Bloomberg Law
Jan. 12, 2023, 6:20 PM

Garland Names Special Counsel to Oversee Biden Documents Probe

Chris Strohm
Chris Strohm
Bloomberg News

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee an investigation into the handling of documents associated with President Joe Biden from his time as vice president.

“Under the special counsel regulation, it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel,” Garland said at a press conference Thursday in Washington.

Watch: AG Garland names a special counsel to oversee the Biden classified documents probe.
Source: Bloomberg

Garland named Robert Hur, former US attorney for Maryland, as special counsel, saying “I am confident that Mr. Hur will carry out his responsibility in an even-handed and urgent manner and in accordance with the highest traditions of this department.”

Garland signed an order Thursday authorizing the special counsel to include in the investigation “possible unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or other records discovered at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and the Wilmington, Delaware, private residence of President Joseph R. Biden Jr.”

Hur had a front-row seat to the Justice Department’s handling of the most significant special counsel investigation to unfold during former President Donald Trump’s time in office, serving from 2017 to 2018 as the principal associate deputy attorney general under then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – who appointed Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel overseeing the Russia probe.

After leaving Rosenstein’s office, Hur became the US attorney in Maryland – a post that Rosenstein had once held – where he served until 2021. He’d previously worked under Rosenstein as an assistant US attorney in Maryland from 2007 to 2014.

Since leaving the US attorney post he’s been a partner at the private law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

This adds to the special counsel Garland appointed in November to oversee the investigation as he did in the case of documents seized from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

Watch: Biden says more classified documents were found in the garage at his Delaware home.
Source: Bloomberg

Republicans have been calling for such an appointment after documents with classification markings were found in at least two locations that Biden used after he served as vice president and before he became president. Garland had already asked Chicago US Attorney John Lausch to review the situation. Lausch was appointed to his position by Trump.

On Monday, the White House confirmed that some classified documents were found at Biden’s think tank, the Penn Biden Center, an office he used after his vice presidency ended. On Thursday, the White House said Biden’s aides found another batch of classified documents from his time as vice president at his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Read More: Biden Says Not Like Documents Were ‘Sitting Out in the Street’

“We are fully cooperating with the National Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in possession of the Archives,” special White House counsel Richard Sauber said in a statement.

Biden and his allies have been confronting tough questions about the difference in the treatment of Trump, whose Florida home was raided in August after the FBI got a court to authorize a search warrant. Biden allies say the situations are different and say they immediately turned the records over to the National Archives after they were found.

LISTEN: June Grasso, Bloomberg Legal Analyst, discusses Attorney General Merrick Garland appointing a special counsel to oversee Biden documents. She spoke with host Ed Baxter on Bloomberg Radio.

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was the latest Republican to call for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether Biden mishandled classified documents.

“It’s not my place to second guess or try to put any kind of pressure on Merrick Garland,” Gonzales, who served under Republican President George W. Bush, said in an interview on CNN Thursday. “Based upon what I know, in the interest of justice, I think a special counsel is likely to be appointed.”

Garland and the Justice Department faced accusations of being hypocritical and inconsistent in applying the law because Special Counsel Jack Smith was appointed in November to investigate Trump’s handling of classified documents after he left office. Smith is also looking at Trump and his allies’ efforts to efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

‘Hurt the Country’

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told reporters Wednesday that “it will hurt the country” if a special counsel isn’t appointed for the Biden documents case.

“Garland, if you’re listening, if you thought it was necessary to appoint a special counsel regarding President Trump, then you need to do the exact same thing regarding President Biden when it comes to handling classified information,” Graham said.

There are several stark differences between the two cases, however. For example, Trump didn’t return his documents after being repeatedly asked by the National Archives to do so, forcing a months-long standoff that led to a subpoena and Federal Bureau of Investigation search of Florida resort. Trump has claimed he should be able to keep the materials and they are personal because he declassified them in his thoughts before he left office.

Biden told reporters this week he was surprised to learn that classified documents were found at a private office he previously used, indicating that he had no knowledge they were there. Biden’s lawyers said they also voluntarily and immediately contacted the National Archives to return the documents after they were found.

A special counsel’s appointment and operations are governed by a special set of federal regulations.

Although they’re not subject to day-to-day oversight by Garland or any other senior official, they can be disciplined or removed by the attorney general “for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause,” including violation of departmental policies. They have authority to make outside hires and detail current Justice Department employees.

The attorney general can overrule a special counsel’s decision to make a particular investigative or prosecutorial move, but they have to notify Congress if that happens.

--With assistance from Zoe Tillman and Anthony Lin.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Chris Strohm in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Angela Moon at

Elizabeth Wasserman, Steve Stroth

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