United States President Joe Biden is expected to face investigation over his handling of classified documents as Attorney-General Merrick Garland named an independent prosecutor over the matter on Thursday.
The decision was reached after an outcry over secret papers discovered at Biden’s former office exploded with the discovery of a second batch.
According to Reuters, the new discovery – like the original, from his time as vice president – was uncovered in the garage of his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where he often spends weekends.
The White House said Garland announced that Robert Hur, an appointee of Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, would be empowered to probe whether the cache violated any law.
“Under the regulations, the extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special counsel,” Garland said.
The appointment came hours after the White House acknowledged the second batch of papers but did not address their contents – supercharging a scandal over a first set found at a Washington think tank where Biden had an office.
Republicans in Congress, who have been accusing the White House of a cover-up over the affair, quickly announced their own scrutiny to run independently of the criminal probe.
The discoveries have triggered comparisons to the special counsel investigation of Trump’s hoarding of hundreds of classified materials at his Florida beachfront home and his alleged obstruction of government efforts to get them back.
“I take classified documents and classified material seriously. We’re cooperating fully (and) completely with the Justice Department’s review,” Biden told reporters.
“As part of that process, my lawyers reviewed other places where documents from my time as vice president were stored, and they finished the review last night.”
Biden said a “small number” of documents with classified markings had been found in storage areas and his library and that the Justice Department was notified immediately.
Biden declined to take shouted questions from the press, but a White House lawyer said later the documents had been “inadvertently misplaced.”
Hur is a former assistant US attorney who worked in the DOJ from 2007 to 2014 and returned to public service under Trump as the principal associate deputy attorney general.
He promised a swift investigation and pledged to be “fair, impartial and dispassionate.”