Is Chicago’s top federal prosecutor going? Not anytime soon.
President Joe Biden gave the U.S. attorney in Chicago until Sunday to submit his resignation or be fired. It was a bad decision, but one that Biden, thankfully, has wormed his way out of.
U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, launched a belated but successful effort to keep John Lausch in his job. As a result, a compromise was reached — Lausch will remain U.S. attorney until the Senate confirms his successor.
As chairman of the judiciary committee, Durbin controls the schedule for confirmation hearings. So it would appear that Lausch is going nowhere.
Lausch is in the middle of a series of corruption probes, and retaining him is the obvious way to go — both for the people of Illinois and Biden.
Did the president really want to be seen as ousting a corruption-busting prosecutor, particularly one who’s pursuing alleged wrongdoers from Biden’s Democratic Party?
Lausch was appointed with bipartisan support, including that of Illinois’ two Democratic U.S. Senators — Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. Since then, he’s shown their confidence was well placed by going after powerful politicos in Springfield, Chicago and Cook County.
This is not the first time that a U.S. attorney in Chicago has been targeted for dismissal while pursuing wrongdoers in important governmental positions.
Some Illinois Republicans worked hard to engineer the dismissal of former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, a Republican appointee. Fortunately, their efforts were not successful, and Fitzgerald, now a member of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, went on to convict dozens of the politically connected, including former Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.
Biden’s defenders argued the U.S. Attorney’s Office would continue its corruption probes regardless of who holds the top spot. Further, they point out that it’s routine for new presidential administrations to replace the nation’s 96 U.S. Attorneys with their own appointees.
It is, indeed, routine politics for new presidents to appoint their supporters as U.S. attorneys. But it’s not required, and at least in this case, it was a dumb idea.
Past practice also shows some U.S. attorneys have been interested in pursuing corruption regardless of the alleged wrongdoers’ party, while others have showed a decided lack of interest.
Frankly, it’s disappointing that Durbin and Duckworth were either asleep at the switch or ineffective in getting Biden’s attention on this issue until Lausch was put on a public hit list.
Who knows what was going on in the minds of Biden and his advisors about the Lausch. But Durbin, obviously, made is clear he could and would use his judiciary committee post to make things difficult for the administration.
As a result, they came to a political agreement. Biden saved face by not officially reversing his position, although he unofficially did so. There was nothing for Biden to gain — and much to lose — by sticking with a bad decision.
At the same time, Durbin and Duckworth were able to retain Lausch until his unknown successor is confirmed, which won’t be anytime soon.
The entire situation was moronic, but what else is new in politics and government? At any rate, all’s well that ends well.