By ZEKE MILLER and ERIC TUCKER
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed a special counsel to investigate the presence of documents with classified markings found at President Joe Biden's home in Wilmington, Delaware, and at an office in Washington.
The announcement followed Biden's acknowledgement Thursday morning that a document with classified markings from his time as vice president was found in his personal library, along with other classified documents found in his garage.
Garland said Biden's lawyers informed the Justice Department Thursday morning of the discovery of a classified document at Biden's home, after FBI agents first retrieved other documents from the garage in December. It was disclosed on Monday that sensitive documents were found at the office of his former institute in Washington.
Robert Hur, the former Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Maryland, will lead the investigation, taking over from the top Justice Department prosecutor in Chicago, John Lausch, who was earlier assigned by the department to investigate the matter and who recommended to Garland last week that a special counsel be appointed. Hur is to begin his work soon.
"The extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special counsel for this matter," Garland said, adding that Hur is authorized to investigate whether any person or entity violated the law.
"This appointment underscores for the public the department's commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law," Garland said.
Biden told reporters at the White House that he was "cooperating fully and completely" with a Justice Department investigation into how classified information and government records were stored.
Biden's lawyers found the first set of documents in a locked closet in the offices of the Biden Penn Center in Washington on Nov. 2, just before the midterm elections, but publicly revealed that development only on Monday.
Richard Sauber, a special counsel to the president, said that after Biden's personal lawyers found the initial documents, they examined other locations where records might have been shipped after Biden left the vice presidency in 2017.
Sauber said a "small number" with classified markings were found in a storage space in Biden's garage in Wilmington, with one document being located in an adjacent room. Biden later revealed that the other location was his personal library.
Garland said Biden attorneys located documents in the Wilmington garage on Dec. 20 and that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents took custody of them shortly thereafter.
The appointment of yet another special counsel to investigate the handling of classified documents is a remarkable turn of events, legally and politically, for a Justice Department that has spent months looking into the retention by Donald Trump of more than 300 documents with classification markings found at the former president's Florida estate.
Though the situations are factually and legally different, the discovery of classified documents at two separate locations tied to Biden -- as well as the appointment of a new special counsel -- would almost certainly complicate any prosecution that the department might bring against Trump.
Biden has said he was "surprised to learn that there are any government records that were taken there to that office" but his lawyers "did what they should have done" when they immediately called the National Archives.