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Barring word from White House, Chicago US Attorney John Lausch faces last week in office
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Barring word from White House, Chicago US Attorney John Lausch faces last week in office

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Barring a last-minute change of heart from the White House, Chicago U.S. Attorney John Lausch will be stepping down from his high-profile post at end of the week despite a bipartisan push to keep him.

Lausch, a 2017 Trump nominee who had also earned the support of Illinois’ top Democrats in Congress, was part of a clean sweep announced earlier this month giving him and other U.S. attorneys nominated by the previous administration until Feb. 28 to resign.

Last week, Lausch held an officewide Zoom meeting telling staffers that Friday would in all likelihood be his last day at work, sources said.

Lausch’s impending dismissal was met with a chorus of disapproval from Illinois’ two Democratic senators and several Republican congressmen who called on President Joe Biden to keep him on to see through a range of ongoing corruption investigations that have roiled state politics.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth followed up with a letter Feb. 9 addressed directly to Biden saying Lausch had served “professionally and without partisanship” and that they had let White House counsel know their position as recently as last week.

But there has been no indication over the past two weeks that the Justice Department has been swayed.

If he resigns as scheduled, Lausch’s first assistant, John Kocoras, would likely take over as acting U.S. attorney until a replacement is found and confirmed by the U.S. Senate — a process that typically takes months.

There was no immediate comment Monday on Lausch’s status from the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago.

It’s customary for U.S. attorneys appointed by a president of a different party to leave when there’s a new boss in the White House, and Lausch’s departure would not mean the investigations he’s shepherded will stop.

Those include the ongoing investigation of Commonwealth Edison’s alleged bribery scheme to funnel money and do-nothing jobs to then-House Speaker Michael Madigan’s loyalists in exchange for his help with state legislation. Madigan has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Lausch, 51, of Joliet, was sworn in as U.S. attorney in November 2017 after an unanimous voice vote in the Senate.

Though it wasn’t publicly known at the time, the office’s corruption unit already was well into an investigation of Chicago Ald. Edward Burke, including having then-25th Ward Ald. Daniel Solis wear a wire on his City Hall colleagues.

Burke is currently awaiting trial on racketeering charges brought in 2019.

jmeisner@chiagotribune.com

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