White House Press Call with Ian Sams

The White House

Via Teleconference

4:20 P.M. EST

MS. YANG: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for your patience. Apologies that we are getting started a little late. Looks like a couple of people still trickling in. But we’ll go ahead and get started.

Just a reminder, today’s call with White House spokesperson Ian Sams is on the record and embargoed until the completion of the call.

By participating in this call, you are agreeing to these ground rules.

As occurred last time, Ian will give some brief opening remarks, and then we’ll move into Q&A. As always, please indicate whether or not you have a question with the “Raise Hand” function.

And with that, I will turn it over to Ian.

MR. SAMS: Thanks, guys. And, Sharon, thank you all for getting on the call today. Really appreciate it.

I hope you guys also had a good weekend and that you’re starting your week off strong.

I have brief updates at the top here, and then we can jump in to questions and spend some time on Q&A.

So, first, this morning, the White House Counsel sent a letter to the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee in response to inquiries that he has made about documents and requesting documents and material on this issue. We can provide that letter if you would like to receive it. Please just email Sharon.

In it, the White House Counsel congratulated Chairman Comer on his new position leading the committee, explained that the White House does not have possession of the documents that the Archives and DOJ have taken into their possession, and stressed the importance of protecting the integrity and independence of law enforcement investigations.

But we did respond to the Chairman. That’s consistent with our position. As the President has said, that he is prepared to work in good faith with Congress. And we’re going to engage in conversations with the committee to determine next steps.

Second, as you all saw this weekend, the President’s personal lawyer released a statement transparently disclosing a voluntary DOJ search of the President’s residence in Wilmington on Friday. As he said, the search lasted about 13 hours. They had access to every room of his house. And as we said in our statement from the White House Counsel’s Office, this action was consistent with the President’s commitment to cooperate with DOJ throughout this process.

This was an unprecedented offer for DOJ to thoroughly search the personal family home of the President of the United States to ensure that any documents that should be in the possession of the government were in the possession of the government. And it reveals how seriously the President is taking this issue and how actively he is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

I also want to be sure that you all saw, in response to this search, that the Department of Justice responded on the record, saying it was, quote, “a planned consensual search.”

So, I know there’s been a lot of confusion about that, so let me be very clear: The President offered DOJ access to his home. It was voluntary. They had unprecedented ability to access decades’ worth of old, personally handwritten notes; files; papers; to-do lists; memorabilia; and other materials in his home.

They identified some additional material and took possession of it. DOJ had asked the President’s personal lawyer not to disclose the search until it had concluded, and, of course, we agreed, given our full cooperation.

But we promptly made it known to you all, consistent with what we’ve told you about keeping you updated as we have information to share, while obviously also carefully protecting the integrity of the investigation.

And with that, I’m happy to take your questions. Give me just one second.

Okay, sorry about that. Just had an unmuting issue on my end. Nancy Cordes, CBS.

Q Hey, Ian. Thank you so much for doing this. I was

wondering if you could tell us who is paying the President’s personal attorney. It seems like this could lead to some pretty hefty legal bills. So is the President and his family paying the bills? Or is it the DNC or a super PAC? Where will the money come from?

MR. SAMS: Thanks for that question, Nancy. On that, I’m going to have to refer you to Molly Levinson, who is leading communications for the President’s personal attorney. We can get you her contact if you need it.

Zeke Miller, AP.

Q Thanks, Ian. The President said that he was — when the initial documents were found at the Biden Center — that he was surprised that there were classified doc- — materials there. Was he surprised that classified materials were at his home? He has not answered that. Did he know that the items taken by DOJ were there in his — in his home?

And then, will there be searches of the President’s other home in Delaware or of the Penn Biden Center? And does the President consent to those?

MR. SAMS: I’m just writing that down so I don’t forget.

Thank you. So, on the first question, look, I think it’s really important to take a step back and understand sort of exactly how he’s approaching this process.

His lawyers made the discovery of an additional document in the room adjacent to the garage, as we announced previously; made the President aware that that material was at the house; and the President offered DOJ to come do a thorough search to ensure that any government documents that may be there that should be in the possession of the government are returned to the government.

