New US Attorney in Chicago says he's never talked to Trump

CHICAGO (AP) — President Donald Trump has long complained that not enough is being done to control the violent crime that plagues Chicago, but the city’s new top federal prosecutor said Wednesday that the president did not speak with him before he nominated him for the job or since he was sworn in late last year.

In his first interview in his new role, U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois made it clear that the president’s comments, including his vow to “send in the feds,” have not and will not affect the way his office prosecutes violent offenders. Combating violent crime remains a “priority,” just as it was for his recent predecessors, he said.

Trump last year sent an additional 20 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to Chicago and, on Wednesday Lausch said his office was in the process of interviewing prosecutor candidates who will focus on handling violent crime cases.

But Lausch made it clear that decisions on how the office addresses that and other priorities belong to him.

“As far as how I decide this office, what our specific priorities should be and what we should be focusing on, it’s clear that discretion is up to the U.S. attorneys in each particular district,” he told reporters during a half-hour interview in the downtown Chicago federal courthouse where his office is located.

Trump, who has business interests and property in New York, came under criticism after reports that he interviewed Geoffrey Berman before appointing Berman as interim U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, and Chicago reporters were keen to find out if the president did the same ahead of Lausch’s nomination. But the 47-year-old Lausch, whose office is located just a few blocks from the Trump International Hotel and Tower is in downtown Chicago, said that not only had Trump not tried to contact him but that the two have never spoken.

Lausch would not discuss the drama playing out in Washington D.C. or reports that his boss at the Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was recently questioned for hours in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

But he said he did not expect what is going on in Washington to “hinder us.” And when he asked if his office has been given any mandate from the administration, he said there has been “nothing in particular that I think I would note.”