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Chicago federal prosecutor to resign after overseeing initial Biden documents probe

John Lausch, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, will soon be leaving his position after leading an initial investigation into classified documents found at a private Biden think tank office in Washington.

CHICAGO (CN) — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday that the top federal prosecutor in the Chicago area intends to step down sometime early this year.

Garland delivered the news that John Lausch, U.S. attorney for Northern District of Illinois, would soon be resigning during a Thursday press briefing on two sets of classified documents potentially mishandled by President Joe Biden. During the same briefing, Garland also stated that former Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert Hur would act as special counsel to oversee an investigation into those documents.

Biden's personal attorneys found one set of documents marked classified on Nov. 2, in his former office at the Washington, D.C., think tank Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

Garland said Thursday that the office was not authorized to house classified documents, and that he had tapped Lausch on Nov.14 to lead an initial investigation into the matter.

"I selected him to conduct the initial investigation because I was confident his experience would ensure that it would be done professionally and expeditiously," Garland said.

On Thursday morning, Biden's attorneys informed Lausch that they had found more documents marked classified in the garage of the president's personal home in Wilmington, Delaware.

After reviewing the papers, which reportedly date back to Biden's tenure as vice president under former President Barack Obama, Garland said Lausch recommended the appointment of a special counsel to oversee further investigation. Federal authorities' primary concern, Garland said, was the possibility that Biden or someone connected to him had mishandled classified documents in violation of federal law.

Despite leading the initial investigation, Garland said Lausch had declined a long-term appointment on the project. The U.S. attorney reportedly told Garland that he planned to step down early this year to pursue a career in the private sector.

"When I first contacted Mr. Lausch about this matter, he said he could lead the initial investigation, but would be unable to accept any longer-term assignment because he would be leaving the department in early 2023 for the private sector," Garland said.

Lausch's office has yet to issue a statement on his planned departure. Though Lausch appeared alongside Garland during the attorney general's press conference Thursday, he did not speak about his plans to step down.

A native of the Chicago suburb of Joliet, Lausch has served as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois since November 2017 after being appointed by Donald Trump. In 2021, the fledgling Biden administration initially considered removing him alongside many other federal prosecutors put in place by the former president. However, Lausch was overseeing a number of high-profile corruption investigations at the time, and bipartisan support from the state's lawmakers convinced the Biden administration in February 2021 to let him keep his position.

Some of the political heavyweights swept up in the investigations by Lausch's office include former Chicago Alderman Danny Solis, current Chicago Alderman Ed Burke and former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. All now face criminal charges related to alleged racketeering, bribery and extortion in Chicago and Springfield.

In 2020, Lausch's office also secured an admission from Illinois energy company Commonwealth Edison that it had bribed state lawmakers for close to a decade in order to have laws passed that were amenable to its bottom line.

The company admitted to arranging jobs and contracts for Madigan's political allies and agreed to pay a $200 million fine in exchange for a deferred prosecution agreement. Four former Commonwealth Edison lobbyists, consultants and executives are also facing federal conspiracy charges for their role in the bribery scheme. Their trial is set to start on March 6.

Lausch has not yet stated if he would stay in office through that trial process.

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