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U.S. Attorney John Lausch Reportedly Staying On The Job Until Successor Picked; Mayor Lightfoot Said Forcing Him Out Now Would Have Made 'Zero Sense'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- U.S. Attorney John Lausch reportedly will be allowed to keep his job until the Biden administration gets his successor in place, meaning Chicago's top federal prosecutor won't be forced to resign at the end of the month.

Citing sources, the Chicago Sun-Times reported the White House and Justice Department signed off on keeping Lausch on the job for the time being, making him one of only three U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Donald Trump who aren't being asked to resign by the end of the month.

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, who had urged President Joe Biden not to force Lausch out until a successor is in place, said they're pleased Biden agreed to their request.

"Mr. Lausch has served with professionalism and without partisanship.  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.  After our repeated calls, we appreciate that Mr. Lausch will be given this opportunity," Durbin and Duckworth said in a statement.

Earlier Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot also urged President Biden to keep Lausch, a longtime friend of hers, 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 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.

Under Lausch's leadership, federal prosecutors in Chicago have brought charges in several prominent corruption cases, including a sweeping bribery case against ComEd, which implicated former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who was forced to give up the speaker's gavel last month when it became clear House Democrats wouldn't re-elect him. Madigan has since resigned his House seat and his position as chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Madigan has not been charged with a crime, but four former ComEd executives and lobbyists -- including ex-ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggirore and former lobbyist and longtime Madigan confidante Michael McClain -- have been indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges in connection with the scheme. They pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. That followed the September guilty plea by a former ComEd vice president, Fidel Marquez.

Lausch's office also got indictments against former Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval, who pleaded guilty to acting as a protector for red light camera company SafeSpeed in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribes before passing away from COVID last year; against Chicago Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who is awaiting trial on racketeering, bribery, and extortion charges; and other Illinois politicians still facing trial in other corruption cases.

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.

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