U.S. House Republican to pursue safeguards on classified documents
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican head of a key U.S. House of Representatives committee said on Monday that he will pursue bipartisan legislation to better ensure the proper handling of classified documents at the White House when administrations leave office.
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer said it is essential to have legislation ensuring classified material is not transferred from the offices of the president and vice president to unsecured locations at the end of an administration.
The discovery of classified documents at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort and at other sites including President Joe Biden's Delaware home have led to the appointment of two different special counsels and raised national security fears.
Classified documents have also turned up at the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence.
"We have to reform the way that documents are boxed up when they leave the president's and vice president's office and follow them into the private sector," Comer told a National Press Club forum.
"Somebody needs to oversee all of the documents that are going into boxes to make sure they're not classified."
Comer said that he and Representative Jamie Raskin, the oversight panel's top Democrat, hope to have a bill in place before Biden leaves office. A Raskin spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
"We're going to work together in a bipartisan way to come up with a legislative fix prior to this administration leaving and the next information coming into office," the Kentucky Republican added.
Comer's committee is scheduled to have a transcribed interview with National Archives General Counsel Gary Stern on Tuesday. The sessions follows a Comer demand for information from the National Archives concerning documents found in Biden's possession.
The Republican, who has also sought material on the misplaced documents from the White House and Justice Department, said he wants to know if any of the documents found at Biden's home were handled by the president's son Hunter Biden, who has long been a target for Republican accusations of influence peddling.
Comer said his panel will hold the first public hearing of its investigation of Biden family business dealings on Feb. 8.
The House Oversight probe is a distraction for Biden and could cast a shadow over the Democratic president as he gears up for a possible 2024 re-election bid.
The committee will hear testimony from three former Twitter employees and the social platform's handling of information about Hunter Biden.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Alistair Bell)