Political corruption. Gun violence. Financial crimes. Homegrown terrorism.
These are just a selection of the cases brought in the last four years by John Lausch, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
The most high-profile case of all – a major bribery scandal involving ComEd that implicated, but has so far not led to charges for former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Under Lausch, the U.S. Attorney’s office has also investigated corruption at City Hall, recently securing the conviction of former 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz on fraud charges. Meanwhile, three current city council members – Carrie Austin, Ed Burke, and Patrick Daley Thompson – are under indictment or investigation.
Appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017, Lausch’s job performance has won him bipartisan support, with Illinois Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth both successfully lobbying President Joe Biden to exempt Lausch from a blanket order to fire U.S. attorneys appointed by Trump.
In a February statement, Durbin and Duckworth said that Lausch “served with professionalism and without partisanship. 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 investigations. After our repeated calls, we appreciate that Mr. Lausch will be given this opportunity.”
How long Lausch will remain in the job is unclear. Durbin’s office told WTTW News Tuesday that the search process has not yet started.
And Lausch made it clear in an interview with Chicago Tonight that he is happy to continue in the job – at least for the time being.
“This is a great job. I love this job,” said Lausch. “But I serve at the pleasure of the president. And hearing nothing, I will continue to keep my head down and keep working at 219 (the Dirksen Federal Building at 219 S. Dearborn St.) to do what we can for the people of the Northern District.”
One factor in Lausch’s decision as to how long he remains may be his health after he was briefly hospitalized in May for what was described as a mini-stroke caused by a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain.
Lausch’s spokesperson Joseph Fitzpatrick said at the time that the symptoms “were limited and quickly subsided the same day.”
In addition to high-profile public corruption cases, Lausch – who was the deputy chief in the Narcotics and Gangs Section from 2005 to 2010 – has also sought to use his office to help fight violent crime and target illegal gun trafficking.
One of the reasons Lausch believes there has been a surge in violence and gun crime is that he says criminals have become “emboldened” because too often they are able to commit crimes with impunity.
“One thing we’ve clearly seen in the violence is that the offenders – they’re emboldened,” said Lausch. “As one example, we charged a murder case the other day ... and it involved the murder of someone in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon. We see carjackings that take place at all hours of the day. ... The offenders don’t seem to be concerned with the consequences of their actions.”
Lausch has indicated that federal prosecutors would be willing to bring parallel charges in order to seek pre-trial detention for alleged violent offenders who may have received bail in Cook County and elsewhere.
“From the prosecution end, the one thing that we’ve emphasized on the federal side and that I have emphasized in particular given that I spent a lot of time doing violent crime cases back when I was just a regular prosecutor, is really how important it is that we provide a baseline level of accountability,” said Lausch. “We need to ensure that when people are driving violence – they are pulling the trigger, they are possessing guns illegally, they are putting guns into the hands of people that should not have them – that we hold those people accountable.”
Earlier this month, Lausch was drawn into a dispute between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, after Lightfoot asked him to evaluate evidence against five suspects in a deadly shootout in Austin.
Foxx had declined to charge the suspects citing a lack of evidence and said she was “mortified” at Lightfoot’s “inappropriate” request.