The top Democrat on the committee, Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, downplayed the matter, saying that he had confidence that Mr. Garland had taken appropriate steps to review the circumstances and that Mr. Biden’s lawyers “appear to have taken immediate and proper action” to notify the archives of the documents.
The department’s leadership decided to make the unusual choice of assigning the case outside the jurisdictions involved because Mr. Lausch was a Republican appointee and his work would likelier be seen as impartial, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Mr. Biden had kept Mr. Lausch in office at the request of the two Democratic senators from Illinois, Richard J. Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, because he was investigating Michael J. Madigan, the former speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, during the presidential transition in 2021. In March, a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Madigan, a Democrat, on 22 counts of racketeering and corruption charges.
A former top prosecutor appointed during President Barack Obama’s administration said the attorney general should turn the Biden matter over to a special counsel, just as he did the Trump investigation.
“The circumstances of Biden’s possession of classified documents appear different than Trump’s, but Merrick Garland must appoint a special counsel to investigate,” said John P. Fishwick Jr., who served as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia from 2015 to 2017. “Merrick Garland waited too long to let us know he had opened this investigation,” he added. “To keep the confidence of the country, you need to be transparent and timely.”
A department spokesman had no comment on the matter, and would not say whether the national security division, which has spearheaded the investigation into Mr. Trump’s retention of documents at his Florida residence and resort, was also involved.
With Mr. Lausch investigating the handling of classified information in Mr. Biden’s office, and David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, investigating the president’s son, Hunter Biden, both Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys who have remained at the department are now scrutinizing the Biden family.
Luke Broadwater and Katie Benner contributed reporting.