WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation searched a think tank founded by President Biden in mid-November after his aides discovered a small cache of classified documents there earlier that month, according to two people familiar with the situation.
It is not clear if the previously undisclosed search, which was done with the cooperation of Mr. Biden’s lawyers after the first batch was discovered, turned up any additional files dating from Mr. Biden’s eight years as vice president.
On Dec. 20, Mr. Biden’s team discovered a second trove of government documents intermingled with personal and political memorabilia at the president’s house in Delaware. The F.B.I. searched that residence in January at the invitation of Mr. Biden’s lawyers.
The White House and the Justice Department both declined to comment.
The F.B.I. search of the think tank, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, was reported earlier by CBS News.
The development was the latest in a series of piecemeal revelations about the Biden team’s discovery of government documents, and his aides’ interactions with federal law enforcement agencies investigating the matter.
Understand the Biden Documents Case
The discovery of classified documents from President Biden’s time as vice president has prompted a Justice Department investigation.
- In Washington: Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s appointment of a special counsel to investigate the situation drew a mixed reception from Republicans, who had hoped to spearhead the effort themselves.
- Biden’s Miscalculations: How has Mr. Biden handled the document discoveries, and why was the public in the dark for so long? Michael D. Shear, a White House correspondent for The Times, joined “The Daily” to discuss the ordeal.
- Implications for Trump Case: Despite the differences between them, the cases involving the president and his predecessor are similar enough that investigators may have a harder time prosecuting Mr. Trump criminally.
- Democrats’ Reaction: Mr. Biden is facing blowback from some members of his own party, as his allies express growing concern that the case could get in the way of the Democrats’ momentum coming out of the midterms.
Mr. Biden’s voluntary compliance with the Justice Department and the F.B.I. stands in stark contrast with the behavior of former President Donald J. Trump, who refused to turn over dozens of classified documents demanded by the National Archives and Record Administration for months. The Justice Department secured a search warrant that resulted in an F.B.I. search of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in August.
But White House officials and Mr. Biden’s lawyers have been reluctant to disclose details of the matter, resulting in a dribble of news reports and prompting congressional Republicans to attack the White House.
And significant questions remain about the incomplete timeline put out by both the Justice Department and Mr. Biden’s aides, including why the president’s lawyers took about six weeks to sift through boxes stored at his Delaware house for other documents.
Mr. Biden’s lawyers told the Justice Department in November that they had no reason to believe that copies of official records from his vice presidency had ended up anywhere beyond the think tank in Washington — and did not see any need to search other locations.
Robert K. Hur, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland as a special counsel to oversee the Biden investigation, began work this week, an official with knowledge of the situation said. Mr. Hur replaced John R. Lausch Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago, who initiated the investigation into the matter at Mr. Garland’s request.
Some of the political pressure on Mr. Biden has eased after the disclosure last week that a small number of classified documents had been found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s house in Indiana. Like Mr. Biden, he has cooperated with the archives and Justice Department.
But Republicans, who captured the House in November, have seized on the documents case as they call for wide-ranging investigations into Mr. Biden, his family and what they claim is the weaponization of the Justice Department under Mr. Garland.
Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican of Ohio who oversees the Judiciary Committee, has been pushing Mr. Garland to release key details of the Biden investigation, including correspondence related to the appointments of Mr. Lausch and Mr. Hur.
On Monday, the department pointedly rejected that request.
“Disclosures to Congress about active investigations risk jeopardizing those investigations and creating the appearance that Congress may be exerting improper political pressure or attempting to influence department decisions in certain cases,” wrote Carlos F. Uriarte, the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legislative Affairs. “Judgments about whether and how to pursue a matter are, and must remain, the exclusive responsibility of the department.”
Mr. Biden has modulated between sharply criticizing Mr. Trump’s cavalier treatment of documents and offering a more measured assessment of the logistical complexities of handling sensitive government papers, even before revelations about his own actions surfaced.
In August, shortly after the search of Mr. Trump’s resort at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Biden acknowledged that handling classified materials was a byproduct of a president’s frenetic schedule and the round-the-clock demands of the job.
“I’m taking home with me today, today’s P.D.B.,” he told reporters as he boarded a helicopter in the South Lawn of the White House, referring to the highly classified President’s Daily Brief, the intelligence summary prepared each morning.
Mr. Biden added that he considered taking documents home acceptable, “depending on the circumstance” but emphasized that he was careful to use a custom-built secure room in his house in Wilmington, Del., to review sensitive materials.