Biden Says He Has ‘No Regrets’ on Disclosure of Documents Case

REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. President Joe Biden walks after getting off Marine One to board Air Force One, after surveying storm-damaged areas of California’s central coast, in Moffett Federal Airfield, Santa Clara County, California, U.S., January 19, 2023.

APTOS, Calif. – President Joe Biden said Thursday he had “no regrets” on White House handling of the disclosure that classified documents were found at a private office in Washington and at his Delaware home, pledging cooperation with the Justice Department and expressing confidence that the matter would be resolved.

“I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there,” he said in his fullest comments since last week amid new developments including the appointment of a special counsel in the matter.

“I have no regrets in following what the lawyers have told me what they want me to do – it’s exactly what we’re doing,” he added. “There’s no there there.” Biden made the remarks after touring flood damage here, meeting with small business owners and seeing several affected sites – and initially expressed annoyance with the question.

“I’ll answer your question but here’s the deal. You know, what quite frankly bugs me is that we have a serious problem here we’re talking about, talking about what’s going on,” he said. “And the American people don’t quite understand why you don’t ask me questions about that.”

He told a staffer to hang on while he answered.

“Look, as we found a handful of documents that were filed in the wrong place, we immediately turned them over to the Archives and the Justice Department,” he continued. “We are fully cooperating and looking forward to getting this resolved quickly.”

Biden’s comments in California came a week after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel – Robert K. Hur, a senior official at the Justice Department during the Trump administration – to lead Justice’s investigation into the matter.

The first set of classified documents were found at his post-vice presidential office in November by one of Biden’s personal attorneys, Pat Moore, while Moore was cleaning out the office and were turned over to the National Archives.

Another set of classified material was found at Biden’s Wilmington, Del., home in late December, but neither discovery was made public until earlier this month. Another third set of documents was found at the Delaware home last week – a place that the White House confirmed Monday does not keep visitor logs.

Biden has said relatively little as documents have been discovered in recent weeks at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, then at his Wilmington house and garage. The discoveries have prompted a political tempest, the appointment of a special counsel, criticism from Republicans and scrutiny from the House Oversight Committee.

His allies say that despite the uproar, Biden is limited in what he can say because of the investigation underway by Hur.

On Jan. 10, Biden said he was “surprised to learn” about the documents at the Penn Biden Center. He added, “We’re cooperating fully – cooperating fully with the review, which I hope will be finished soon, and there will be more detail at that time.”

The president’s supporters argue that Biden’s situation is nothing like the allegations facing former president Donald Trump and his own handling of classified papers.

While the Biden documents were inadvertently mishandled and quickly returned, they say, Trump has refused to return sensitive material he took from the White House – at one point suggesting he had declassified them mentally – and has spoken defiantly of investigators.

Still, the flap surrounding Biden comes at an inopportune moment for him. The president is expected to announced in coming weeks that he is seeking reelection, and he had been on something of a political upswing as House Republicans struggled to name a speaker.

But in recent days, the White House has had to contend with numerous questions surrounding the classified document discoveries and has often been unable to answer them fully.

The Washington Post reported this week that some of Biden’s top officials had been kept in the dark about the documents’ discovery before it was made public. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, pressed repeatedly about the documents by reporters, struggled to provide clear-cut answers.

“There’s no way for me to talk about the documents if he has said he doesn’t know what’s in them,” Jean-Pierre said. “And we’re just going to allow the process to continue.”

The same day, Jean-Pierre was asked if she could provide assurances that no more classified documents would be found, and she declined to answer.