The Senate unanimously confirmed on Thursday John Raymond Lausch Jr. to be the next top federal prosecutor in Chicago — a city President Donald Trump has singled out for blistering criticism because of its struggles to curb violent crime.
Lausch, 47, will officially become the new U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois when Trump signs his commission. The president is traveling in Asia, so it is not known when he will sign the paperwork — a formality at this point.
Trump nominated Lausch for U.S. attorney on Aug. 3, citing, among other items, his work as a former federal prosecutor in Chicago handling narcotic and gang cases.
Lausch applied for the U.S. attorney job in 2012 and was never tapped.
His second try worked.
Trump’s White House was looking for someone to crack down on street violence and Lausch, currently a partner at Kirkland & Ellis in the Loop, seemed to fit the bill.
He worked in the U.S. attorney’s office earlier — between May 1999 and June 2010 — and served as the violent crime coordinator and led the Anti-Gang and Project Safe Neighborhoods programs.
He has also written about the use of federal statutes to attack street gangs, and he has instructed his colleagues in law enforcement on street gang, narcotic and police corruption prosecutions.
As a prosecutor, he tried 21 cases in federal court and argued eight before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Highlights of his career as a prosecutor included a take-down of 29 members of the Gangster Disciples and the trial of Black Disciple Albert Span, as well as the prosecution of 23 people — including two corrupt Chicago cops — for various crimes that included racketeering and drug conspiracy.
The Joliet native graduated Joliet Catholic High School in 1988. He headed to Harvard University where was captain of the varsity football team, earning an undergraduate degree in 1992. He returned to Illinois to attend the Northwestern University School of Law, picking up a law degree in 1996.
Ninety-eight percent of his legal practice has been spent in the federal courts, according to his 26-page Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire. The document also mentions he is a member of the Ridge Country Club in the Beverly neighborhood.
Lausch will be responsible for an office that not only takes on public corruption, organized crime, terrorism, drug-trafficking street gangs and cyber crime, but also handles civil litigation on behalf of the federal government involving civil rights, the environment and health care fraud.
Lausch follows in the footsteps of former U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon, who stepped down in March amid a Trump administration purge of Obama-era prosecutors. Since then, the office has been led by acting U.S. Attorney Joel Levin.
Levin, in a statement, said, “We look forward to a smooth transition, and for the office to continue its exemplary work under John Lausch’s leadership.”
The office of the U.S. attorney is among three key federal posts to see new blood in Chicago this year. Jeffrey Sallet became special agent in charge of the FBI here on Monday. And Gabriel Grchan became chief of IRS Criminal Investigations last April.
Despite early political turbulence in the search for Chicago’s next U.S. attorney, Lausch’s nomination sailed through the Senate after the White House decided to work in advance with Illinois Democratic U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth to find a candidate.
Durbin noted this cooperation in a statement after Lausch was confirmed.
“With all the partisanship and division in Washington, it’s critical that Chicago’s U.S. Attorney be a non-partisan professional—I believe Mr. Lausch is the right person for the job,” Durbin said.
“Senator Duckworth and I were glad to work with the White House on Mr. Lausch’s nomination and I’m pleased the Senate has confirmed him.”
Lausch spent his entire legal career in Chicago, either at private firms or in his 11-year stint as federal prosecutor before returning to his previous law firm of Kirkland & Ellis as a partner.
He also worked at the now defunct Pope, Cahill & Devine. Between 2012 and 2014 he lectured at the University of Chicago Law School. He also worked as a law clerk for Judge Michael Kanne in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
While at Kirkland & Ellis, Lausch represented BP in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He also says he represented unnamed clients under scrutiny for alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the environmental crimes and securities fraud.
“Most of these representations have been confidential — that is, they involve matters in which charges have not been brought against my client,” Lausch told the Senate judiciary committee in his questionnaire. “I have not tried any criminal cases since returning to private practice in 2010.”
Lausch said he also represented a former ATF supervisor as part of his pro bono work in connection with the investigation into the agency’s controversial “Operation Fast and Furious.”
Describing his work as a federal prosecutor on the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, Lausch focused on crime.
Wrote Lausch, ”In May 1999, I began working as an AUSA in Chicago. As an AUSA, I led grand jury investigations and prosecutions involving violations of various criminal statutes, including RICO conspiracy; drug conspiracy; mail, wire, bank, bankruptcy, and tax fraud; robbery and extortion; alien smuggling; and firearms possession. I continued to handle investigations, trials, and appeals throughout my 11 years as an AUSA, and over time, the size and complexity of the cases increased.”