President Biden triggered outcries from Illinois lawmakers on both sides of the aisle after he fired a prosecutor overseeing corruption probes of Democrats in the state.
Democrat senators, House GOP lawmakers and the Illinois Republican Party all condemned the move to fire Chicago-based U.S. Attorney John Lausch.
U.S. attorneys are appointed by presidents and typically new presidents ask for the resignations of nearly all at the beginning of a new administration, but Lausch had rare bipartisan support. When then-President Trump appointed Lausch, the attorney had the support of both Illinois’ Democratic senators -- Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.
Durbin and Duckworth released a joint statement saying they hadn’t been consulted in Lausch’s firing and urging the administration not to terminate him immediately.
The Statement read:
"While we agree with the Biden administration’s criminal justice agenda, we are disappointed with the decision to terminate U.S. Attorney Lausch without consulting us. In 2017, our nonpartisan screening committee gave its support for Mr. Lausch to serve in this position, and the Senate confirmed him unanimously.
"While we agree with the Biden administration’s criminal justice agenda, we are disappointed with the decision to terminate U.S. Attorney Lausch without consulting us. In 2017, our nonpartisan screening committee gave its support for Mr. Lausch to serve in this position, and the Senate confirmed him unanimously," they wrote.
"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," they wrote, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Four Illinois House Republicans, Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, Darin LaHood and Mary Miller, issued a statement saying it was "reckless and irresponsible" to fire Lausch until his successor is confirmed. "There is precedent for allowing a U.S. attorney to remain in office until successors are confirmed, and we strongly believe both should be allowed to do so," the Republicans said.
Lausch and all except one other U.S. attorney appointed by Trump who have not yet left their posts were asked to resign by Feb. 28 on Tuesday in a call with Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson.
The Illinois Republican Party's new chair Don Tracy accused Biden of putting politics above justice.
"Joe Biden cares more about settling scores with Trump than he does standing up for the people of Illinois who desperately want a government that works for them — not for politicians. If Mike Madigan faces no consequences for his party’s corruption, he can now thank Joe Biden for protection," said Tracy.
He applauded Lausch for "dismantling the corrupt Democratic Machine one crony at a time," according to the Sun-Times.
Lausch is supervising a public corruption investigation into ComEd, after federal prosecutors last year said the utility company admitted to providing jobs or contracts "for various associates of a high-level elected official for the state of Illinois." Bribery charges were leveled against ComEd and four members of the inner circle of then-Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. Madigan, ousted as speaker, remains chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois. The ComEd case implicated Madigan, but he has not yet been charged with a crime and denies any wrongdoing.
Other elected officials indicted while Lausch served as Chicago’s top prosecutor include state Sen. Thomas Cullerton, former Sen. Terry Link, the late former Sen. Martin Sandoval, former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski and Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta.