The Justice Department considered having FBI agents monitor a search by President Biden’s lawyers for classified documents at his homes but decided against it, both to avoid complicating later stages of the investigation and because Biden’s attorneys had quickly turned over a first batch and were cooperating.
After Biden’s lawyers discovered documents marked as classified dating from his term as vice president at an office he used at a Washington-based think tank, the Justice Department opened an inquiry into why and how they got there. Biden’s legal team prepared to search his other properties for any similar documents, and discussed with the Justice Department the prospect of having FBI agents present while Biden’s lawyers conducted the additional searches, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Instead, the two sides agreed that Biden’s personal attorneys would inspect the homes, notify the Justice Department as soon as they identified any other potentially classified records, and arrange for law-enforcement authorities to take them. Those deliberations shed new light on how the Biden team’s efforts to cooperate with investigators have helped it avoid more aggressive actions by law enforcement. The incident has drawn parallels to the discovery of a much larger number of documents at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, where federal agents obtained a search warrant after more than a year of negotiations between Trump’s lawyers, the National Archives and the Justice Department and after Trump’s lawyers said all documents had been returned. Trump’s supporters have accused the Justice Department of a double standard in treatment. One reason not to involve the FBI at an early stage: the Justice Department would preserve the ability to take a tougher line, including executing a future search warrant, if negotiations ever turned hostile.