President Joe Biden on Wednesday acknowledged his staff didn’t do a good enough job packing up his previous offices amid an investigation into his handling of classified documents dating back to his time in the Senate and the vice presidency.
Biden, under investigation by special counsel Robert Hur after classified documents were found in his former office in Washington and at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, told “PBS Newshour” the items were “from 1974 and stray papers.”
“There may be something else, I don’t know,” he added in the interview from Wisconsin, where he hosted his first event since his State of the Union address.
Biden, first elected senator in 1972, emphasized that he has fully cooperated with the Justice Department and the National Archives to recover government documents and investigate their handling. He did, however, acknowledge mistakes.
“One of the things that happened is that what was not done well is as they packed up my offices to move them, they didn’t do the kind of job that should have been done to go thoroughly through every single piece of literature that’s there,” Biden said.
Last month, amid a Justice Department criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s hoarding of secret documents at his Florida resort, Biden announced his team found a “small number” of classified files at his private Washington office in November. Aides later found six classified documents in Biden’s Wilmington home.
FBI agents have since searched both locations. They found a further six documents with classified markings in Biden’s Wilmington home dating back to his time in the vice presidency and the Senate, and also took handwritten notes from when he was vice president.
Agents also searched Biden’s Rehoboth Beach house, but said they found no classified material.
A separate special counsel investigation is probing Trump’s mishandling of classified documents. Trump stonewalled government requests to return the documents later recovered by FBI agents with a search warrant, and has likened the searchers to the Nazi secret police.
Former Vice President Mike Pence has notified the National Archives of classified material he found in his Indiana home.
Biden, during his far-ranging PBS interview, also said his decision to authorize the U.S. military to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon over the weekend hasn’t worsened U.S.-China relations.
“But, look, I mean, the idea of shooting down a balloon that’s gathering information over America — and that makes relations worse?” Biden asked.
Biden said he hasn’t spoken directly to Chinese President Xi Jinping since the spy balloon drama, but their administrations have been in contact. The Pentagon said the spy balloon was part of a wider surveillance program that has been operated by the Chinese military for “several years,” according to The Associated Press.
“Look, I made it real clear to Xi Jinping that we’re going to compete fully
with China, but we’re not looking for conflict,” Biden said.
He also pushed back against Republican criticism that he waited too long, until the balloon drifted over the Atlantic Ocean, to shoot it down.
“The idea that it was a dereliction of duty, I think, is a bizarre notion,” Biden told PBS’ Judy Woodruff. “China knows exactly that, what the deal is with us.”
Biden, who would be 86 by the end of a potential second term in office, said he intends to seek reelection in 2024, but hasn’t made a definitive decision.
Asked if his age is a concern, Biden replied: “Watch me.”
“Look, I’m a great respector of fate,” he said. “I would be completely, thoroughly honest with the American people if I thought there was any health problem, anything that would keep me from being able to do the job.”