WASHINGTON — A Democratic push to discredit congressional Republicans who are launching a slew of investigations into President Joe Biden may be fractured by an unexpected hurdle: fellow Democrats.

With classified documents from Biden’s vice presidency turning up where they shouldn’t be, Democratic lawmakers are increasingly outspoken in their criticism of how he or his aides handled sensitive material that was supposed to have been returned to the government when he left the job in 2017.

As Biden’s defenders see it, berating him at this combustible moment is a form of self-sabotage. It gives credibility and legitimacy to Republican House committee chairs who are trying to use the subpoena power of Congress to undermine Biden ahead of the 2024 election, they argue. A better approach would be to speak with a unified voice and question the motives and intentions of the Republicans who control the House investigative machine and took direct aim at Biden, they added.

“My own view is that the anonymous Democrats who are doing that are actually broadcasting a false right-wing narrative and they should stop complaining,” said David Brock, president of Facts First USA, a group formed to counter Republican-led oversight. . of the Biden administration. «Democrats are not doing themselves a favor by anonymously criticizing the administration.»

Convictions are no longer so anonymous. Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., on Sunday called the debacle «irresponsible.»

Biden is one of a growing number of high-ranking officials who mistakenly possessed classified material. FBI agents seized a trove of documents from former President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, home last summer on suspicion that he had not given up everything he had taken from the White House. And former Vice President Mike Pence revealed this week that he, too, had discovered classified documents at his Indiana home.

“The whole thing is horrible. It’s just bad: bad optics and bad politics,» Manchin said.

One sore spot for members of Congress is that they are forced to take special precautions when viewing classified documents, but the rules don’t appear to apply to the White House. Lawmakers read the material in the presence of an executive branch official who then retrieves it when they are done, or views it in a secure room and leaves it on the table when they leave. Given the restrictions they face, Democratic lawmakers appear incredulous that Biden’s office was so lax that classified material ended up at his Wilmington, Delaware, home and a former office in Washington, DC.

«Ultimately, it’s a responsibility of all of us, whether you’re a senator, a president or anyone else, to follow up and make sure that all of your documents are in the right place,» said Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Col. . . “And it has to be a partnership between the elected official and his staff. The blame can be distributed among everyone, but in the end it is my job ”.

Another irritant has been slow revelations from the White House that more and more batches of classified material have been uncovered by Biden’s lawyers.

«I hope all the places where it could be searched have been searched and no more documents are discovered,» said Neil Eggleston, a former White House counselor under then-President Barack Obama. “Every time there is additional discovery of documents, it makes it harder for President Biden to take the position that this is all normal and a mistake in the packaging process, which I ultimately believe it is.”

Regardless of the validity of such criticism, some Democrats insist the party must silence them now that Republicans are investigating and in a position to harm Biden.

“When they criticize the White House, I don’t know what kind of agenda they’re presenting other than…helping the right-wing extremist MAGA agenda,” said María Cardona, a Democratic strategist and co-chair of Facts First. . “They are certainly not helping themselves.

On Capitol Hill, House Republicans have opened an oversight investigation into Biden’s handling of the records. Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to the Secret Service this week requesting records showing who might have visited Biden’s home and possibly seen records found at the facility. (Both the White House and the Secret Service said they do not keep such records for his personal residence.)

The documents are just one part of the extensive investigations the Republican Party has undertaken. The Comer committee is also investigating the paintings sold by Biden’s son Hunter. and has sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, requesting any “suspicious activity reports” the banks may have produced in connection with the Biden family businesses.

“We understand that the White House and the administration are going to resist all attempts” to turn over records, said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., a member of the Oversight Committee. “But what I don’t think they can resist is subpoenas to come testify. I suspect you’ll see it very soon, and very solidly, in a way you may not have seen Republicans in your lifetime.»

Anticipating that the Republicans would win control of the House in the midterms, the Democrats set up a multi-pronged effort to prevent the investigations that were inevitably coming. The White House counsel’s office now has a communications arm to quickly respond to Republican allegations of presidential improprieties. A wave of outside groups, including Facts First, are at work, amplifying the White House message and attacking Republican lawmakers as extremists abusing their oversight powers.

Even if the Democrats can’t stick to a consistent message, they can at least be sure that the Republicans are having the same difficulty. A more moderate wing of the GOP fears that an obsessive focus on Biden and her family will alienate voters and put the party’s slim majority at risk.

“I’ve been yelling from the rooftops about policy issues,” said Rep. Nancy Mace, RS.C., a member of the Oversight Committee.

«Investigate corruption, but also stick to the substance: inflation, immigration and finding a middle ground» on abortion, he added. “If we don’t do that, we will lose the majority in two years. We will lose seats because of this.»