Two top Democrats are urging President Joe Biden to keep Chicago’s federal prosecutor in place as he conducts a wide-ranging corruption probe of powerful statehouse Democrats.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) and Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.) said U.S. attorney John Lausch should remain in his post in order "to conclude sensitive investigations." The Biden administration has asked all Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys to resign by the end of the month.
"We believe Mr. Lausch should be permitted to continue in his position until his successor is confirmed by the Senate, and we urge the Biden administration to allow him to do so," Durbin and Duckworth said in a joint statement, adding that they were disappointed the White House did not consult them about Lausch’s future.
Biden’s abrupt dismissal of all but two Trump-picked U.S. attorneys has prompted bipartisan pushback. Though former president Donald Trump similarly sacked dozens of U.S. attorneys without warning, prior administrations have favored gradual replacements. A slower process allows for orderly transitions and greater consultation with lawmakers over appointments, influence senators prize.
Lausch has aggressively prosecuted political figures in Chicago’s notoriously corrupt Democratic machine. He is currently supervising an investigation of Commonwealth Edison, a north Illinois utility provider that has admitted to hiring allies of former Illinois House speaker Mike Madigan for lucrative no-show jobs. Madigan, the longest-serving speaker in state history, still serves in the legislature and chairs the Democratic Party of Illinois, a point Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) highlighted in a Wednesday letter to Biden.
"Mr. Madigan, of course, is widely regarded as the Democratic political ‘boss’ of Illinois and an ally of former President Obama," Grassley wrote. "It is therefore especially important that this investigation be allowed to proceed in a way that does not even provide the appearance of political interference from Washington."
Also pending in the Chicago U.S. attorney’s office is the prosecution of alderman Edward Burke (D.), a powerful and long-tenured city council member who is accused of strong-arming city contractors into retaining his law firm.
Senators traditionally hold sway over the appointment of U.S. attorneys in their states. They often consult with White House officials ahead of an appointment, which they hope to secure for a longtime loyalist or a promising party up-and-comer. U.S. attorneys are subject to the Senate’s "blue slip" tradition, which means that the Judiciary Committee will not hold a confirmation hearing for a U.S. attorney nominee until the candidate’s senators sign off on the pick.
Durbin chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the number two Democrat in the upper chamber. Duckworth is a vice chair of the DNC and was on the vice presidential shortlist during the 2020 campaign.