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Key lawmakers win access to mishandled classified documents

The group of lawmakers, known as the Gang of Eight, will review documents found in the possession of former President Donald Trump, President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence

This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice on Aug. 30, 2022
This image contained in a court filing by the Department of Justice in August 2022 shows a photo of documents seized during the August 8 FBI search of former President Donald Trump's estate.AP

The Biden administration has begun sharing with a bipartisan group of lawmakers known as the Gang of Eight classified documents found in the possession of former President Donald Trump, President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, according to five people familiar with the matter.

Top lawmakers, including Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had for months been asking the Justice Department to provide access to the documents — or at least an assessment of what was in them — so that Congress could gauge the potential national security harm.

That process recently got underway, said the people, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private interactions between the Justice Department and Congress. Committee leaders have been granted access to them on a rolling basis, said one of the people.

A Justice Department special counsel, Jack Smith, is investigating whether Trump mishandled roughly 300 documents with classified markings found at Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s Florida estate, and whether he or his representatives sought to obstruct that probe. Another special counsel, Robert Hur, is also investigating the improper retention of documents from Biden’s time as vice president that were located in his Delaware home and his pre-presidential think-tank office. Biden has said he had no knowledge the documents were there.

Lawyers for Pence have also said that an apparently small number of papers were inadvertently boxed and transported to his Indiana home at the end of the Trump administration.

Punchbowl News first reported the development.

The Biden administration held a classified briefing on the documents earlier this year for members of Congress, but senators accused the executive branch of stonewalling and insisted that they needed for national security reasons to see for themselves what materials the men were holding.

The Justice Department has said that it wanted to be cooperative with the lawmakers’ demands.

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