Biden Special Counsel Taps Trump-Era Duo in Probe Over Documents

The Justice Department special counsel investigating whether President Joe Biden mishandled classified documents has brought on two former Trump administration officials to help.

(Bloomberg) — The Justice Department special counsel investigating whether President Joe Biden mishandled classified documents has brought on two former Trump administration officials to help.

Special Counsel Robert Hur hired Marc Krickbaum, a former US attorney in Iowa, and Daniel Loveland, who served as counsel to former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to people familiar with the situation who requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters. 

Hur’s team also includes Virginia Bruner, a former career federal prosecutor who worked with Krickbaum in the US attorney’s office in Des Moines, as well as detailed assistance from the Maryland US attorney’s office, the people said. The people said it was possible that Hur had other attorneys and FBI agents on his team as well.

The Justice Department opened a preliminary investigation late last year into Biden’s handling of sensitive government records after the White House reported to the National Archives that documents with classified markings had been found at an office Biden used in Washington. 

A spokesperson for Hur’s office declined to comment. Bruner, Loveland, and Krickbaum didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Jan. 12 that Hur, a former Trump-era US attorney in Maryland, would oversee that probe as a special counsel given the “extraordinary circumstances.” Hur officially started in February.

The Biden probe is unfolding in parallel to an investigation by another Garland-appointed special counsel, Jack Smith, into whether former President Donald Trump or anyone else mishandled classified information or obstructed the government’s inquiries after leaving the White House. 

The scale, tone, and facts at play in the two investigations significantly differ. Biden has pledged cooperation while Trump has gone on the attack. The Biden probe so far appears to involve far fewer documents than the hundreds of files with classified markings seized by FBI agents during a court-authorized search last summer at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. 

Garland originally asked the US attorney in Chicago, John Lausch, to conduct an inquiry into Biden’s handling of classified material before appointing Hur. One person who was interviewed by Lausch’s team, Biden’s former executive assistant Kathy Chung, has not been asked to provide more information or for another interview since Hur started, her attorney Bill Taylor said. Chung is scheduled for an interview before the House Oversight Committee next month, according to CNN.

Hur’s first official day, Feb. 1, involved an FBI search of Biden’s home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. A Biden attorney said at the time that agents didn’t find documents with classified markings, but did take records and notes from his time as vice president. Classified documents have been found at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington and Biden’s private home in Wilmington, Delaware.

‘Fully Cooperative’

The White House declined to comment on Hur’s recent staff moves, or whether they have resulted in an increase in investigative requests. Biden’s representatives have previously said the president and his staff are working with Hur’s office.

“We’ve been fully cooperative. The president has been fully cooperative. His lawyers are in direct discussions with the Justice Department. And that’s going to continue,” White House spokesman Ian Sams told reporters on Feb. 1.

The hires to date dovetail with Hur’s background. He served early in the Trump administration as the principal associate deputy attorney general under Rosenstein, overlapping with Loveland. Hur was confirmed in 2018 as the US attorney in Maryland and Loveland joined that office soon after. Loveland most recently has been an attorney in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

Krickbaum served as the US attorney for the Southern District of Iowa from 2017 until the end of Trump’s presidency in January 2021; he was a career prosecutor before that appointment. People familiar with Krickbaum’s hiring noted the two men could have crossed paths when Hur worked for Rosenstein or when they overlapped as US attorneys.

Bruner spent nearly seven years as an assistant US attorney in Des Moines, including Krickbaum’s time as the US attorney. In 2020, Bruner led the office’s election day program, which included overseeing the handling of complaints about election fraud and voting access. As Trump pushed false fraud claims, she was one of 16 election officers from US attorney offices who pushed back on a memo from then-Attorney General Bill Barr that gave prosecutors the authority to investigate fraud claims before the 2020 results were certified.  

Bruner and Krickbaum left positions at private law firms – McGuireWoods LLP and Winston & Strawn LLP, respectively – in February to work on Hur’s team. 

–With assistance from Jordan Fabian.

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