John Lausch keeps his job as Chicago’s top federal prosecutor for now

John Lausch keeps his job as Chicago’s top federal prosecutor for now

U.S. Attorney John Lausch speaks during a press conference in the courtyard of the Dirksen Federal Building in the Loop Friday afternoon, July 17, 2020. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth have won a rare exception to the blanket order from President Joe Biden to fire the remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Donald Trump by Feb. 28.

WASHINGTON – John Lausch will remain on the job as the Chicago-based U.S. attorney until his successor is chosen and will not be forced to resign at the end of the month, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Illinois Democratic Senators Dick Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, and Tammy Duckworth won the rare exception to the blanket order of President Joe Biden to fire the remaining U.S. attorneys nominated by former President Donald Trump by Feb. 28.

A source told the Sun-Times that it is “rock solid” Lausch will stay for the time being, with the sign-off coming from the White House and the Department of Justice.

The Justice Department declined comment. So did a spokesman for Lausch’s office.

Only a few weeks ago, it looked as though Lausch would be packing up his office and ending his tenure as Chicago’s top federal prosecutor. In the end, the ensuing flap over whether Lausch should stay may have only elevated his stature.

Lausch had already pulled off a significant political feat in a hyper-partisan atmosphere by maintaining the support of Illinois’ Democratic senators despite his nomination by Trump, a Republican, in 2017.

Now, Lausch becomes one of only three U.S. attorneys chosen by Trump who are not expected to leave office by the end of this month. That decision follows a chorus of support by politicians of both stripes for the work done by Lausch’s office in the last three years.

Illinois’ senators wrote a letter to the president earlier this month telling him Lausch should be allowed to remain in office until his successor is confirmed. Four Republican members of Congress from Illinois also said in a statement that Lausch should not be fired.

Lausch is a Joliet native whose success is likely due in part to the relationships he built in his past work around the Chicago area, including as a federal prosecutor. Key among his former colleagues was Lori Lightfoot, who became mayor of Chicago after Lausch took office.

But the outpouring of support for Lausch can mostly be attributed to a series of ongoing public corruption investigations that first went public on his watch late in 2018. They have targeted old-school, Chicago-style graft.

Prosecutors hit Ald. Edward M. Burke in 2019 with a blockbuster racketeering indictment that alleged Burke used the City of Chicago as a criminal “enterprise.” Separate investigations have also led to charges against state lawmakers who include Sens. Martin Sandoval, Thomas Cullerton and Terry Link, as well as state Rep. Luis Arroyo. Of that group, only Cullerton remains in office. Sandoval died in December.

Still, none of it has shaken Illinois as much as the bribery case that has implicated former House Speaker Michael Madigan and led to charges against ComEd and members of Madigan’s inner circle.

Madigan has not been charged and denies wrongdoing, but the developments have been enough to end Madigan’s decades-long grip on power in Illinois. He gave up the speaker’s gavel in January, and in the last week he resigned from the Illinois House and from his role as the head of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Records show some of the key investigations making headlines did not begin under Lausch, with crucial evidence being gathered before he took office. For example, the feds built their case against Burke with the help of then-Ald. Danny Solis, who records show had begun secretly recording his City Council colleague by August 2016.

But under Lausch the work has become public and aggressive. And it has shaken up the political establishment across Illinois.

Sweet reported from Washington; Seidel from Chicago

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