U.S. Attorney John Lausch has done a “tremendous job” and it makes “zero sense” to replace him, particularly going into the traditional summer spike in violent crime, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday.
Earlier this month, all U.S. attorneys still on the job after being nominated by former President Donald Trump were told to resign by Feb. 28.
The mass resignation of federal prosecutors is typical after any change in administrations. But that didn’t stop U.S. senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth from urging President Joe Biden to let Lausch stay on the job to oversee sweeping federal investigations of top Democrats — from former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on down.
Earlier this week, Durbin hinted he was making headway with the White House and that Lausch would not be forced out by week’s end.
On Tuesday, Lightfoot climbed aboard the Lausch bandwagon and said behind the scenes, she’s urged the Biden White House to slow down.
The mayor’s reasoning had nothing to do with the burgeoning corruption probe that forced Madigan to step down as speaker and later resign from the legislature and as Illinois Democratic Party chairman.
Lausch “has done a tremendous job and been a great support for the work we have done, particularly around violence in this city. To replace him at this time puts our city at risk,” said the mayor, who worked with Lausch during their days together as young federal prosecutors.
“Even if there was a specific candidate that’s named today to replace him, that person’s not gonna go through the gauntlet of background checks, getting on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s docket, then being voted on by the full Senate any sooner than probably September or some time later. We can’t be without a permanent head of this office as we head into the summer months when things are most challenging.”
Lightfoot was a finalist for the U.S. attorney’s job that went to Zach Fardon.
“This is an office that has never had a woman and a person of color and I want to see that history changed and make sure that the next person fully represents the diversity of this great city. But let’s do it in a way that doesn’t make us less safe,” she said.
“And changing him now, putting in an interim who obviously is gonna be constrained in what they do as we head into the summer, simply makes no sense. Time to wait. Let’s get somebody through the process. Fully confirmed. Then an appropriate transition can happen. … There’s no reason that John Lausch should step aside until there is a fully confirmed replacement.”
As definitive as Lightfoot was about keeping Lausch, that’s how non-committal she was about who should replace Madigan as state party chairman.
She’s not about to choose between her City Council floor leader, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), who offered Lightfoot a pivotal endorsement during the 2019 mayoral run-off.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Duckworth are backing Harris. Durbin favors Kelly.
“I love both Robin Kelly and Michelle Harris. They are both my friends. They have both supported me. And I know that whoever gets it is gonna do a tremendous job,” the mayor said.
“I don’t have to pick one. I’m not a state committeeman.”
Whoever wins the competition, Lightfoot said they need to seize the moment to transform and “modernize” the Democratic Party. That means “building a pipeline for young talent, rejuvenating young Democrats” across the state and improving “digital outreach” to voters, the mayor said.
“This significant transition … really is a tremendous opportunity,” she said.
As for the attack on Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) outside a River North bar, Lightfoot said she has an obligation to investigate.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a further investigation. There wasn’t any investigation,” the mayor said, apparently referring to the fact that Reilly did not call 911 or file a police report.
“Obviously because of his position, I want to make sure also that he wasn’t targeted. So an investigation is appropriate and that’s what’s being done.”