Joe Biden

Press Gaggle by White House Spokesperson Ian Sams

February 01, 2023

White House Stakeout Location

2:05 P.M. EST

MR. SAMS: I think you guys have all received a statement from the President's personal attorney which laid out that, today, in a planned, consensual search with the Justice Department, they went through the Rehoboth Beach house, and no classified marked documents were found.

This is consistent, I think, with the President, from the very beginning, of having total cooperation with the Justice Department, as it goes through this ongoing investigation. And that will continue.

So, I'm happy to take some questions.


Q: You're disclosing this search, but you did not disclose that the FBI also searched the President's former private office here in Washington. Do the American people have a right to know about that?

MR. SAMS: Yeah, I think we've been pretty transparent from the very beginning with providing information as it occurs throughout this process.

You know, we have released probably thousands of words of statements from the President's personal attorney in the White House Counsel's Office about the process that has been undertaken here -- that process that has been fully coordinated with the Justice Department as they conduct an ongoing investigation.

And we want to be very careful to be respectful of the integrity of that ongoing investigation. And so -- and so, I that it's --

Q: But why didn't they disclose that search?

MR. SAMS: -- important to understand that as these things develop and as information develops throughout an investigation, we're trying to get you guys access to as much information as we can.

And with regards to that specific question, I don't have anything to add for you right now. I think it's probably more appropriate -- that question, specifically, about something that happened a few months ago -- be asked to the Justice Department.


Q: (Inaudible) one search and not the other.

MR. SAMS: Phil?

Q: Thanks, Ian. You guys consistently talk about full cooperation is going to continue going forward. Now that Robert Hur has started as special counsel, would that include the President's willingness to sit down for an interview should that be requested?

MR. SAMS: Thanks for the question. Look, I think that we're not going to get ahead of potential speculation and steps that could happen in the investigation.

The President has been fully cooperative, and he's directed his team to be fully cooperative. And that's because he believes in the independence of the Justice Department. He believes in giving them the space to conduct a thorough review and to conduct that review efficiently. That's why he's moving quickly to give them access to his home in Wilmington, to give access to his home in Rehoboth so they can do a full search so that they're able to get access to the information so that they can move ahead in their review.

So, we're not going to speculate about potential things that may happen in the future in this investigation, but we've been fully cooperative. The President has been fully cooperative. His lawyers are in direct discussions with the Justice Department. And that's going to continue.


Q: Ian, why did it take so long for a search of the Rehoboth Beach residence to occur? And who today from the White House, if anyone, was there?

MR. SAMS: That's a good question. So, we've been working directly with the Justice Department from the very beginning, as soon as the initial set of materials was discovered at the Penn Biden Center and it was reported to the Archives and the Archives notified the Justice Department about the finding.

And we've worked -- the President's personal attorneys, I should say, have worked closely with the Justice Department through this process and White House Counsel's Office as well. White House Counsel's Office was not present today to answer that question.

And -- and we've been following the Justice Department's lead and coordinating these searches with them. And so, you know, if you want to ask granular questions about the decision-making about the search or the timing or anything like that, I'd refer you to the Justice Department.

Q: A couple of questions -- a couple of which are pretty simple. Just to be very clear: Has the FBI conducted any searches of any other locations associated with the President that you or the White House is aware of?

MR. SAMS: Look, I think we're providing information as this goes on and answering questions about the search activities as they've been happening.

I don't want to speak too much to the DOJ's practices in an ongoing investigation.

I can say, you know, that we have cooperated fully. The President's personal attorneys have provided information to DOJ. We've addressed openly and directly the searches that were conducted first at the President's Wilmington residence and then today at the Rehoboth residence.

You saw in the statement that was released by the President's personal attorney, for example, that no documents with classified markings were found in Rehoboth today.

And so, you know, we're going to continue to try to provide information as this investigation goes on and ensure that you guys have the ability to share with the American people, sort of, the information that -- that is important for them to see as -- as the President is cooperating with this investigation.

So, I don't -- so, I want to be very careful to respect the integrity of that investigation, not speak too much to the Justice Department's decision-making and their activities.

But as it's appropriate, like we did today, if we have information to share about activities that have been conducted, we will do that.

Q: But just to be very clear about this, it's possible --

MR. SAMS: Go ahead.

Q: Let me -- let me follow up, just to -- if I can, very quickly. I'll -- I'll ask a separate question, and they can follow up on that. Did anyone at the White House at any point tell the National Archives in any form that they could not release a press release about the discovery of classified documents?

MR. SAMS: What do you -- what's that in reference to?

Q: There's reporting that came from the House Oversight Committee Chairman, James Comer, who says that in his conversations with the National Archives, they communicated that they were told -- the Archives was told it could not release a press release, at whatever point it was, about the discovery of classified documents. Did anyone at the White House tell them not to do that?

MR. SAMS: Yeah, I mean, I don't know anything about that. If that's actually what he said, it's probably better to ask the Archives if that's actually what was said and try to understand a little bit more what he meant.


Q: And just to --

Q: Ian, how (inaudible)?

Q: Ian, and my first question, you didn't say, though -- you couldn't say "yes" or "no" whether that --

MR. SAMS: Josh, go ahead.

