Republicans, Democrats ask Biden to keep Chicago's federal prosecutor

Illinois’ two Democratic U.S. senators said Tuesday say they are opposed to the immediate dismissal by President Joseph Biden of the U.S. attorney for northern Illinois.

U.S. attorneys are nominated by a president, subject to Senate confirmation. John Lausch, who was nominated by former Republican President Donald Trump, was confirmed by the Senate in November 2017.

It is common for presidents to ask for the resignations of U.S. attorneys appointed by the opposite political party. Lausch’s predecessor, Zachary Fardon, left in March 2017, when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked for the resignations of U.S. attorneys appointed under the Obama administration.

It was reported Tuesday that Biden has asked almost all for their resignations, including Lausch. However, Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth want Lausch to stay on the job to conclude investigations currently underway. The two senators also note they led the screening committee that selected Lausch from a field of nearly two dozen candidates.

"While the President has the right to remove U.S. attorneys, there is precedent for U.S. attorneys in the Northern District of Illinois to remain in office to conclude sensitive investigations," Durbin and Duckworth said in a joint statement. "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."

Members of Illinois’ Republican congressional delegation also objected to the move by Biden. In a joint statement, U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis of Taylorville, Darin LaHood of Peoria, and Mary Miller of Oakland said "it would be reckless and irresponsible" for Biden to fire Lausch without a successor already lined up.

The U.S. attorney’s office under Lausch has seen a series of long-running public corruption investigations that went public and led to charges. Among them is the racketeering indictment of Chicago Ald. Edward M. Burke and the bribery case against ComEd and members of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s inner circle. That investigation ended Madigan’s decades-long grip on the Illinois House of Representatives’ speaker’s gavel.