The FBI’s unprecedented search of President Joe Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home is a high-stakes battle between the Justice Department and Biden’s attorneys over when and how the search was conducted, people familiar with the matter told CNN. results of the discussion.
Biden’s team stressed that they had been very cooperative ahead of Friday’s search, even expressing a desire to move forward with the investigation as soon as possible — and trying to put the matter behind them.
For its part, the Justice Department decided it would conduct the latest search — and any follow-up searches — after Biden’s team handled the earlier search itself. Federal investigators are also preparing to seek a search warrant if they do not obtain consent to search the Wilmington property, according to multiple sources.
However, according to law enforcement sources, the Justice Department has never raised the possibility of issuing an arrest warrant in recent discussions, although that possibility is imminent if Biden’s team does not cooperate.
“You want people to look at stuff and know what to look for. Lawyers don’t collect evidence — that’s the FBI. People who get that information have to get clearance,” a source familiar with the investigation told CNN, referring to It was the previous search by Biden’s lawyers.
Eventually, an agreement was reached that allowed the FBI to conduct the search, and investigators spent nearly 13 hours combing through all the working, living and storage spaces. They found six items related to the investigation, including documents marked as classified and materials from Biden’s time in the Senate.
The president’s personal attorney, Bob Ball, said in a statement over the weekend that the White House and his legal team supported the FBI’s search, saying they were “willing to provide expedited access to his home to allow the Justice Department to gain access to the entire property.” on potential Vice Presidential records and potentially classified material.”
The FBI search of the sitting president’s residence represents an escalation in a two-month investigation that is transitioning from an initial review by U.S. attorneys in Chicago to a full-scale criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Hull. Additional searches by the Biden team or the Justice Department are still possible.
The behind-the-scenes discussions ahead of the search — in which the president emphasized cooperation and the Justice Department’s insistence on equal treatment of those under investigation — could be instructive, as federal investigators include former Vice President Mike Pence on a list of former White House occupants alongside former President Donald Trump They have also come under scrutiny for their handling of classified material, in addition to the investigation by Trump’s special counsel.
White House officials continue to distinguish between Biden’s cooperation with authorities — including willingness to allow the FBI to search Biden’s home — and Trump’s lack of cooperation that led to the FBI obtaining a warrant to search his Mar-a-Lago estate last year. In Trump The search came after the FBI obtained surveillance video that showed a worker moving boxes as investigators looked into possible obstruction of justice.
At the same time, the Justice Department has gone to great lengths to avoid the perception that it is treating the Biden dossier case differently from the Trump Mar-a-Lago investigation. Friday’s search eliminated a glaring discrepancy pointed out by Trump supporters: Law enforcement only searched Trump’s property.
Attorney General Merrick Garland defended the Justice Department’s approach to the Biden-Trump matchup investigation, telling reporters Monday that the department followed longstanding norms and practices on both issues .
“Among other things, it means we don’t have different rules for Democrats or Republicans, we don’t have different rules for the strong and the weak, we don’t have different rules for the rich or the poor,” Garland said when asked about the The Justice Department has become easier to criticize when it comes to Biden. “We apply the facts and the law in each case in a neutral, nonpartisan manner. That’s what we’ve always done, and that’s what we’ve done with what you’re referring to.”
The Biden document saga began in early November, when Biden’s personal lawyers discovered classified documents while packing up his former think tank office in Washington, D.C. They notified the National Archives, which notified the Justice Department.
The Justice Department’s national security division sent a letter to Biden’s legal team on Nov. 10 outlining the specific process and protocols the Justice Department wanted the Biden team to follow, a person familiar with the matter said.
While no more classified material is expected to be discovered, the Biden team notified the Justice Department that if more material is found, they will immediately engage with the Justice Department on follow-up procedures, the sources said.
It took more than six weeks for the president’s personal attorneys to first search Wilmington’s home in December after they first spotted it at the Biden Center in Pennsylvania, and three more weeks before they searched his house. Home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Sources familiar with the investigation said Biden’s legal team did not notify the Justice Department that they had begun searching Biden’s home until attorneys discovered classified documents in his Wilmington garage. While such notification is not required, the lack of advance notice has angered some judicial officials.
Justice officials are also concerned about the piecemeal way the White House releases information to the public, sources told CNN. For example, when news broke that documents had been found at the Biden Center in Pennsylvania, the White House did not release classified documents that were also found in Wilmington.
The White House insisted that the Biden team’s search was coordinated with the Justice Department. Biden’s team also made it clear that when they do find classified documents, they suspend the search and notify judicial officials.
Garland, who had been kept informed of ongoing discussions between Biden’s attorneys and U.S. Attorney John Rausch, was handling the investigation until Hull took the helm, and was informed of the FBI’s plans to conduct a search on Friday.
On Monday, Garland defended the Justice Department’s approach to the document’s investigation. Since Watergate, “the department has a set of norms and practices that have become part of our DNA,” Garland said. “These are critical as we continue to ensure compliance with the rule of law.”