WASHINGTON — Multiple aides who worked for President Joe Biden in the final days of the Obama administration have been interviewed by federal law enforcement officials reviewing how classified documents ended up in his Delaware residence and a Washington office, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Kathy Chung, who was Biden’s executive assistant while he was vice president and helped pack up his vice presidential office in January 2017, is among those who have been interviewed, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing inquiry. Chung currently serves as deputy director of protocol for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
On Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he was appointing Robert Hur to serve as a special counsel to investigate the documents — which could result in additional interviews.
One of the sources familiar with the interviews that have already taken place said those whom law enforcement officials asked to be interviewed complied “quickly.”
“The people who were boxing [up the vice presidential office] had no idea that there was anything in there that shouldn’t leave the White House,” the source said. “There was no decision made to take certain documents that should have been presidential records or classified.”
The sources did not know whether all interviews of the aides were complete. It is possible that the newly named special counsel could interview them again. Some of the aides who were with Biden while he was vice president are now White House staff members.
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about Chung and the other aides being interviewed.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder referred all questions about Chung’s interview to the Department of Justice.
Federal investigators’ decision to interview staff from Biden’s vice presidential office followed the discovery in November of fewer than a dozen classified documents as they packed up his office space at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington.
On Thursday, the White House acknowledged that documents with classified markings had been found in a garage at Biden’s residence in Wilmington, Delaware.
NBC News reported on Wednesday that there was at least one additional set of documents in addition to the Washington tranche.
In a statement Thursday, Special Counsel to the President Richard Sauber said the documents were found during a search for documents in Biden’s two homes in Delaware.
“All but one of these documents were found in storage space in the president’s Wilmington residence garage. One document consisting of one page was discovered among stored materials in an adjacent room,” Sauber said.
No documents were found in Biden’s residence in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Asked about the documents Thursday, Biden said his team is fully cooperating with the Justice Department’s review of all the documents and that his lawyers had turned over the new batch found in the garage and the adjacent room at his Wilmington home. Biden said he hoped he’d be able to speak more fully about the issue “soon.”
The president and his aides have refused to answer questions about the content of the documents and whether they are confident no other classified materials from the Obama administration in other locations where Biden has stored materials from his time as vice president.
The White House is avoiding discussing specific details about the documents and how they were handled because it believes those are the types of questions the Justice Department is examining and do not want to be seen as interfering in its work, said a source familiar with the internal discussions.
One outstanding question remains how the documents got to where they were found.
According to one source familiar with the matter, the documents found in the Penn Biden office were among materials that had been “boxed up and moved wholesale” during his final days in office from his West Wing office to a temporary storage location near the White House provided by the General Services Administration to allow for the rapid handover from one vice president to another.
From there, items were taken to a temporary office and then to the Penn facility, where the classified documents were ultimately found.
The timeline for packing up Biden’s vice presidential office was highly constrained by the fact that he was engaged in his duties until his final hours.
On Jan. 16, four days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Biden was in Kiev for meetings with Ukraine’s prime minister and president. From there he traveled to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum. On the sidelines of the forum, Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Jan. 17.
He then returned to Washington, where on his final full day as vice president he received the presidential daily brief in the Oval Office, which he typically received in electronic form.
“They had to pack [his office] at odd times and very late in the game so he could continue to do official duties,” the source said.
Multiple people close to Biden said Chung would have played a key role in helping pack up materials and clear out his offices in the final days and weeks of his time as vice president. It included “memorabilia, books, photographs” they found in the process of clearing the space, the source said.
Courtney Kube contributed.