U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s legal career has always revolved around Chicago.
Now he’s about to get a taste of Washington, D.C.
Chicago’s top fed is heading to the nation’s capital this week, where he will make courtesy calls to lawmakers after Attorney General Jeff Sessions tapped him for an unusual task that could put him at the center of the partisan rhetoric he has actively avoided.
Sessions asked Lausch over the weekend to help the Justice Department speed up its delivery of documents related to the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
“He’s going to go meet with members this week to introduce himself and explain what he’ll be doing,” Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The new assignment takes Lausch from the courthouse to Congress a little more than four months after he took over as Chicago’s U.S. attorney. The Justice Department is under mounting Republican pressure 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.
But that could put Lausch in a difficult position. Over the weekend, President Donald Trump complained that officials were “slow walking” the release of the records. On Saturday, the president 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!”
In January, Lausch told reporters he had never spoken to Trump. Now, Trump will certainly have his eye on Lausch. Also, it’s not clear how the new assignment will affect Lausch’s work in Chicago. His spokesman declined to comment Monday.
The highlights of Lausch’s legal career have revolved not so much around document production but the prosecution of corrupt cops and street gang members, which made him a clear choice to become the city’s top federal prosecutor. However, he also helped represent BP in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
He’s also been lauded as someone who excels in whatever he sets his mind on. He was even captain of Harvard’s varsity football team. And he may have been enlisted for his new role because he’s an outsider who could lend credibility to the process.
“By appointing Mr. Lausch to oversee this specific document production, 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.
But the move has already prompted Republican criticism. POLITICO reported that Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Lausch’s enlistment raises questions about what the Justice Department has been doing until now.
“Congress requested these documents months ago. Congress has consistently been assured the production was in progress. How is injecting someone new into an ongoing review and production process calculated to expedite the process?” Gowdy said in a statement.