Attorney General Merrick Garland referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney John Lausch in Chicago for review, according to a person familiar with the decision. Spokespeople for the Justice Department and Lausch both declined to comment.
The discovery of classified documents on private property bears some resemblance to the FBI’s seizure of sensitive White House records at Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, in August. However, in Biden’s case, the documents were handed over willingly, according to Sauber. They were also not discovered at Biden’s private residence.
Lausch is a Trump appointee, one of two presidentially appointed U.S. attorneys kept on by the Biden administration. He was kept on at the request of both Democratic senators from Illinois to continue an investigation into the Democratic speaker of the Illinois House at the time, Michael Madigan.
There is no indication that Garland has formally named Lausch as a special counsel, as he did with Jack Smith in November in the Trump documents and 2020-election-related investigations.
The documents were discovered when Biden’s “personal attorneys were packing files housed in a locked closet to prepare to vacate office space at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C.,” Sauber’s statement said.
The White House Counsel’s office notified the Archives of the discovery on the day it happened, he said. The documents weren’t part of any previous inquiry from the Archives, the attorney added.
Biden used the Penn Biden Center space from 2017 until the beginning of his 2020 campaign, Sauber said.