Biden’s notebooks among items seized by FBI in Delaware home search
Notebooks President Joe Biden wrote during his time as vice president are among the items the FBI seized from one of his Delaware homes during a search there last weekaccording to a person familiar with the investigation.
The notebooks were seized because Biden’s writings on some of the pages relate to his official business as vice president, including details of his diplomatic engagements during the Obama administration, and may refer to classified information, this person said. They said the notebooks do not have classified markings on them, but some of the handwritten notes inside could be considered as such given their sensitive content.
Other pages in the notebooks, while they may not contain potentially classified information, could still be considered government property under the Presidential Records Act because they relate to official business Biden conducted as vice president, a person familiar with the investigation said.
The notebooks contain a mix of handwritten notes from Biden on various topics, both personal and official, this person said. On some pages, Biden wrote things about his family or his life unrelated to public office, they said. On other pages, they said he wrote some of his experiences or thoughts as vice president at the time.
The number of notebooks Biden kept is large, according to the person familiar with the investigation, but they did not know the exact number.
When asked about the notebooks, a spokesman for Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, reiterated the position the president’s legal team has taken in previous statements about the Justice Department’s investigation into Biden possession of classified material from the Obama administration which were found at his residence in Wilmington, Delaware and an office in Washington, DC that he used after leaving the vice presidency.
“As noted in the statement released on January 14, consistent with our understanding of the requirements of our cooperation with the DOJ in this case, we will not comment on the accuracy of reports of this nature,” the spokesperson said.
The Ministry of Justice declined to comment. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bauer’s spokesman declined to comment Friday when asked whether Biden knew the notebooks were packed in boxes that left him at the end of the Obama administration, whether he has had access to them since he left the vice presidency, and whether he thought the notebooks were his personal property.
In a letter this week to former presidents and vice presidents, the National Archives asked their offices to search for any material in their possession that might relate to their time in office, including “to determine whether bodies of material previously believed to be of personal nature, may inadvertently contain presidential or vice presidential records subject [Presidential Records Act]whether classified or unclassified.”
The request followed a battle between former President Donald Trump and the Archives over his possession of classified documents after leaving office, which led to The FBI obtained a search warrant in August to retrieve them from his Mar-a-Lago estate; Biden aides’ discovery in November of classified documents from his time as vice president in his private office, as well subsequent discoveries; and earlier Vice President Mike Pence’s revelation that his aides had found classified documents at his home in Indiana this month.
Trump and Biden’s possession of classified documents is the subject of separate legal investigations. Attorney General Merrick Garland has not yet appointed a special counsel to investigate Pence’s handling of classified documents.
Biden’s possession of notebooks from his time as vice president that include notes on official business he conducted in that role raises questions about whether he properly followed procedures for preserving presidential records. It also raises questions about whether the notebooks are considered personal or official, and how other vice presidents and presidents who kept similar notebooks while in office have handled theirs.
Federal law allows presidents and vice presidents to write and when they leave office, keep diaries and notes of a “personal” nature, as long as they had not shared the material with anyone during their time in office. (Former President Ronald Reagan kept a handwritten diary during his eight years in the White House, keeping them in a dresser drawer and only his wife, Nancy, knowing they were there, according to Douglas Brinkley, the presidential historian who later edited and published the diaries.)
Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives, said that when it comes to notebooks containing handwritten notes about personal matters mixed with notes about government business, they would likely be considered personal property if Biden never shared those with any government employees during the vice presidency.
Baron said that applies whether Biden was writing a note to himself about buying his wife a birthday president or writing about a meeting with a foreign leader.
But if Biden shared the contents of the notebooks with staff while serving as vice president, the material would be considered official government records, Baron said.
“Handwritten personal notes of a former president or vice president are considered presidential records only if they were shared or communicated with other White House employees or federal agencies for use in government transactions,” Baron said. “A former president or vice president has the right to take personal notes out of the White House — they are not official records that come into the legal custody of the National Archives at the end of an administration.”
On January 20, the FBI spent more than 12 hours searching Biden’s home in Wilmington for any records from his eight years as vice president, including potentially classified material.
The following day, Bauer, the president’s personal lawyer, said in a statement that federal investigators had taken more than just documents with classified markings after gaining access to Biden’s “personal handwritten notes, files, papers, binders, memorabilia, two- to-do lists, schedules and reminders that go back decades.”
The Justice Department “took possession of materials it deemed relevant to its investigation, including six items consisting of classified documents and surrounding materials,” Bauer said in the statement. “The DOJ also personally took handwritten notes from the vice presidential years for further review.”
The revelations that Trump, Biden and Pence all possessed classified material after they left office have prompted calls for changes to the process for when presidents and vice presidents resign.
Norman Eisen, who worked as special counsel for ethics in former President Barack Obama’s White House, said he advocates for a closer review of a president’s and vice president’s papers before they leave office so that government documents are not packed away with their others. belongings.
Eisen outlined a hypothetical scenario where an outgoing president or aide wanted to package a medical bill that needed to be paid and was required to call the National Archives to have a staff member determine whether it is a personal or public record.
On Friday, Pence apologized for having classified documents in his possession and said he takes full responsibility for it.
Biden has said he was surprised to learn classified documents were found in his former office in November and has said “there’s nobody there” regarding the federal investigation. The White House counsel’s office has said the documents were inadvertently boxed up and taken after Biden left the vice presidency.
A person close to Biden said it is impossible to imagine him packing boxes himself when he left the vice presidency. That would have been the job of his staff, this person said, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak more freely.
“He doesn’t put anything in boxes,” this person said.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com