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White House tells House Republicans probing Biden documents that it will cooperate with 'legitimate oversight'

The House Oversight Committee had asked the White House for information and records related to President Joe Biden's handling of classified Obama-era documents.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., attends a House Oversight Committee hearing on July 27, 2022.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., at a House Oversight Committee hearing July 27.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The White House Counsel's Office said it is reviewing recent requests from a GOP committee chair related to President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents and signaled it plans to cooperate to an extent.

In a letter sent to House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and obtained by NBC News, White House counsel Stuart F. Delery said that since Biden's personal attorneys found government records at the Penn Biden Center, the White House has "fully cooperated" with the National Archives and the Justice Department to ensure documents with classified markings were provided to the appropriate authorities.

"We are reviewing your recent letters with the goal of seeking to accommodate legitimate oversight interests within the Committee’s jurisdiction while also respecting the separation of powers and the constitutional and statutory obligations of the Executive Branch generally and the White House in particular," Delery wrote.

Delery, however, suggested that there will be a limit to what the White House is willing to share with Congress. "As I’m sure you are aware, these considerations include the critical need to protect the integrity and independence of law enforcement investigations," he said.

"The Biden Administration takes seriously the security and protection of government records, particularly classified information," the letter said. "We look forward to engaging in good faith with you and your staff regarding your requests. To that end, White House staff will reach out to Committee staff to arrange a time to discuss this matter."

Delery acknowledged that the FBI conducted a "thorough, consensual search" of Biden's residence in Wilmington, Delaware, on Friday after the president's lawyers offered to provide access to his home. He also said the White House has "continued to fully cooperate with DOJ" after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Robert Hur as a special counsel to investigate the classified material found in Biden's home and a Washington office he used.

Delery's letter came in response to letters Comer sent this month requesting records and information about the documents. Comer, for example, requested that the White House provide documents retrieved from Biden's personal office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., a list of all people who had access to it and other information by Tuesday. He asked in a follow-up letter for all documents and communications related to the searches of Biden's homes and other locations and a visitor log of Biden's Wilmington home since he became president by Jan. 30 (The White House has said no such visitor logs exist.)

Comer also sent a letter Monday asking Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle for all internal documents, communications and information maintained for Biden's Delaware home.

In a statement Monday evening, a spokesman for the Secret Service addressed the status of Comer's request.

“The Secret Service received the committee’s letter today and we are reviewing it. We do generate law enforcement and criminal justice information as it pertains to individuals attempting to access protected sites," the spokesman said. "We are currently reviewing the Congressional request and will ensure that we are responsive to the chairman and that our review is in accordance with any record retention, disclosure or handling rules that may apply."

The Secret Service has said it doesn’t maintain logs for the residence, although it does runs basic “name checks” on visitors around the time of their screening for access to a protected location.

As a result of the Friday search, six additional items, including documents with classified markings, were found in Biden’s Delaware home, Bob Bauer, the president’s personal attorney, said Saturday.

The documents at the Wilmington home appeared to be related to Biden's time as vice president, Bauer said, as well as to his tenure in the Senate, and they were found after Biden's counsel offered full access to the premises.

Comer's probe is one of two major House Republican investigations into the Biden documents. Led by Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, the House Judiciary Committee is also investigating the matter.