Video: Former assistant U.S. attorneys Patrick Collins and Renato Mariotti join “Chicago Tonight” to discuss the announcement. (Produced by Marissa Nelson)
President Joe Biden has dismissed John Lausch, Chicago’s top federal prosecutor, along with the rest of the U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Donald Trump.
The decision announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Justice was swiftly condemned by Illinois’ two Democratic senators, both close allies of Biden.
“We are committed to ensuring a seamless transition,” Acting Attorney General Wilkinson said in a statement that noted the action was in keeping with steps taken by previous administrations. “Until U.S. Attorney nominees are confirmed, the interim and acting leaders in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices will make sure that the department continues to accomplish its critical law enforcement mission, vigorously defend the rule of law and pursue the fair and impartial administration of justice for all.”
In a joint statement, Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth said they were disappointed by the decision to fire Lausch without consulting them first.
“In 2017, our non-partisan screening committee gave its support for Mr. Lausch to serve in this position, and the Senate confirmed him unanimously,” Durbin and Duckworth said. “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. 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.”
As the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Lausch oversaw a sprawling corruption investigation that resulted in Commonwealth Edison admitting to arranging jobs, contracts and payoffs to associates of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Some of those employees did little or no work for the company from 2011 to 2019 but were added to the firm’s payroll as part of a scheme to win influence and curry favor with Madigan, given the powerful legislator’s ability to help ComEd advance laws that benefited the company by paving the way for higher electric rates, according to the deferred prosecution agreement.
Although that agreement refers to Madigan as Public Official A, he has not been charged in connection with the investigation and has said he did nothing wrong. Madigan’s bid for another term as speaker failed in January after dozens of lawmakers refused to support him in the wake of the allegations.
Madigan remains the chair of the Illinois Democratic Party.
In his last remarks on the matter in July, Lauch said the investigation was "vibrant."
A former assistant U.S. attorney and Joliet-area native, Lausch took the top job — which pays $169,000 annually — in the office after Trump abruptly demanded the immediate resignation of 46 U.S. attorneys across the nation in March 2017, including Lausch’s predecessor, Zach Fardon.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, frequently praised Lausch for helping Chicago police officers charge those suspected of federal crimes as a surge in violent crime swept the city amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lightfoot’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Lausch’s dismissal.