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Congressional ‘Gang of 8’ gets long-awaited briefing on Trump, Biden and Pence docs

The bipartisan group of lawmakers received a preliminary briefing about the classified records Tuesday. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders said it "left much to be desired."
Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Mike Pence.
Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Mike Pence.Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of high-ranking lawmakers received their first briefing by administration officials Tuesday about the classified documents found on the properties of President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence.

In a statement released after the hourlong preliminary classified briefing, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., and Vice Chair Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said it “left much to be desired.”

“In accordance with our responsibility to oversee the Intelligence Community and protect our national security, today we met with leaders from the IC and the Justice Department to discuss the exposure of classified documents,” they said. “While today’s meeting helped shed some light on these issues, it left much to be desired and we will continue to press for full answers to our questions in accordance with our constitutional oversight obligations.”

Members of the so-called Gang of Eight have been calling for such a briefing since the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump's Florida estate in August and recovered a trove of government documents that included more than 100 with classified markings.

The calls were amplified in January after it was revealed that a lawyer for Biden had reported having found Obama-era classified documents in November at a Washington office Biden used after he finished his term as vice president. Other documents were later found in Biden’s Delaware home.

Tuesday’s briefing included Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, National Intelligence Director Avril Haines and the assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, Alan Kohler.

After the briefing, White House spokesperson Ian Sams said the White House supported the decision by the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to meet with lawmakers.

"The decision to brief and the determination of what content would be briefed were made by DOJ and ODNI independently, consistent with what we have said for months: that the White House has confidence in DOJ and ODNI to exercise independent judgment about whether or when it may be appropriate for national security reasons to offer briefings on any relevant information in these investigations,” Sams said in a statement.

The Gang of Eight is made up of the leaders of the House and the Senate — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. — and the top Republican and Democrat from each chamber's intelligence committees: Reps. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, and Jim Himes, D-Conn., and Sens. Warner and Rubio.

Before Tuesday, Warner and Rubio had been vocal in their calls for the briefing and had spoken freely about what they were expecting. 

Rubio had said the initial briefing by administration officials was unlikely to include details about the contents of the classified documents and would instead outline the process by which the Justice Department can share information.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed separate special counsels to investigate the handling of the Trump and Biden documents. He did not appoint a special counsel for the Pence documents. The intelligence community, meanwhile, is doing a threat assessment of how the Trump and Biden documents were handled.

Warner and Rubio have also repeatedly emphasized their desire for an evaluation of what impact the classified documents might have on national security.

“Maybe they’ll bring in some teasers, maybe they’ll bring in the appetizer, but I mean, I’m just telling you that my understanding of the briefing that we’re doing is one that will outline a process by which they are willing to share information with us as parallel to the investigation that the Justice Department is conducting," Rubio told reporters this month.

“I’m fine with that as long as the process is an adequate one,” he said before adding, “We should have full access to whatever the documents were that they found.”