No classified documents found in FBI search of Biden's beach house

The U.S. Justice Department did not find documents with classified markings during a three-and-a-half hour search of President Joe Biden's beach house in Rehoboth, Dela., on Wednesday.

Latest search in widening probe of potential mishandling of sensitive material

A man in a blue suit and coat waves at the camera.
U.S. President Joe Biden leaves the White House on Monday. A search of his Delaware beach house on Wednesday by the FBI turned up no documents with classified markings. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The U.S. Justice Department did not find documents with classified markings during a three-and-a-half hour search of President Joe Biden's beach house in Rehoboth, Del., on Wednesday.

But Biden's attorney says investigators did take some materials for further review.

The morning search by FBI agents appeared to represent an expansion of the probe into Biden's handling of classified documents.

Materials were previously found after a 13-hour search on Jan. 20 at his home in Wilmington, Dela., and at a Washington office he used during the time between his service as vice-president under Barack Obama and his presidential election.

Biden's personal attorney, Bob Bauer, said in a statement that Wednesday's search took place from 8:30 a.m. ET to noon in "coordination and cooperation with the president's attorneys" and had been planned.

"No documents with classified markings were found," Bauer said. "Consistent with the process in Wilmington, the DOJ took for further review some materials and handwritten notes that appear to relate to his time as Vice President."

The stone facade of a building, with the etched words 'The United States of America.'
The National Archives building is seen in Washington. The Archives recently sent a letter to all former presidents and vice-presidents dating back to the Reagan era to ask them to look again for any classified documents they may have. (J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

Political headache 

The issue has created a political headache for Biden, who is expected to announce a re-election campaign in the coming weeks or months.

It has stripped him and fellow Democrats of a weapon against former president Donald Trump, who also had classified documents found at his home.

Trump has launched his own re-election campaign and could face Biden in the 2024 general election.

A man in a suit gestures while speaking into a hand-held microphone.
Former U.S. vice-president Mike Pence speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, on Oct. 19, 2022. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Bauer said earlier on Wednesday that the Department of Justice chose to do the search without advance notice to the public.

"Under DOJ's standard procedures, in the interests of operational security and integrity, it sought to do this work without advance public notice, and we agreed to co-operate," he said.

Classified documents have also been found in the home of Trump's former vice-president, Mike Pence, giving some political cover to Biden.

2 special counsels

Biden has vowed to co-operate with the searches and Pence had said he takes responsibility for the found documents. Trump resisted efforts to return materials in his possession, prompting a FBI search of his Florida home and resort last year.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed two separate special counsels to review Trump and Biden's handling of such documents.

Meanwhile, the National Archives has reportedly asked all former U.S. presidents and vice-presidents to search their personal records for classified documents or other presidential material that should have been turned over when they left office.

It is unlawful to knowingly or willfully remove or retain classified material, although no current or former president or vice-president has been charged with wrongdoing.

The Archives sent a letter to representatives of former presidents and vice-presidents extending back to Ronald Reagan to ensure compliance with the Presidential Records Act, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press.

The act states that any records created or received by the president are the property of the U.S. government and will be managed by the Archives at the end of an administration.

Biden's lawyers came across classified documents from his time as vice-president in a locked cabinet as they were packing up an office he no longer uses in November 2022.

Since then, subsequent searches by the FBI and Biden's lawyers have turned up more documents.

With files from The Associated Press