And so, it underscores how seriously he’s taking this issue that he would proactively and voluntarily disclose to DOJ these findings as soon as they occur, and that he would take the step of giving access to the home to DOJ to do an exhaustive search of the premises.

The President spoke to this in the initial comments you’re talking about. The President’s lawyers have made him aware as additional material has been discovered and has kept him abreast of this process as it moves along.

On your second question, the — I’m going to be very careful not to get ahead of potential future investigatory steps. I would refer you to DOJ on how they’re making those decisions. We’re following the DOJ’s lead here, and the President’s personal attorneys are in open communication with the department. But we’re not going to get ahead of any potential future investigative steps.

Steve Holland.

Q Hey. Thanks, Ian. The statement on Saturday said that there had been six documents found with classified markings and some other materials. Can you describe those other materials in any way just to give a little more clarity of what that was? And that’s about it.

MR. SAMS: Thanks, Steve. So, I’ll point you to what the statement from the President’s personal attorney said — that — that six items were consisting of documents with the classification markings and surrounding materials, some of which were from the President’s service in Senate, some of which from his tenure as Vice President. And the DOJ also took for further review personally handwritten notes from the vice presidential years.

I’m not going to go beyond the statement at this time. You know, we — we’re being very careful not to give too much commentary on the underlying materials of this. Those are in possession of the DOJ and will be a part of their ongoing investigation. And so, when it comes to specific contents and materials, I’d refer you to DOJ.

Sorry, just a minute. Akayla Gardner, Bloomberg.

Q Hey, Ian. Thanks for taking my question. I wanted to ask: What was the thought about allowing lawyers without security clearance to sort of conduct these searches initially? It kind of seems like that has prolonged this process. And are you recommending that any future searches be conducted by FBI agents?

MR. SAMS: Yeah, thanks for — for those questions. So, as we said — as the President’s personal attorney said in the statement that was released last weekend outlining all the processes and procedures that were in place on the initial searches, those were coordinated with DOJ.

Like we’ve said from the very beginning, the President’s team has been fully cooperating with DOJ, working with them throughout this process, ensuring they have access to the information that they need.

The President’s personal attorneys, last weekend, put out a pretty extensive and lengthy statement about the protocols and processes in the agreements that were set up to conduct those searches. You guys all should have access to that. If you don’t, I’m happy to make sure you do.

And, you know, we are fully cooperating with DOJ, working with them throughout their investigative steps here and coordinating with them on any needs going forward. So, in terms of the searches, potential searches, things like that, I’m not going to get ahead of any decisions that are made. But, you know, we’re fully cooperating with DOJ.

Mary Bruce.

Q Hi, there. Thank you for doing this. I just wanted to follow up. I didn’t hear an answer to Zeke’s question about whether the President was, in fact, surprised that these documents were found — the additional documents found over the weekend.

And also, I know you said this was a consensual, sort of, coordinated search by the FBI last Friday, but who initiated that conversation? Was it the FBI requesting to come in and then you all agreeing to that? Or was it your decision and your idea that the FBI come in and do that search? And similarly, have you invited them to come to Rehoboth and to that house as well?

MR. SAMS: Thanks. And so, on that second one, you know, this was a voluntary, proactive offer by the President’s personal lawyers to DOJ to have access to the home. DOJ, obviously, came on Friday and conducted that extensive search of the house.

We released statements on Saturday — long ones — from the President’s personal attorney and from the White House Counsel’s Office describing those searches: what was found, how they worked, et cetera. So I would point you to those.

But it was a voluntary, proactive offer by the personal lawyers for DOJ to come.

On the former question, the President’s lawyers have kept him informed throughout this process as they’ve been in negotiations — or discussions, I should say, with DOJ. He has — they’ve been kept aware by his lawyers as material has been found. And I’d point you to that and to the statements that the President made last week.

Alex Nazaryan.

Alex, you there? Alex? Alex? Going once. Going twice.

Okay, let’s see. Let’s go to Andrew Restuccia, please.

