When the presidency changes hands, it isn’t unusual for the incoming administration’s Justice Department to ask U.S. attorneys appointed by the previous president to submit their resignations. The thinking, it seems, is that each president is entitled to have his or her own team in place. So, in general, the Biden administration on Feb. 9
When the presidency changes hands, it isn’t unusual for the incoming administration’s Justice Department to ask U.S. attorneys appointed by the previous president to submit their resignations. The thinking, it seems, is that each president is entitled to have his or her own team in place. So, in general, the Biden administration on Feb. 9 was following established precedent when it requested resignations from 56 Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys nationwide.
Biden made two notable exceptions, keeping in place the Delaware U.S. attorney overseeing the tax probe of the president’s son, Hunter Biden, and John Durham, the special counsel appointed to trace the origins of the probe into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Russia.
Illinois U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin were quick to press Team Biden to make one more exception: John Lausch, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. In a Feb. 9 letter asking Biden to let Lausch remain in his position until his successor is confirmed, they noted that there is precedent for U.S. attorneys in this district to remain in office across administrations, and they also noted that Lausch is overseeing “highly sensitive investigations.”
What the senators didn’t say, of course, is that those investigations involve rooting out the rot and corruption that has involved members of their own party here in Illinois. Lausch has coordinated a multi-pronged probe that has led him and his investigators very nearly to the uppermost levels of Illinois government, has driven several public officials from office, has indicted powerful officeholders such as Ald. Ed Burke, and has shone a harsh spotlight on Springfield’s lobbying culture.
In the wake of the ongoing investigation, Lausch’s office has entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement with Chicago utility Commonwealth Edison—a deal in which ComEd admitted it had engaged in a longtime effort to bribe Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Lausch’s team also indicted ComEd’s former CEO and a handful of the company’s key lobbyists, including Michael McClain, a close confidant of Madigan’s.
Lausch’s work is far from done. Illinoisans eager to see state government cleaned up from the top down, however, can take some measure of comfort in the Northern District’s reputation for independence as well as the fact that Lausch was able to carry on the office’s tradition for hard-hitting investigations after Zach Fardon, his predecessor, was abruptly dismissed not long after Trump took office in 2017.
But we shouldn’t have to be seeking consolation—we should instead look forward to keeping Lausch on the job. The work he is overseeing is too important for Biden to allow the unnecessary distraction of a change of leadership now. Keep John Lausch on the job, Mr. President.