Watch CBS News

Durbin, Duckworth Ask Biden To Keep Chicago's Top Federal Prosecutor On The Job Until A Successor Is In Place

CHICAGO (CBS/CNN) -- Amid reports the Justice Department is expected to ask virtually U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Donald Trump to resign, Illinois U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth are asking President Joe Biden to let Chicago's top federal prosecutor stay on the job until a successor is in place.

CNN reports the Justice Department is asking 56 Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys appointed by President Trump to submit their resignations, while sparing two top prosecutors in Delaware and Connecticut overseeing two sensitive Trump-era investigations. Justice officials have scheduled a call with U.S. attorneys around the country to discuss a transition that is expected to take weeks. The Justice official didn't say when the resignations would take effect.

Durbin and Duckworth issued a statement Tuesday morning urging Biden to let John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, to stay in his job until the Senate confirms a successor.

"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 non-partisan screening committee gave its support for Mr. Lausch to serve in this position, and the Senate confirmed him unanimously," the senators said in a joint statement. "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."

Lausch has been the top federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Illinois since he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in September 2017. He replaced Zachary Fardon, who held the job for more than three years before President Trump took office and he was asked to resign.

The changeover of U.S. attorneys is routine, but is often fraught with political overtones. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked 46 Obama-appointed U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations. A handful were allowed to stay on for a brief period, but most had to leave immediately.

Distrust of Trump-era appointees led the Biden administration to appoint a career Justice Department official as acting attorney general while it waits for the U.S. Senate to confirm Merrick Garland, the President's nominee to lead the department.

Garland's confirmation hearing was expected to begin on February 8, but it has been delayed by former Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham who, until this week when Democrats took formal control of the Senate, opposed moving quickly on Garland's hearing.

Graham said he needs time to question Garland on current investigations and wrote a letter on Tuesday to Wilkinson urging him "not to interfere in or call off" the investigations.

Of the 94 U.S. attorneys serving in districts across the country, 25 are serving in acting positions after some Trump appointees resigned ahead of the Biden inauguration.

Among those the Biden administration may keep for a while, according to people briefed on the matter, are Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney in Washington, DC, who is overseeing the sprawling probe of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Sherwin is a career prosecutor from Miami, but was installed in DC by former Attorney General William Barr, and among the options Biden administration officials have discussed is having him continue to lead the insurrection probe, perhaps from Justice headquarters, while making room for Biden's own appointee in the DC office.

Less certain is how long acting U.S. attorneys in New York City will remain in their posts: Seth DuCharme in Brooklyn and Audrey Strauss in Manhattan.

Some high-profile U.S. attorneys who had not resigned ahead of Biden's inauguration included U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers, Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber and Pittsburgh U.S. Attorney Scott Brady.

Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown had made clear to a local news outlet that DeVillers is going to be replaced and has put out a call for resumes, according to DeVillers is currently overseeing two high-profile corruption investigations involving a former Republican lawmaker and Cincinnati council members that includes a Democrat.

Huber was first appointed by former President Barack Obama and then reappointed by Trump. During his second time as the U.S. attorney, Huber was tasked by Sessions to reexamine a previous Justice Department investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's business dealings and the Clinton Foundation. Huber ended his probe, concluding there wasn't reason to reopen the investigation, a decision that irritated Barr, according to people briefed on the matter.

Barr tasked Brady with reviewing claims related to Ukraine and the Biden family made by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

The move was initially seen by Justice officials as a way to keep dubious allegations from Giuliani -- which Barr publicly cast doubt on -- away from other Justice Department matters.

But Brady embraced the task, former Justice Department officials say, and pushed to take investigative steps that led to internal fights with the FBI and others. The status of Brady's efforts on Ukraine remains unclear.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The CNN Wire contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.