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No classified documents found in Justice Department search of Biden’s beach home

Bob Bauer, the president’s personal attorney, confirmed that authorities did not find any classified documents, but said they “took for further review some materials and handwritten notes”

Secret Service agents are seen in front of President Biden’s Rehoboth Beach, Del., home in 2021. (Shannon Mcnaught/AP)
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The Justice Department conducted a search Wednesday of President Biden’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., as part of its ongoing investigation of his retention of classified documents, but did not find any documents with classified markings, the president’s personal attorney said.

The 3½-hour search took place Wednesday morning “in coordination and cooperation with the President’s attorneys,” Bob Bauer, Biden’s personal attorney, said in a statement. In an earlier statement Wednesday, Bauer had announced that the search was taking place and “is a further step in a thorough and timely [Justice Department] process we will continue to fully support and facilitate.”

Biden’s lawyers said last month that they had discovered no classified documents at Biden’s Rehoboth Beach home after conducting their own search, and Bauer confirmed that authorities did not find any classified documents Wednesday. But Bauer said officials did take some documents from the home.

“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,” Bauer said.

Wednesday’s search was part of a fast-moving investigation that the Justice Department launched in November after Biden’s personal attorneys found documents with classified markings in a Washington think tank office that he used after serving as vice president. More classified material was found in subsequent searches of Biden’s Wilmington, Del., home.

After a recommendation from John R. Lausch, a U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump administration holdover, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Robert Hur as a special counsel to oversee the investigation. The Justice Department confirmed that Wednesday was Hur’s first day as special counsel. A department spokesman declined to comment further.

White House Counsel’s Office spokesman Ian Sams on Feb. 1 said President Biden was cooperating with the Justice Department’s classified document investigation. (Video: The Washington Post)

The department updated its website Wednesday morning to note that Hur is the special counsel leading the day-to-day operations of the Biden investigation.

The Justice Department’s search of Biden’s vacation home comes after the FBI spent nearly 13 hours searching the president’s Wilmington residence last month. Agents found additional classified documents, some of which date to his time in the U.S. Senate and others from his eight-year tenure as vice president, Bauer said in a statement after that search.

Biden’s lawyers have sought to downplay the probe, suggesting that a small number of documents were retained inadvertently, and the president has said he has “no regrets” about how the White House has handled the disclosure of the discovery of classified documents.

“I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there,” Biden said.

The Bidens purchased the $2.7 million, 4,800-square-foot Rehoboth Beach vacation house in June 2017, and they have spent many weekends there during the presidency. The president last stayed there the weekend of Jan. 21, just after the FBI searched his Wilmington residence.

The only other known location where Biden’s papers may be stored is at his alma mater, the University of Delaware. In 2012, Biden donated an extensive collection of papers from his 36-year career in the Senate. The collection filled 1,875 boxes and included 415 gigabytes of electronic records, including committee reports, drafts of legislation, and correspondence.

A university spokesman told The Washington Post on Jan. 11, after news broke about the first batch of classified documents being found at the Penn Biden Center, that the university had not been asked to do any searches of its collection. The spokesman, Peter Bothum, has not responded to repeated requests for comment in recent weeks, including after a search of Biden’s home found classified documents from his years in the Senate.

Hur’s investigation will proceed separately from a longer-running probe into the retention of classified documents at the Florida home of former president Donald Trump.

In November, Garland assigned veteran federal prosecutor Jack Smith to oversee day-to-day operations of the criminal probe of Trump’s handling of classified documents after leaving the White House; Smith is also managing aspects of the Justice Department’s investigation of the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that are most closely linked to Trump.

So far, there appear to be early distinctions between the Trump and Biden document investigations. The FBI eventually recovered more than 300 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club and residence in Florida, according to government court filings. It is less clear precisely how many documents have been discovered at Biden’s properties, and at what level of classification they were marked.

While Biden’s team says it has voluntarily returned the discovered materials to the government, Trump appears to have resisted government attempts to obtain official documents for months, including after a grand jury subpoena demanding the return of any material marked classified.

More on classified documents

Ongoing probes: The Justice Department currently has two separate criminal probes into classified documents found at President Biden’s and former president Donald Trump’s personal properties. Here’s an explanation of what classified documents are and the penalties for mishandling them.

When, how classified documents were found: A comprehensive look at when, where and how the two batches of classified documents were found in unauthorized locations in Biden’s former private office and his Wilmington, Del., home. Additionally,

How Trump, Biden cases compare: There are key differences between the discovery of classified documents at Biden’s home and former office and Donald Trump’s retention of hundreds of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida. Here’s our fact checker. Nonetheless, the furor over the classified documents could make it harder for Democrats to blast Trump.