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Biden admin officials worked at Biden Center where classified docs found: report

​At least 10 current and former high​-ranking Biden administration officials — including Secretary of State Antony Blinken — worked at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, the president’s namesake Washington, DC-based think tank where classified documents were discovered in November, according to a report.​

The foreign policy institution associated with the University of Pennsylvania counted Blinken, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl and White House counselor Steven Richetti as former employees, Fox News reported Wednesday. 

​Blinken and ​Richettei were managing directors of the center; Kahl was a strategic consultant. 

In addition to the trio, other former workers at the center include Spencer Boyer, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO policy, who was a senior fellow. ​​J​​effrey Prescott, the deputy to the US ambassador to the United Nations, was a strategic consultant; ​​Ariana Berengaut, a senior adviser to the national security adviser, was a center director; ​​​​Michael Carpenter, the US representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, was a managing director; ​​Juan Gonzalez, a special assistant to the president, was a senior fellow; and ​​​​Carlyn Reichel, a special assistant to Biden and senior director for speechwriting and strategic initiatives, was the director of communications, according to Fox.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is among a number of administration staffers who worked at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
Sarah Silbiger – Pool via CNP /
Steven Richetti and President Biden at the White House on July 22, 2021. Richetti is among administration staffers who worked at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
Steven Richetti and President Biden at the White House on July 22, 2021. Richetti is among administration staffers who worked at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
AFP via Getty Images

Brian McKeon, a senior director at the center, was the deputy secretary of state for management and resources until he stepped down last month.

Since taking office, Biden has named longtime Penn President Amy Gutmann as the US ambassador to Germany while tapping David Cohen, the former head of the school’s board of trustees, as ambassador to Canada. 

Biden praised Gutmann at the opening ceremony of the Penn Biden Center in February 2018 when he was interviewed by NBC News senior foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, another Penn alum. 

“​​President Gutmann, when you came to me before the [Obama] administration was up and asked me whether I [would] consider to be a professor at Penn, the first thought I had was that it sounded like an intriguing idea, but it became even more intriguing after the outcome of the [2016] election when you said I could bring along with me some serious, serious people,” Biden said.

“Serious staff people and much more than staff and they start with Tony Blinken and Steve Ricchetti and others, so thank you for allowing me to bring along some really, really bright people.”

Colin Kahl, the under secretary of Defense for policy, once worked for the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
Colin Kahl, the under secretary of Defense for policy, once worked for the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
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L​awyers for the president found 10 documents with classified markings in a locked closet at the center on Nov. 2, 2022. The papers reportedly were mixed in with Biden family documents — including details of funeral arrangements for the president’s son Beau, who died in 2015. 

Some of the documents, which dated from between 2013 and 2016 when Biden was vice president, were labeled “top secret” and included material about Ukraine and Iran, according to CNN.  

Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said in a statement Monday night that Biden used the office from “mid-2017 until the start of the 2020 campaign” in April 2019. 

He said the National Archives and Records Administration was immediately informed and the agency retrieved the documents the next day. 

Biden, speaking Tuesday in Mexico City where he was attending a summit with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudea, said he was “surprised to learn” that the classified documents were taken to the office. 

​”​I don’t know what’s in the documents. My lawyers have not suggested I ask what documents they were. I’ve turned over the boxes, they’ve turned over the boxes to the Archives, and we’re cooperating fully, cooperating fully with the review, which I hope will be finished soon and there’ll be more detail at that time​,” he told reporters. 

President Biden speaks at the University of Pennsylvania on March 30, 2017.
President Biden speaks at the University of Pennsylvania on March 30, 2017.

Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped Chicago US Attorney John Lausch, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, to examine the documents and he has already submitted a preliminary report.

But Republicans are pointing out a double standard in the way the Biden materials are being treated compared with the way classified documents discovered at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida resort are being handled. 

Hundreds of classified documents were found at the former president’s Palm Beach resort in an FBI raid on Aug. 8 and Garland later named a special counsel, veteran prosecutor Jack Smith, to lead the investigation.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, said Tuesday that his panel will launch an investigation into the Biden documents and sent letters to the National Archives and White House seeking more information.  

He said the National Archives failed to publicly disclose the discovery of the classified documents and that Biden may have violated the law days before the midterm elections. 

“Meanwhile, NARA instigated a public and unprecedented FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago​ ​—​ ​former President Trump’s home​ ​—​ ​to retrieve presidential records,” ​Comer wrote in the letter. “NARA’s inconsistent treatment of recovering classified records held by former President Trump and President Biden raises questions about political bias at the agency.” 

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