Q: You just can't -- can you -- because it was "yes" or "no." Yes or no?

MR. SAMS: I gave an answer to that question.


Q: Can you say confidently whether you believe there are any more classified documents? Like, there were none found today. Do you think this closes the door on classified documents that will be discovered at residences or in the possession of the President?

MR. SAMS: Look, the Justice Department is engaged in an ongoing investigation -- an ongoing investigation, I should add, that the President has been fully cooperative in, offering unprecedented access to his home in Wilmington, to his home -- every single room of his home in Rehoboth, as well as the one in Wilmington, and giving them access to the information they need. He's moving quickly to get them the information that they need.

I'm going to be really careful not to characterize what the Justice Department is doing in their investigation. Probably more appropriate for a question like that to be asked of the Justice Department, so I would point you to them.


Q: Does the White House plan to comply with the House Oversight Committee's records request?

MR. SAMS: Can you say a little bit more about that?

Q: The House Oversight Committee has asked for communications regarding this. It's also asked to see the documents that were found. Do you plan to give those records to the House Oversight Committee?

MR. SAMS: So, yeah, we received a few letters from the House Oversight Committee in recent weeks. We actually gave them a response letter earlier in the week -- or, excuse me, last week, I should say, from the White House Counsel.

We're engaging in good faith with them. Have reached out to the committee staff to ensure that we are being responsive to these requests.

Obviously, when you're in an ongoing investigation like this with the Justice Department that you're fully cooperating with, you know, you want to protect the integrity of that investigation and take safeguard -- safeguard information from the investigation to protect, you know, the law enforcement, you know, decision-making, and things like that.

But we're in communication with the Oversight Committee. We're operating in good faith with legitimate oversight requests there.

Yeah, go ahead.

Q: Hey, Ian, to follow up on what Peter was asking: Are there any conversations with the Justice Department about searching these other areas that former Senator Biden, former Vice President Biden was working in after he left those elected offices? I'm talking about the University of Pennsylvania, anyplace there might be documents.

MR. SAMS: So, you know, the President's personal lawyers have addressed, sort of, the process of identifying, you know, locations where materials from the VP years could have been stored. They've been working in open consultation with the Department of Justice.

I'm not going to speak to, sort of, decision-making that the Justice Department is going to make about how to conduct their investigation. That certainly would be more appropriate to be asked of them, as opposed to us.

But, you know, we're being fully cooperative. We're offering up access to the President's personal homes. You know, we've been cooperative with the Justice Department, ensuring that they have access to these materials and handing any materials that are found over to the Justice Department, like initially was done with the National Archives.

So, we're going to continue to be cooperative with the Justice Department throughout this.


Q: On handwritten notes: Twice now, the FBI has taken what you described as "handwritten notes." Have they given any explanation to the President's lawyers or the White House why those notes are of interest? I assume they're not taking any -- every single handwritten note they come across in the house. What is it in particular about, both times, the handwritten notes that they've taken to examine further?

MR. SAMS: Well, I think you see today, in the statement that was released by the President's personal lawyers, in the statement that was released by the President's personal attorney after the search of the Wilmington house -- you know, I think that they believe that, you know, some of the materials that were seen and were taken, they appear to relate to his time as Vice President. I think that, you know, they want to make sure that the Justice Department has access to the information that they need to sift through materials as part of this ongoing investigation.

And so, you know, I'm not going to characterize too much of the underlying contents. But, you know, I think we've spoken to why certain materials may have been taken and what they could have related to.

Q: You said the search was planned. How long was it planned for? Were there any parameters for the search? You said they searched everything on the property.

And then, the other question: I mean, was there any reason to believe that anybody else in the Biden family would have also had access to these same documents?

MR. SAMS: Yeah, I'm not going to speak to sort of the negotiations or discussions or collaborations between the President's personal attorney and DOJ in establishing the search. We're cooperating fully with the Justice Department.

Q: So there were negotiations.

MR. SAMS: We're cooperating fully with the Justice Department and ensuring that they have access to the house -- the Rehoboth house today, the Wilmington house previously -- to be able to do a thorough search.

And it's because the President is moving quickly to get them access to the information that they need so that they can move forward with a thorough review that's thorough and that's done efficiently.


Q: I just want to follow up on the handwritten notes. Is the White House aware of what specific -- what they actually are and what they contain? You were saying they may say something about his time as Vice President, but what level of sensitivity might be contained in those handwritten notes?

MR. SAMS: It's a good question, and I'm just not going to be able to speak to the underlying contents of what the Justice Department may be looking at as part of their ongoing investigation.

But, look, I'll say again: You know, as they move forward with this investigation, the President, his attorneys, the White House, certainly, are going to be fully cooperative with that. We're following their lead to ensure that they have what they need in order to conduct a thorough review.

Q: Have they told you specifically what those documents


MR. SAMS: I'm not going to speak to the DOJ conversations.


Q: At this point, what is the total number of documents bearing classified markings that have been turned up as part of this investigation?

MR. SAMS: It's a good question. I think that that's probably a more appropriate question for the Justice Department. I don't want to characterize, sort of, what they're reviewing and how they're going through all that.

All right. Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.

2:15 P.M. EST

Joseph R. Biden, Press Gaggle by White House Spokesperson Ian Sams Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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