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In Mexico, Biden dodges questions on discovery of classified documents

(MEXICO CITY) — One day after President Joe Biden’s special counsel confirmed classified documents were discovered in Biden’s former personal office, the president had yet to directly address a key question: Did he knowingly mishandle classified material?

Meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Tuesday morning in Mexico City, Biden ignored reporters’ efforts to shout versions of that question, instead focusing on his goals for the North America Leaders’ Summit.

The Justice Department is currently looking into the matter, scrutinizing the set of documents, which were discovered in early November at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Biden Center in Washington. Biden worked there in the years following his vice presidency. The existence of the documents was first reported Monday by CBS News, and confirmed by ABC News.

While Biden has yet to comment on the politically explosive matter, he has not been shy to criticize former President Donald Trump’s mishandling of classified information, after the FBI raided Trump’s personal office at the Mar-A-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, in August.

“How that could possibly happen? How one — anyone could be that irresponsible? And I thought, what data was in there that may compromise sources and methods? By that I mean names of people who helped or th– et cetera. And it just — totally irresponsible,” Biden said in an interview on the CBS News program “60 Minutes” in September.

In August, when asked whether it is ever appropriate to take classified documents home, away from the White House, Biden told reporters, “it depends.”

“Depending on the circumstance. For example, I have in my home a, a cabined-off space that is completely secure. I’m taking home with me today, today’s PDB (President’s Daily Brief). It’s locked, I have a person with me, military with me. I read it, I lock it back up, and give it to the military,” Biden said, when asked if it was ever appropriate to take home classified documents.

When pressed whether it would be appropriate to do without a specialized, secured area, Biden once again said, “it depends.”

“Depends on the document and it depends on how secure the room,” Biden said.

According to a statement from Richard Sauber, President Biden’s special counsel, the White House is fully cooperating with the National Archives and the Department of Justice in this matter. The statement claims the documents were immediately handed over for review upon discovery by the president’s personal attorneys, who were packing files in order to vacate the office.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has tasked a Trump appointee, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch, to look into the handling of the documents.

Former President Trump reacted to the discovery of the Biden documents Monday evening on his Truth Social account.

“When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House? These documents were definitely not declassified,” Trump claimed.

On Capitol Hill Tuesday, newly-empowered House Republicans were quick to call for investigation. Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, the top Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, asked Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to carry out “an immediate review and damage assessment” pertaining to the storage of the documents.

Other Republicans drew a comparison between the Biden documents, and the ongoing legal fight over the classified documents discovered at Trump’s personal office.

“It’s unprecedented to raid the residence of a former president for something that every president, including the current president, has done accidentally — I’m gonna assume accidentally – pack documents that may be classified,” Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told ABC News.

“If then Vice President Biden took classified documents with him and held them for years, and criticized former President Trump during the same time that he had those classified documents … I wonder why the press isn’t asking the same questions of him,” Majority Whip Steve Scalise said.

Some Democrats are also expressing concern.

“Obviously if there are classified documents anywhere they shouldn’t be, that’s a problem and a deep concern,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

ABC News’s Katherine Faulders, Will Steakin, Lauren Peller and Gabe Ferris contributed to this report.

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