U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday he “has no regrets” about not disclosing earlier that classified documents were found in his private office in November.
“We are fully cooperating and look forward to resolving this issue as quickly as possible,” Biden said after comments on California’s ongoing recovery efforts following recent storms. “I think you’ll find there’s nothing there. I have no regrets. I’m following what the lawyers told me they wanted me to do — that’s exactly what we’re doing. There’s nothing there, there’s nothing there.”
The comments were Biden’s first public comments in a week about classified documents found in his private office in Washington, D.C., and his home in Wilmington, Delaware. The president’s comments mirrored what his White House has said publicly and privately — rather than delving into the specifics of the case and promising full cooperation, the political implications of the investigation were largely downplayed, according to Biden and his inner circle. This is another storm that is about to pass.
Special counsel Robert Hull is investigating how the president and his team handled classified Obama-era documents recently discovered on Biden’s private estate. The first documents were discovered on Nov. 2, but were not publicly disclosed until last week, when CBS first reported their existence.
Other documents have since been found at Biden’s Wilmington home.
It’s an issue that has frustrated Biden behind closed doors, a feeling that spilled into the public eye on Thursday. Before answering a reporter’s question on the matter, the president vented about the questions that have dogged him for the past two weeks.
“You know what, frankly, it bothers me that we’re talking about a serious problem,” Biden said of the damage from the storm. “We’re talking about what’s going on, and the American people don’t quite understand why you’re not asking me about it. But having said that, what’s your problem?”
Biden has weathered relentless storms in California that have turned communities into lakes, crippled highways and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands across the state.
At least 20 people died in the storm, the governor said. Gavin Newsom’s office said Monday.
Biden amended California’s disaster declaration Thursday morning to account for 100% of federal costs related to response and recovery. The previous statement signed on Saturday accounted for 75 percent of the cost.
The last time Biden spoke publicly about the classified documents was after his economic speech last week. His comments came after the White House counsel’s office said in a statement that aides to Biden had located documents marked classified in two locations in his Wilmington home. The documents were located in the storage area of Biden’s garage and adjacent rooms, the statement read. Biden often spends weekends at his home, which is located in a rich, wooded enclave by the lake.
Biden said at the time the documents were in a “locked garage.”
“It’s not like they’re sitting on the street,” he insisted when asked by a reporter why he kept classified material next to the sports car.
The president said he would “have an opportunity to speak on all of this, God forbid, very soon.”
However, the White House has largely locked down public communications about the investigation, following the advice of the White House Counsel’s Office and the Justice Department.
CNN reported earlier this week that White House officials would no longer make it clear that no other documents would be found. A clear statement that the document search has been completed has been pared back, in part by acknowledging that the special counsel’s team will likely do more work on its own.
White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday that Biden had “confidence” in his team, and she continued to avoid answering questions about the matter, citing ongoing investigations. A series of unanswered questions.
“The president and his team did the right thing when they learned the documents existed, they contacted the files, they contacted the Justice Department.”
This story has been updated with additional reporting.