Our View: President Biden should reverse decision to fire U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats, say they are ‘disappointed’

It’s easy these days to see politics strictly as blue and red, liberal and conservative. We hope we can agree that’s not always the case, and we shouldn’t have to remind President Joe Biden of this. Biden has pledged partisanship won’t stop him from doing what’s right.

But we find ourselves having to remind the president of his pledge as he plans to fire U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr., a Joliet native who is responsible for the Northern District of Illinois.

On Feb. 8, Biden asked Lausch, and 55 other U.S. attorneys former President Donald Trump appointed, to resign by Feb. 28.

But Lausch isn’t a partisan lackey. In August 2017, U.S. senators set up a non-partisan screening committee to help evaluate candidates for the vacancy in the Northern District of Illinois. The committee picked Lausch for the job, and in November 2017, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Lausch by a voice vote.

Lausch continues to have bipartisan support from the Illinois Congressional delegation.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats, said in a statement they were “disappointed” that Biden decided to terminate Lausch without consulting them.

“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,” they wrote.

Durbin and Duckworth acknowledge the president’s right to remove U.S. attorneys. But they said there is precedent for U.S. attorneys to remain in office to conclude “sensitive investigations.”

Republican members of Congress from Illinois, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, said in a statement it would be “reckless and irresponsible” for Biden to fire Lausch.

The GOP congressmen cited Lausch’s work on a “major public corruption investigation” involving the years-long ComEd bribery scheme which has implicated Michael Madigan, the former speaker of the Illinois House. Madigan has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.

Lausch is also working on other investigations involving political corruption. Don Tracy, the new chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said Lausch is “finally clearing out criminals in elected office.”

Northern Illinois is Lausch’s home, dating back to his boyhood. He played on the 1987 championship football team at Joliet Catholic High School before leaving for Harvard University and law school at Northwestern University.

Before being appointed U.S. Attorney, Lausch served from 1999 to 2010 as an assistant U.S. attorney from the Northern District of Illinois. During that period, he was deputy chief in the Narcotics and Gangs Section for several years, where he helped lead the Anti-Gang and Project Safe Neighborhoods programs. He then went into private practice until his 2017 appointment.

We have been encouraged by Biden’s bipartisan approach, but this move is the exact opposite of that and it can have a significant impact on Illinois justice. U.S. Sens. Durbin and Duckworth need to work closely with the president to remind him of that and change his mind in that regard. And, we hope, the president reverses his decision when it comes to seeking U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr.’s resignation.