The National Archives and Records Administration was stopped from issuing a prepared press release after it was alerted to the discovery of classified documents from President Biden’s Washington think tank, House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer said on Tuesday.
Mr. Comer, Kentucky Republican, said the NARA’s general counsel Gary Stern told the panel during a lengthy transcribed interview that he was unable to tell lawmakers who ordered the Archives not to release the statement.
“There are only two people that could have given those orders, and that’s either the Department of Justice with Merrick Garland or the White House with Joe Biden,” Mr. Comer told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “So it shows right there that this Department of Justice and this White House is interfering with this.”
Classified documents dating to Mr. Biden’s term as vice president were discovered at the Washington office of his University of Pennsylvania-affiliated think tank in November, just days before the midterm elections.
More classified documents were later discovered at Mr. Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware
The White House didn’t acknowledge the matter until after it was made public by CBS in January.
Mr. Comer said blocking the Archives from publicly disclosing the documents demonstrates a double standard between how Mr. Biden’s case is being dealt with and how the discovery of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was handled.
“If you go on the National Archives website, there’s pages and pages of press releases and information about the FBI raid into Mar-a-Lago and Donald Trump’s possession of classified documents,” Mr. Comer said. “But there’s nothing on the website about Joe Biden.”
Mr. Stern was grilled by lawmakers for more than three hours on Tuesday in a transcribed interview after Mr. Comer demanded that the Archives come before the committee as the classified documents saga unfolded.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have remained frustrated with the lack of detail the administration has shared with Congress about the matter.
Bipartisan frustrations boiled up last week after Senate intelligence committee members said their requests for the classified documents recovered from both presidents’ properties were denied during a classified briefing on Capitol Hill by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.
Members of the panel said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is blocking the release of key details about the documents until the Department of Justice has concluded its investigations.
The Department of Justice has also stonewalled requests from the Republican-led House judiciary committee.
Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriate wrote in a letter to committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, on Monday that the information lawmakers have requested could hamper the ongoing special counsel investigation into the matter.
The top Democrat on the House oversight committee, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, praised Mr. Stern’s “responsiveness and willingness to work with the Committee on its oversight requests,” after Tuesday’s interview, but disclosed few details about what was learned from his testimony.
“The Committee must be sensitive to the ongoing special counsel investigations and have confidence that they will conduct the investigations with integrity and independence,” Mr. Raskin said. “In that respect, we must recognize that the National Archives and its representatives are limited in what they can disclose and any congressional requests for information must be balanced against the Justice Department’s interests in completing these investigations in a fair and impartial manner.”
“Any implication that the National Archives is not cooperating with the Committee’s investigation seems utterly false and unfair,” he added.