White House refuses to say if Biden would sit for interview with special counsel in classified records probe
The White House on Tuesday refused to say whether President Biden would sit for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Hur if asked as part of the investigation into his improper retention of classified records.
Classified records were found inside the Washington D.C. offices of the Penn Biden think tank on Nov. 2, 2022, but only disclosed to the public last week.
A second stash of classified documents were also found last week inside the garage of the president’s Wilmington, Delaware home, prompting Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint former U.S. Attorney Robert Hurt as special counsel to investigate the matter. Over the weekend, additional classified documents were found in the president’s home.
In a call with reporters Tuesday, White House officials maintained the president’s commitment to cooperating with the Justice Department and the special counsel’s investigation, but refused to answer when asked whether Biden would sit for an interview as part of that probe if asked.
‘We’re not going to get ahead of that and speculate what he may or may not ask for,’ White House Counsel’s Office spokesman Ian Sams said Tuesday. ‘I’m not going to comment on that and would refer you to the Justice Department on that process and their thinking on how to conduct their investigation.’
Sams maintained that the president ‘takes classified information seriously,’ and stressed that when classified documents were discovered in November, Biden ‘directed his team to ensure any materials be returned to the government.’
‘The president is committed to doing the responsible thing and handling this appropriately,’ Sams said. He said the White House and Biden’s legal team ‘acted promptly to disclose information to the proper authorities.’
Sams said the White House was limited in its ability to respond given the Justice Department’s review and the special counsel’s investigation, but vowed to continue to provide to the public ‘as much information as appropriate.’
When asked for the number of classified records found and for the contents of those records, Sams said he could not address that, as the records ‘have been turned over to proper authorities and will be part of the ongoing investigation.’
As for whether the White House feels it was necessary for Garland to appoint a special counsel to investigate the matter, given the Justice Department’s review and the president’s alleged cooperation with that review, Sams pointed to Biden’s commitment for an independent Justice Department.
‘This was a decision for the attorney general to make independently and we were made aware by his announcement that this was done,’ Sams said. ‘We are committed to fully cooperating with the special counsel.’
Sams added that the president ‘ran on’ the premise of ‘restoring strength of the Justice Department’ and ensuring that the attorney general could act independently of the White House.
‘The attorney general made this decision and the president’s team and lawyers are going to be fully cooperative throughout this investigation,’ Sams said.
On Nov. 18, Garland appointed former DOJ official Jack Smith as special counsel to investigate the issue of classified records being held at former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.
When he appointed Smith, Garland and top DOJ officials were simultaneously conducting an internal review of President Biden’s mishandling of classified records. That review, and the discovery of classified records at Biden’s office, was not disclosed to the public until last week.
Meanwhile, the White House has been fielding requests from Congress from House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and others, and has repeatedly slammed those GOP inquiries as ‘hypocritical.’
‘We intend to respond to Congress in good faith,’ Sams said, adding that the White House also
expects House Republicans to ‘use good faith.’
‘We’re going to call it out when we see rampant hypocrisy,’ Sams continued, noting that the White House will continue to review congressional requests. ‘But our commitment is to work in good faith with Congress.’