Chicago U.S. attorney reviewing potentially classified docs found at Biden office

U.S. Attorney John Lausch will look into files found in a Washington, D.C., office used by Joe Biden after serving as vice president and before becoming president.

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President Joe Biden talks with U.S. Border Patrol agents as they walk along a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso Texas, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Chicago U.S. Attorney John Lausch has been asked by the attorney general to review a batch of potentially classified documents found in the Washington office space of President Joe Biden’s former institute.

Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered as Biden’s personal attorneys were clearing out the offices of the Penn Biden Center, where the president kept an office after he left the vice presidency in 2017 until shortly before he launched his 2020 presidential campaign in 2019. The documents were found on Nov. 2, 2022, in a “locked closet” in the office, Sauber said.

Sauber said the attorneys immediately alerted the White House Counsel’s office, which notified the National Archives and Records Administration — which took custody of the documents the next day.

“Since that discovery, the president’s personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the archives,” Sauber said.

A person who is familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly said Attorney General Merrick Garland asked Lausch to review the matter after the archives referred the issue to the department. Lausch was appointed to his post by President Donald Trump.

It’s not the first time Lausch has been given an assignment that thrust him onto the national stage. In 2018, he was tasked with helping speed up the Justice Department’s delivery of documents in response to a House Judiciary Committee subpoena that related to the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

His work on that matter concluded quietly, with no public results.

The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Spokespeople for Garland and Lausch declined to comment.

Rep. James Comer, the new GOP chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Monday that the revelation raised questions about the Justice Department’s handling of the Trump probe.

“Is the White House going to be raided tonight? Are they going to raid the Bidens?” he asked reporters. “This is further concern that there’s a two-tier justice system within the DOJ with how they treat Republicans versus Democrats, certainly how they treat the former president versus the current president.”

His Democratic counterpart, Rep. Jamie Raskin, said Biden’s attorneys “appear to have taken immediate and proper action.”

The Justice Department for months has been investigating the retention of roughly 300 documents that were marked as classified and were recovered from Trump’s Florida estate. In that instance, prosecutors say, representatives of Trump resisted requests to give back the full stash of classified documents and failed to fully comply with a subpoena that sought their return.

FBI agents in August served a search warrant at the Mar-a-Lago property, removing 15 boxes of records.

That investigation is being led by special counsel Jack Smith. Prosecutors have interviewed an array of Trump associates and have been using a grand jury to hear evidence.

It is not clear when a decision will be made on whether Trump, or anyone else, should be charged.

The think tank, formally known as the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and continues to operate independently of the Biden administration.

Sun-Times federal courts reporter Jon Seidel and Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Farnoush Amiri in Washington and Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed.

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