be pertinent to the investigation.
But that is also something that is worth noting, and I'm already hearing from Republican sources who are trying to point out, you know, as you would expect, right, that there is some sort of double standard here, right, that, oh, the President's attorneys were there, the White House Counsel was there.
But again, that distinction of the fact this was given with consent. There was no indication that there was any obstruction of justice, which is different from the Trump situation where there was evidence according to the FBI and sources of obstruction.
BROWN: It's interesting, though, politically, when you look at Biden and how he has handled this. With Trump, he said that it was very irresponsible or something to that extent, and now all of this is happening, this drip, drip, drip and he was asked a couple of days ago whether he regrets not having disclosed this sooner. Let's listen to what he said and talk on the other end of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, the only -- I will answer the question, but here's the deal. You know, what quite frankly bugged me is that we have serious problem here we're talking about. We're talking about what's going on and the American people don't quite understand why you don't ask me questions about that.
We're fully cooperating and looking forward to getting this resolved quickly. I think you're going to find there's nothing there. I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me. They want me to do exactly what we're doing. There's no there, there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Is it true, though he has no regrets if he also, as you are reporting, others reporting suggests he has been frustrated by the way this has all gone down? BASH: Well, it's a good question. My understanding is his frustration is the fact that it's kind of -- it doesn't seem to have an end that these documents keep getting found, and that the frustration is that the attorneys around him, and the even the political people around him are saying, if you go further than you have in your statements, then it will look like you were trying to influence what is now a Special Counsel investigation, and it is that kind of thing that he, as a candidate promised he would never do. So that is the frustration.
And you could hear the frustration in his voice, right, when he said what he just said.
BASH: One of the many things that we don't know, many things that we don't know, Pam, is why was it that the first documents were found right before the election in November and we didn't know about it for weeks, months?
BASH: That's the big unknown that goes back to the very beginning of this whole situation for President Biden.
BROWN: Right. There was that and they cited CBS broke that story to remind our viewers, then the White House acknowledged it, but didn't acknowledge that a second batch had actually been found in December, and then acknowledge that later. There's a lot of questions. Now --
BASH: That was pre-Special Counsel. It is messy. It is very, very messy.
BROWN: And they said they didn't disclose it at first, because of the DOJ investigation. Now, they are releasing the statement -- you know, they have been releasing information, which we are very happy about. I think it is great that we are seeing transparency here to an extent we don't know what else is out there, but better this way than having a reporter break it, right?
But you know, the bottom line is, this was a search at the President's private residence. This is an extraordinary moment in American history. Six classified documents were taken from there along with other materials, and there's going to be most likely more searches at other properties connected to Biden, according to our reporting.
Dana, thank you so much.
We should note, tomorrow, Dana will have on Dick Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That is on "State of the Union" at 9:00 AM Eastern.
Still ahead, we're going to have more on this breaking news: Additional classified documents, as I just said, found at the Wilmington home of President Biden after an FBI search.
We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)