Q Thanks. Just real quick, do you — did the President — did the President’s lawyers or the FBI have any plans to look into the — Mr. Biden’s Senate papers that are all held at the University of Delaware, given that Senate materials have now been included in the materials that were found?

And just to clarify, does the White House know what was in the materials that were taken from Wilmington on Friday? Has the White House been briefed by the FBI on those materials?

MR. SAMS: Hey, thanks for that. I’m sorry. I was just getting off mute again.

On the first question, in terms of accessing materials, you know, I’d refer you to DOJ for specific questions about, you know, where they may want to pursue information gathering. We’re not going to get ahead of that process.

Obviously, we respect the independence of the Justice Department to make determinations about how to conduct its own investigations. The President’s personal lawyers, I think as we have said throughout this process, are in full cooperation with DOJ to have these discussions.

And so, when it comes to any potential future investigative steps, reviews of material, things that they may want to do, we’re just not going to speak to that from here at this time. And I will point you to Justice Department on that.

In terms of the contents of the search on Friday, you know, I would point you to the statements that were released both by us and by the President’s personal lawyers — the personal lawyer — I just reiterated a minute ago, the statement that we released that laid out exactly what was taken.

You know, when it comes to underlying contents, I want to be really careful not to speak to some of those, as they are part of the ongoing investigation and review by the Justice Department. They are in the possession of the Justice Department for them to review the materials.

And so, you know, just out of respect for that process of them conducting their investigation and ensuring that it has the integrity it deserves, we’re going to point you to DOJ for any specific questions about contents of the materials.

Brooke Singman.

Q Hey, Ian, thanks for doing this. Can you hear me? Sorry.

MR. SAMS: Yeah, I can hear you.

Q Okay, great. Thank you. Sorry. Just a quick question about the statement on Saturday evening. I know this was from the President’s personal attorney, but he specifically says that six items containing classified documents were taken. Are you able to provide any additional details as to how many classified documents were included in the six items or what those six items were — folders, binders?

MR. SAMS: Hey, thanks. Look, I understand that there’s a lot of questions about the underlying material and what they may contain or further explanations of how that — what that is and what it looks like. We’re just not going to comment on that at this time, beyond what was in the statement released by the personal attorneys.

You know, it’s really important that DOJ is able to review this material and conduct it in the process of their investigation. We don’t want to be speaking outside of that process.

You know, I think what I said to you guys last week, and continue to sort of stress and affirm: You know, we are going to try to get you guys access to important information as much as we can, while also protecting the integrity of that investigation.

You know, we don’t want to be saying too much about the underlying investigation, the underlying investigative material, the stuff that’s in DOJ’s possession that they may or may not be looking at. You know, those are questions that are much more appropriately handled by the Justice Department.

And so, when it comes to the questions about the underlying material, I would point you to the Justice Department.

When it comes to our characterization of the material, I would just continue to point to the language that we released in the statement from the President’s personal attorney — or, excuse me, that the President’s personal attorney released on Saturday — and use that language as what they were representing as was taken.

Thanks. Tommy Christopher.

Q Hi, Ian. This is Tommy.


Q Hi. Thanks for taking my question. I guess, I really have two questions. The first one is: Last week, after you briefed all of us, some of our colleagues went to Karine’s briefing and complained that even though you answered questions, that it wasn’t live and it wasn’t televised. And I’m wondering what you would say to that complaint and — and what — whether or not there’s a possibility you would brief for the cameras and just sort of let everybody ask all their questions until they’re blue in the face.

And then my second question, just because I’m sure somebody is going to ask it, is — the documents that were retrieved or returned over when Trump had his — Mar-a-Lago was raided, they took pictures and published those. Do you have any idea why that wasn’t done in this case? Thank you.

MR. SAMS: Thanks for that question. On the second one, you know, I’d refer you to DOJ on sort of specific questions about their — their processes when it comes to activities like this. I certainly don’t want to speak for those or comment on any potential ongoing investigation involving anyone else.

So, in terms of that second question, I would refer you to DOJ.

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