On Wednesday, reporters hounded White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to answer questions, after a batch of classified documents were found in the Penn Biden Center, a Washington, D.C., office space of President Biden’s former institute.
Reporters pushed Jean-Pierre on why the public is only just learning about the documents this week in spite of the fact that they were found on Nov. 2, 2022, six days before the midterm elections.
“That’s more than two months later,” one reporter said of the news. “Why was the public not informed while the White House prepared a PR response for two months?”
Jean-Pierre ignored the question, stating only that Biden’s lawyers, after discovering the documents, alerted the White House counsel’s office, which notified the National Archives and Records Administration, which took custody of the documents on Nov. 3, the very next day.
“They did the right thing by turning over the documents to the archives,” Jean-Pierre said. “That’s what they did. Once they realized that they had them and they were there.”
When asked if the White House would consider the handling of the documents a “mistake,” Jean-Pierre vaguely replied, saying that “this is an ongoing process.”
Another reporter asked for clarification on how the documents got from the White House to Biden’s office to which the press secretary replied that it was “under review.”
At another point, Jean-Pierre appeared to suggest that she had not discussed the matter with the president whatsoever, later clarifying: “We talked about the revelation of the documents, obviously, but about the documents itself, that is something that the president doesn’t even know. And I’m going to leave it there.”
Jean-Pierre got into a brief exchange with CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe, who recalled Biden’s pledge shortly after inauguration that he would make mistakes and would sometimes need to be corrected.
“So, you’re the one here talking to us about this. That’s why we’re asking. So, let’s just remember that,” O’Keefe said.
“Ed … we don’t need to have this. We work very well together. We don’t need to have this kind of confrontation,” Jean-Pierre shot back.
Later on, Fox News’ White House correspondent Peter Doocy turned Biden’s own words against him, saying: “How could anyone be that irresponsible? Isn’t that what this president says about mishandling classified documents?”
Doocy spoke in reference to Biden’s comments in September of last year after classified documents were found in the Florida estate of former President Donald Trump.
“How that could possibly happen,” Biden said at the time, during an interview with “60 Minutes’” Scott Pelley. “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 – et cetera. And it just – totally irresponsible.”
Jean-Pierre responded to Doocy, saying, “The president spoke to this personally … he believes that classified documents and information should be taken seriously. … And he was surprised to learn by any records.”
Biden claimed that he was surprised when he was told that government records had been found by his attorneys at his former office in Washington. He was asked about the issue after the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee requested that the U.S. intelligence community conduct a “damage assessment” of potentially classified documents.
Just hours after the interview with Jean-Pierre, reports surfaced that a second batch of documents were found at a location outside of the Penn Biden Center by Biden’s aides, who had reportedly been dispatched to search potential locations where Biden may have left other classified documents.