Durbin hints Biden White House may not fire top Chicago federal prosecutor John Lausch

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, said he was “hopeful” Lausch won’t have to resign by the end of the week.

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U.S. Attorney John Lausch

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

WASHINGTON — Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., hinted Monday that the Biden White House will allow U.S. Attorney John Lausch, overseeing probes of top Democrats in Illinois, to remain on the job and not be forced to resign at the end of the week.

“I can just say that Senator (Tammy) Duckworth and I continue to present our case to the White House, that the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois should be allowed to continue until a successor is chosen. I am hopeful that that will end positively when we’ll know, I hope soon,” Durbin said.

Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, commented on the Chicago-based Lausch’s status after the conclusion of the first of two days of confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee, the Lincolnwood-raised Merrick Garland.

Earlier this month, all U.S. Attorneys nominated by ex-President Donald Trump who were still on the job were told to resign by Feb. 28. 

With the deadline looming, Lausch has not yet submitted his resignation, a signal he wants to stay on for now.

Before the order came down asking for the resignations, Durbin and Duckworth said they told Biden White House counsel Dana Remus “in direct conversations” why it was important to let Lausch, the top federal prosecutor for the Chicago-based Northern District of Illinois, stay on the job until his successor is confirmed. 

The senators were blindsided by the decision to not grant an exception for Lausch.

The Democratic Biden White House appeared tone deaf to the appearance of removing a federal prosecutor who was investigating public corruption of Democrats. 

U.S. attorneys are nominated by a president and must be confirmed by the Senate. Presidents have the power to fire U.S. attorneys.

By moving ahead to force Lausch out, Biden triggered an uproar in Illinois, uniting the Democratic senators, four of the five House GOP members, the Illinois Republican Party and newspaper editorial boards in protesting the move to fire Lausch while he is leading public corruption probes and prosecutions of top Democrats in the state. 

Lausch’s office in 2020 implicated then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in a long-running bribery investigation that has led to charges against ComEd and members of Madigan’s inner-circle. 

Madigan has not been charged and denies wrongdoing. He was ousted as Speaker and last week quit his House seat. Under federal scrutiny, Madigan on Monday resigned as chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

In a rare bipartisan move, Trump, Durbin and Duckworth all supported Lausch. He was confirmed on a voice vote for a four-year term on Nov. 9, 2017. Searching for a successor and winning confirmation is a process that could take months.

Lausch managed a somewhat significant feat in the last three years, maintaining the support of Illinois’ Democratic senators while serving as the Justice Department’s top prosecutor in Chicago under a Republican administration that enjoyed little popularity in the city.

Earlier this month, when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the firings, she said requesting U.S. attorneys to resign at the start of a new presidency has been “commonplace among previous administrations, and we look forward to working with the Senate to swiftly fill these openings in the coming weeks. The president has also made clear he wants to restore the independence of the Department of Justice and to ensure it remains free of any undue political influence.”

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