WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has begun sharing with a bipartisan group of lawmakers known as the Gang of Eight classified documents found in the possession of former President Donald Trump, President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, according to five people familiar with the matter.
Top lawmakers, including Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had for months been asking the Justice Department to provide access to the documents — or at least an assessment of what was in them — so that Congress could gauge the potential national security harm.
That process recently got underway, said the people, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private interactions between the Justice Department and Congress.
“They’re finally moving. We’ve got a lot more documents to review and, more importantly, to make sure there was mitigation taken," Warner said Wednesday, adding that the documents were being received on a rolling basis. He said that while he was “glad to see progress,” it is “still unacceptable for me that it took this long.”
A Justice Department special counsel, Jack Smith, is investigating whether Trump mishandled roughly several hundred documents with classified markings that were taken after his term ended to Mar-a-Lago, the former president's Florida estate, and whether he or his representatives sought to obstruct that probe. Another special counsel, Robert Hur, is also investigating the improper retention of documents from Biden's time as vice president that have been located in his Delaware home and his pre-presidential think-tank office. Biden has said he had no knowledge the documents were there.
A lawyers for Pence also said in January that an apparently small number of papers were inadvertently boxed and transported to his Indiana home at the end of the Trump administration.
Punchbowl News first reported the development.
The Biden administration held a classified briefing on the documents earlier this year for members of Congress, but senators accused the executive branch of stonewalling and insisted that they needed for national security reasons to see for themselves what materials the men had been holding.
The Justice Department had said that it wanted to be cooperative with the lawmakers' demands within the confines of the ongoing investigations.
Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Zeke Miller and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.