Democrats wasted no time defending President Biden after classified documents dating back to the Obama administration were found in his home garage and an office, pointing out “differences” from former President Trump’s handling of classified materials outside of Washington.
Under immense scrutiny from Republicans, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel Thursday to investigate the classified materials, which Biden claims were “inadvertently misplaced.”
The Justice Department escalated it to a special counsel investigation from a mere review after a second stash of classified documents was found inside the garage of Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home. The first documents were found inside the Washington offices of the Penn Biden Center think tank last year. Garland tapped Robert Hur, a former U.S. attorney, to handle the investigation.
In a statement Thursday evening first shared with Fox News Digital, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., attempted to highlight “big differences” in Biden’s handling of classified documents and those found during an FBI-executed raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida last summer.
“It is refreshing to see the Department of Justice restored from its politicization during the Trump years, and I applaud Attorney General Garland for acting swiftly in appointing a special counsel to investigate the Biden document discoveries,” Johnson said. “Based on what we know, there is a big difference between the Trump and Biden document cases.
“At first, Trump lied about their very existence, while his lawyers asserted that there were no more documents. When Trump finally admitted that he knowingly took and possessed the classified documents, he refused numerous requests to return them. He even failed to comply with a subpoena,” Johnson added. “Classified documents were actually seized from Trump’s own desk. Moreover, there is no documentation supporting any claim that any of the Trump documents were declassified.”
Johnson, insisting that Trump’s handling of classified materials is an “open-and-shut case,” said it’s “too early to reach any conclusions” about the way Biden handled classified documents.
“The Trump document case is an open-and-shut case and should proceed without delay to a final and just resolution,” he said. “There remains much we don’t know about the Biden document discoveries, and it’s too early to reach any conclusions. I am confident, however, that the process has begun to ensure that we get to the truth, and that justice will be done.”
Prior to his statement about it being too early to reach a conclusion about Biden’s handling of the documents, Johnson told Fox News’ Hillary Vaughn he is “suspicious of the timing” surrounding the revelation of classified materials at Biden’s residence and suggested they could have been “planted.”
“I’m also aware of the fact that things can be planted on people … things can be planted in places and then discovered conveniently,” he said. “That may be what has occurred here. I’m not ruling that out. But I’m open in terms of the investigation needs to be investigated.”
Despite Johnson speculating the documents could have been planted, Biden admitted to Fox News’ White House correspondent Peter Doocy that he knew they were in his garage.
“So the documents were in a locked garage?” Doocy asked.
“Yes, as well as my Corvette,” Biden answered.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., also pointed to Trump when asked about Biden’s possession of classified documents at his Delaware home, telling Fox News there are “contrasting factors” with how Biden and Trump handled the materials.
“There are, as far as I can see, enormous differences between the situation with President Biden and the former president,” he said. “Let’s not lose sight of the seriousness and the contrasting factors that we see with the case of the former president.”
Concluding that there is no apparent wrongdoing by Biden, Schiff said it “certainly appears” that Biden’s handling of the documents was “inadvertent.”
“Was this inadvertent? It certainly appears that it was. Was there any evidence of obstruction? There certainly appears to be no evidence of that. Was there any evidence of a breach of the security of the documents? I’ve seen no evidence of that either,” he said.
“I would just say that I think whenever classified documents are in a place they shouldn’t be, it’s a deep concern for those of us on the Intelligence Committee,” the California Democrat added.
Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who is also in support of Garland’s move to appoint a special counsel, insisted Biden’s handling of materials compared to Trump’s is “dramatically different.”
“In this instance, they are dramatically different,” Clyburn said during an appearance on MSNBC. “The intent on the part of the president is not there, the cooperation on the part of the president is there. The exact opposite to what you had with the parallel of former President Trump.”
Regarding the appointment of a special counsel investigation, Clyburn said, “This is the kind of thing that must be agreed upon by the public, and I don’t think you can get the public to agree about anything unless there’s complete openness.”
Other Democrats are also in support of the special counsel appointment, including Washington Democratic Reps. Adam Smith and Pramila Jayapal, both of whom refrained from mentioning Trump.
“I support the decision to appoint a special counsel,” Smith told Fox News. “Properly handling classified information is crucial to national security. Any time classified material is found where it is not supposed to be, the Justice Department must do a thorough investigation.”
Similarly, Jayapal, who serves as chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said it is “irresponsible to not disclose when you have documents” but concluded that the president is cooperating with the Justice Department.
“[Biden] has certainly done that. And he’s been working cooperatively to make sure that everything is disclosed. That is what should happen,” she added. “Yes, we certainly need to start understanding why these documents are making their way out of the White House.”
White House lawyers say they immediately contacted the DOJ when they discovered the documents this week. There has been no indication of what the documents contain or whether Biden or anyone else read them after he left office as vice president.
“Lawyers discovered among personal and political papers a small number of additional Obama-Biden administration records with classified markings. All but one of these documents were found in storage space in the president’s Wilmington residence garage,” White House lawyers wrote in a statement Thursday. “One document consisting of one page was discovered among stored materials in an adjacent room.”
The White House says no documents were found at Biden’s residence in Rehoboth Beach. Biden’s administration has also arranged to deliver the documents to DOJ custody.
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom and Greg Wehner contributed to this article.