Chicago’s top fed tapped for key role in controversial FBI-Clinton probe

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U.S. Attorney John Lausch, top federal prosecutor in Chicago.

U.S. Attorney John Lausch meets with the media at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in January. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Sun-Times file

Chicago’s top fed has a new assignment thrusting him in the national spotlight.

And he’s diving in head-first.

U.S. Attorney John Lausch will be in Washington D.C. this week to help the Justice Department speed up its delivery of documents related to the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said. He will report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

After only four months on the job in Chicago, Lausch also finds himself at the center of a partisan maelstrom after carefully avoiding comment on national rhetoric. One Democrat has already responded to Lausch’s new role by labeling the Clinton investigation a “charade.”

Lausch told reporters in January he had never spoken to President Donald Trump, who nominated him for U.S. attorney last year. But now Trump will surely have his eye on Lausch. Over the weekend, Trump complained that officials were “slow walking” the release of the Clinton records.

In doing so, Trump ratcheted up Republican pressure on the Justice Department to fulfill a subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee for more than a million documents as it examines the FBI’s 2016 investigation into Clinton’s private email server.

A Lausch spokesman declined to comment Monday morning.

Trump on Saturday slammed the pace of the record response so far, tweeting “What does the Department of Justice and FBI have to hide?” He said the agencies are “stalling, but for what reason? Not looking good!”

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., a member of the House Intelligence Committee and a critic of the GOP-led committee decision to shut down its Russia probe, was asked Monday in a CNN interview about Lausch’s assignment. He tied the increased interest in Clinton to the congressional Russia investigation.

“I think this whole investigation is a charade,” Quigley said. “It is an attempt to obstruct the overall investigation. It is an attempt to discredit the institutions which have gotten very close to the White House, the law enforcement agencies and I think the American public ought to see it for what it really is.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray asked Lausch to ensure document production is fast and that any redactions are necessary. He will also be available to meet with lawmakers.

“Our goal is to assure Congress, the president and the American people that the FBI is going to produce the relevant documents and will do so completely and with integrity and professionalism,” Flores said in a statement.

The Republican chairman of the committee, Rep. Robert Goodlatte of Virginia, is also seeking documents related to the firing of former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. An upcoming inspector general’s report is expected to conclude that McCabe had authorized the release of information to the media and was not forthcoming with the watchdog office as it examined the bureau’s handling of an investigation into Clinton’s emails.

Goodlatte said late last month he had only received a few thousand of the 1.2 million documents he had requested in that investigation. The FBI has doubled the number of people working on the request to 54 staffers who are working each day from 8 a.m. to midnight. The Justice Department said it would produce an additional 3,600 pages on Monday.

Lausch’s ascension to U.S. attorney last year appeared to be based mostly upon his credentials fighting violent crime in Chicago. He spent 11 years as an assistant U.S. attorney here, prosecuting street gang members and corrupt cops.

More recently, the Joliet native worked as a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, where he represented BP in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, as well as unnamed clients under scrutiny for alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, environmental crimes and securities fraud.

He told reporters in January he had received no marching orders from the Trump administration when it comes to the handling of violence in the city.

Contributing: Associated Press

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