CHICAGO (CBS) — Facing the prospect U.S. Attorney John Lausch could be forced to resign by the end of the month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to keep her longtime friend in place until the U.S. Senate confirms a successor, saying “it makes zero sense” for Lausch to be removed from office before then.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department called on all U.S. Attorneys appointed by President Donald Trump to submit their resignations by Feb. 28.
At an unrelated news conference on Tuesday, Lightfoot — a former federal prosecutor — said she understands all U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, but nonetheless said she hopes President Biden allows Lausch to stay on the job until a successor can take over the reins as the top federal prosecutor in Chicago.
“My sincere hope, and the thing that I have said to the White House, is it makes zero sense for John Lausch to be replaced. John Lausch has done a yeoman’s job. I’ve known this man for 20-plus years, I’ve worked with him, I consider him a personal friend. He has done a tremendous job, been a great support for the work that we are doing, particularly around violence in the city. To replace him at this time, I think, puts our city at risk,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot said, even if President Biden were to nominate a successor today, it would likely take months for that person to go through background checks and the Senate confirmation process before he or she could take over for Laucsch.
“We can’t be without a permanent head of this office as we head into the summer months, when things are most challenging. That makes no sense. I’ve been very, very clear with folks at the White House that this is not the time for that kind of change,” she said.
U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth also have urged President Biden to keep Lausch in place until a successor is in place, saying they were upset they were not consulted about the decision to demand Lausch’s resignation.
“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,” Durbin and Duckworth said in a statement earlier this month.
There has been no word yet from the White House or the Justice Department if Lausch will be forced out at the end of the month.
As for who might ultimately succeed Lausch, Lightfoot noted that no woman or person of color has ever been appointed U.S. Attorney in Chicago.
“I want to see that history changed, and make sure that the next person fully represents the diversity of this great city, but let’s do it in a way that … doesn’t make us less safe, and changing him now, putting in an interim who obviously is going to be constrained in what they do as we head into the summer, simply makes no sense,” she said.
Lightfoot herself sought the job as U.S. Attorney in Chicago under President Barack Obama, who ultimately chose Zachary Fardon to succeed Patrick Fitzgerald in 2013.