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Garland Appoints Special Counsel to Investigate Handling of Biden Documents

“I will conduct the assigned investigation with fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment,” he said in a statement. “I intend to follow the facts swiftly and thoroughly, without fear or favor, and will honor the trust placed in me to perform this service.”

Mr. Hur, a partner at the white-collar law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, worked as an assistant federal prosecutor in Maryland from 2007 to 2014, then served in the deputy attorney general’s office in 2017 and 2018 during the Trump administration before being appointed U.S. attorney for Maryland, a position he left when Mr. Biden took office.

While U.S. attorney, Mr. Hur defied pressure from Mr. Trump’s Justice Department to prosecute John F. Kerry, Mr. Obama’s secretary of state, who drew Mr. Trump’s ire for arguing to preserve a nuclear agreement with Iran, according Geoffrey S. Berman, a former Trump-era U.S. attorney in Manhattan. In his memoir, “Holding the Line,” Mr. Berman wrote that after refusing to prosecute Mr. Kerry, Mr. Hur was assigned to take over the matter and ultimately declined to pursue charges as well.

In his statement on Thursday, Mr. Garland filled in some, if not all, of the gaps in the public timeline surrounding the discovery of the documents in Mr. Biden’s home and office.

Mr. Biden’s lawyers discovered the first batch of classified papers, said to include briefing materials on foreign governments from his time as vice president, on Nov. 2, just six days before the midterm elections, as they were closing down his office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington.

They alerted the archives, which retrieved them the next morning. Archives officials then informed the Justice Department on Nov. 4. The F.B.I. began an assessment of the situation on Nov. 9. On Nov. 14, Mr. Garland assigned John R. Lausch, the U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump appointee, to conduct a preliminary review to determine whether a special counsel was merited.

But the Biden team waited several weeks before coming to the conclusion, as Mr. Lausch’s review proceeded, that they should make sure there were no more surprises and conduct a search of other Biden properties. On Dec. 20, they found the second batch in Mr. Biden’s garage in Wilmington and notified Mr. Lausch. No classified papers were found at the president’s vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

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