By Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Justice Department did not find documents with classified markings during a three-and-a-half hour search of President Joe Biden’s beach house in Rehoboth, Delaware, on Wednesday but did take some materials for further review, Biden’s attorney said.
The morning search by FBI agents appeared to represent an expansion of the probe into Biden’s handling of classified documents.
Materials were previously found at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and at a Washington office he used during the time between his service as vice president under Barack Obama and his presidential election.
Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, said in a statement that Wednesday’s search took place from 8:30 a.m. to noon in “coordination and cooperation with the president’s attorneys” and had been planned.
“No documents with classified markings were found,” Bauer said. “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.”
The search was conducted by the FBI, which is part of the Justice Department.
The issue has created a political headache for Biden, who is expected to announce a re-election campaign in the coming weeks or months. It has stripped him and fellow Democrats of a political weapon to use against former President Donald Trump, who also had classified documents found at his home.
Trump has said on social media, without providing evidence, that he declassified the records, though his attorneys have declined to repeat that assertion in court filings. He has launched his own re-election campaign and could face Biden in the 2024 general election.
Bauer said earlier on Wednesday that the Department of Justice chose to do the search without advance notice to the public.
“Under DOJ’s standard procedures, in the interests of operational security and integrity, it sought to do this work without advance public notice, and we agreed to cooperate,” he said. “The search today is a further step in a thorough and timely DOJ process we will continue to fully support and facilitate.”
The White House counsel’s office did not have representatives present at the search, White House spokesperson Ian Sams told reporters.
“We’ve been following the Justice Department’s lead and coordinating these searches with them,” Sams said, adding the department was given access to “every single room” of Biden’s home in Rehoboth “as well as the one in Wilmington.”
Classified documents have also been found in the home of Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, giving some political cover to Biden.
Biden has vowed to cooperate with the searches and Pence had said he takes responsibility for the found documents. Trump resisted efforts to return materials in his possession, prompting a FBI search of his Florida home and resort last year.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed two separate special counsels to review Trump and Biden’s handling of such documents.
Meanwhile, the National Archives has reportedly asked all former U.S. presidents and vice presidents to search their personal records for classified documents or other presidential material that should have been turned over when they left office.
It is unlawful to knowingly or willfully remove or retain classified material, although no current or former president or vice president has been charged with wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Daniel Wallis)