The White House waited until the eleventh hour before publicly confirming Sunday that Chicago's top federal prosecutor will not be forced to resign as originally planned.
"In very limited exceptions, including the Northern District of Illinois, the administration has opted not to seek new candidates for U.S. Attorney positions at this time," a White House spokesman said in a statement Sunday when the Tribune asked about the future of U.S. Attorney John Lausch.
Lausch, a 2017 nominee of then-President Donald Trump, had been part of a clean sweep by Biden's team asking holdovers from the previous administration to step down no later than the end of February.
Last week, however, the Tribune and other media outlets reported that Lausch was going to be allowed to remain in office until a successor is confirmed by the U.S. Senate - a process that typically takes several months or more.
The reprieve came after Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth wrote a letter to President Joe Biden hailing Lausch as a nonpartisan corruption buster and asking that he be allowed to stay on until a replacement could be installed.
Lausch's office is investigating Commonwealth Edison's alleged bribery scheme to funnel money and do-nothing jobs to then-House Speaker Michael Madigan's loyalists in exchange for his help with state legislation. Madigan has not been charged with wrongdoing, but the scandal helped topple him from power.
The White House statement Sunday was the first official comment by the Biden administration on the situation. The White House did not elaborate on the reason for the change of heart and stopped short of confirming that Lausch would stay on until a new U.S. attorney is installed.
In a joint statement released Tuesday, Durbin and Duckworth said they were "pleased" the administration had acted on their request.
"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," the statement said. "After our repeated calls, we appreciate that Mr. Lausch will be given this opportunity."
Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.
Lausch, 51, of Joliet, Illinois, was sworn in as U.S. attorney in November 2017 after an unanimous voice vote in the Senate.
The search for a new U.S. attorney is traditionally run by the senior member of the state's congressional delegation from the president's party, which falls on Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
After the candidates are vetted and the Biden administration makes a nomination, the confirmation would move to Durbin's committee for approval, followed by a vote in the full Senate. Because of their key roles in the process, Duckworth and especially Durbin could dictate the pace.
It's customary for U.S. attorneys appointed by a president of a different party to leave when there's a new boss in the White House, and regardless of when Lausch leaves, the investigations he's shepherded will continue.