Former federal prosecutor John Lausch is President Donald Trump’s pick to serve as the next U.S. attorney in the Chicago-based Northern District of Illinois, sources said.
Lausch, 46, has not been formally nominated and the White House hasn’t publicly named him. By tradition, Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth can block such a nomination. The next step is for Lausch to be vetted by a screening committee of legal experts assembled by the two Democratic senators.
Trump’s eventual nominee still would have to go through a confirmation process that could take months, including approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Lausch, who served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago from 1999 until 2010, is now a partner in the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. He emerged as the finalist for the job after initial rounds of vetting, and his name has been passed on to the state’s two Democratic senators for consideration.
If confirmed, Lausch will succeed Zachary Fardon, who stepped down from the $169,000-per-year post in March after Trump asked for the resignations of all Obama-era U.S. attorney holdovers. Since then, Trump has nominated a smattering of replacements across the country.
Lausch could not be reached for comment. Born and raised in the Joliet area, he was captain of the 1987 state champion Joliet Catholic football team and went on to play linebacker at Harvard University, where he also was the team captain. He lives in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood with his wife and three children.
He emerged from a short list of potential picks also featuring attorneys Michael Scudder and Andrew Porter.
Maggie Hickey, a top state inspector general under Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, also had been under consideration and may have been cut from the list because Durbin and Duckworth were keen for a nonpartisan candidate who had not worked for an elected official.
Lausch graduated from Harvard University in 1992 and attended law school at Northwestern University. He was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1996, according to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
As a prosecutor, Lausch started out working large-scale gang and drug cases and eventually earned a supervisory position under then-U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. He also served as the office’s Violent Crime Coordinator, leading the district’s Anti-Gang and Project Safe Neighborhoods programs.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is one of the busiest in the nation, handling everything from terrorism, gang conspiracies and bank robberies to financial fraud and political corruption. As of 2016, the office had just over 300 employees, including 127 prosecutors and 27 attorneys who focus on civil litigation.
With the Trump administration focus on the city’s epidemic of violence, Lausch’s relationship with the city’s various federal and local agencies could be a key factor, one former U.S. attorney’s office colleague said.
“John is very well regarded among local law enforcement, both Chicago police and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, because he’s been in the trenches,” said the colleague, who did not want to be named because the selection process was ongoing.
One of Lausch’s highest-profile cases involved the prosecution of corrupt Chicago cop Joseph Miedzianowski, whose shocking double life as a drug dealer led to the breakup of the department’s vaunted gang crimes unit. After his arrest, Miedzianowksi, who is serving life in prison, allegedly plotted to escape from jail and to kill Lausch’s partner, Brian Netols, the lead prosecutor on the case, records show.
Since joining Kirkland seven years ago, Lausch has specialized in government enforcement defense and internal investigations, according to his law firm bio. Most notably, Lausch led the team that represented BP in a string of litigation over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which so far has led to tens of billions of dollars in fines and other penalties.