For more than two weeks, Americans have had a front-row seat to a whirlwind of revelations about President Biden's mishandling of classified documents, with almost daily disclosures of more sensitive materials being found in more places, and back-to-back weekend announcements debunking previous White House statements that searches were "complete."
But Biden’s classified document saga began well before Americans knew about it. Despite Biden’s claims of full cooperation and the White House’s promises of transparency, it's easy to get turned around in the latest Biden scandal that often begs the questions: What did the White House know, when did they know it, and why didn’t Biden tell the American people?
So, here's the timeline of how things went down and how many times President Biden and others in his administration, at best, simply chose not to tell Americans the full truth of the situation or, at worst, seemingly sought to cover-up Biden's latest scandal. After all, Karine Jean-Pierre refused to deny that a cover-up was taking place when asked in Monday's briefing.
NOVEMBER 2, 2022: Personal attorneys for President Biden find documents marked classified in the former VP's post-Obama administration office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C. The American people are not informed of the discovery.
NOVEMBER 3, 2022: The National Archives take possession of the classified documents found in the president’s Penn Biden Center office after Biden's personal lawyers notified the Archives of their existence. Again, the American people are not told about the documents.
NOVEMBER 4, 2022: A Justice Department prosecutor is informed by the National Archives Office of Inspector General that the White House had notified them classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center. The White House, Archives, and DOJ fail to make the discovery public.
NOVEMBER 8, 2022: Americans vote in the midterm elections.
NOVEMBER 9, 2022: The FBI begins its review of the classified documents found in Biden's D.C. office to determine whether classified information was mishandled in violation of federal law. Conveniently, the review began one day after the midterm elections, thereby minimizing the risk of a leak before Election Day. The news remains under wraps.
NOVEMBER 14, 2022: Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland tasks U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch — a holdover from the Trump administration — with reviewing the documents to determine whether further investigation of Biden's mishandled classified documents by a special counsel is necessary. Still, the American people are kept in the dark.
DECEMBER 20, 2022: Biden's personal counsel alerts Lausch that more classified documents were found at Biden's personal residence in Wilmington, Delaware, leading the FBI to retrieve and secure the second set of classified materials. Americans were still not told that Biden had mishandled classified documents across two locations.
JANUARY 5, 2023: Lausch reports back to Attorney General Garland that appointing a special counsel to probe Biden's mishandling of classified documents is the best course of action in the matter. The American people are still not made aware of the document revelations, the DOJ's review, or Lausch's recommendation.
JANUARY 9, 2023: More than two months after classified documents were first found in the Penn Biden Center office, CBS News breaks the story that "several classified documents from President Joe Biden's time as vice president were discovered last fall in a private office" and the Archives "has referred the matter to the Justice Department for further investigation."
JANUARY 10, 2023: After ignoring multiple shouted questions from reporters during his trip to Mexico City, President Biden finally breaks his silence on the scandal during a press conference. "People know I take classified documents and classified information seriously," Biden claimed. "When my lawyers were clearing out my office at the University of Pennsylvania...they found some documents in a box in a locked cabinet, or at least a closet," the president added. "We're cooperating fully with the review, which I hope will be finished soon." Biden, notably, did not tell the American people that additional classified documents had been found at his home in Wilmington.
JANUARY 11, 2023: NBC News reports that "aides to President Joe Biden have discovered at least one additional batch of classified documents in a location separate from the Washington office he used after leaving the Obama administration," a revelation that the White House did not initially comment on in response to an NBC News query.
JANUARY 12, 2023: More than three weeks after Biden's personal counsel alerted the U.S. attorney reviewing Biden's mishandled classified documents to the existence of sensitive materials in Wilmington, the White House Counsel's Office releases a statement disclosing that the second set of classified documents were "found in a storage space in the President's Wilmington residence garage" while an additional classified document was found "among stored materials in an adjacent room."
Also on January 12, Attorney General Merrick Garland announces he is appointing DOJ veteran Robert Hur as special counsel to conduct an investigation of Biden's mishandling of classified documents.
After growing combative in multiple briefings, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre continues stonewalling reporters' questions about Biden's mishandling of classified documents in the afternoon of January 12. She does, however, say that the search for additional classified materials was "complete" and reiterated President Biden was "confident" in the special counsel's process that was unfolding.
Later on January 12, additional classified documents were found in Biden's Wilmington residence. This discovery is not immediately disclosed to the American people just hours after Jean-Pierre claimed the White House was being transparent and said the search for documents was "complete."
JANUARY 14, 2023: The White House Counsel's Office finally comes clean in a statement disclosing the fact that five additional documents with classification markings were found on the evening of January 12 in Biden's Wilmington residence along with the previously identified classified document in a room adjacent to Biden's garage.
JANUARY 19, 2023: President Biden is asked by a reporter traveling with him on a trip to tour storm damage in California whether he regrets not telling the American people immediately when classified documents were discovered in his Penn Biden Center office. Biden answered, claiming "a handful of documents that were filed in the wrong place" had been found — as if accidentally filing classified documents in a garage where they were never supposed to be is relatable? "I have no regrets" a defiant Biden declared, "there's no there, there," he insisted.
JANUARY 20, 2023: The FBI conducts an hours-long search of Biden's Wilmington residence after coordinating with the president's personal attorney. Rather than traveling to Wilmington for the weekend, Biden opts to spend the weekend at his house in Rehoboth Beach.
JANUARY 21, 2023: President Biden's personal attorney, Bob Bauer, issues a statement admitting that even more classified documents were found in Biden's Wilmington residence during the FBI's Friday search that "began at approximately 9:45 AM and concluded at around 10:30 PM and covered all working, living and storage spaces in the home." During the search, "DOJ took possession of materials it deemed within the scope of its inquiry, including six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials, some of which were from the President's service in the Senate," Bauer disclosed.
So, what comes next? As the timeline above shows, it's anyone's guess — except maybe Biden's since he and his personal and White House counsel were aware of the previous classified document discoveries before Americans ever found out. Will there be an FBI search of Biden's Rehoboth Beach property in the days ahead? Are more documents yet to be found in other locations? Whatever the next 'Garage-Gate' headline looks like, it seems increasingly likely that Biden's claim "there's no there, there" is a case of wishful thinking.