Under fire from Trump, AG tasks Chicago prosecutor to oversee documents for Congress

Chuck Goudie Image
Monday, April 9, 2018
Chicago U.S. Attorney John Lausch is inheriting a new post: supervise more than a million documents requested by congressional committees.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- New on the job in Chicago, U.S. Attorney John Lausch also has a new assignment coming straight from his boss: shepherd all of the documents that Congress wants for several of its most important investigations.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in the face of resurgent criticism from President Trump, has tapped Chicago's top federal prosecutor John Lausch to oversee the Justice Department's response to a congressional request for documents. Lausch, installed late last year to lead the U.S. attorney's office in the Northern District of Illinois after being selected by Trump, will now supervise document transfers from the administration to Capitol Hill.

Among the cases now being put on Lausch's plate: the investigation of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, the firings of James Comey and Andrew McCabe from the FBI and the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The slow pace of the administration's response to records requested by congressional committees, many under subpoena, has been criticized by some Republican leaders-and even by President Trump himself.

"What does the Department of Justice and FBI have to hide?" Mr. Trump said Saturday on Twitter. "Why aren't they giving the strongly requested documents (unredacted) to the HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE? Stalling, but for what reason? Not looking good!"

While unusual to outsource such a job to Chicago's U.S. attorney, Lausch is expected to offer an independent look at document requests and provide what is required in a timely manner. During a meeting with Chicago reporters in January, Lausch declined to take the bait and discuss politics. "I'm not going to comment on the politics or the rhetoric that may come out from one place or another," Lausch said.

What is unknown is what effect Lausch's new role will have on his time running the federal prosecutor's office in Chicago-if any. Lausch had said he planned to prioritize public corruption and violent crime cases here.

For the Justice Department, fulfilling just the House Judiciary Committee subpoena is a monumental task-and now it is Lausch's concern. There are more than a million documents to be examined just from the agency's 2016 investigation into Clinton's private email server. Only a few thousand had been turned over as of last month, according to House committee members and DOJ officials had missed at least one subpoena deadline.

"The Attorney General and FBI Director understand the concerns of members of Congress and the President about the pace of production and level of redactions in the documents already received by the Committee" said Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement. "Our goal is to assure Congress, the president and the American people that the FBI is going to produce the relevant documents and will do so completely and with integrity and professionalism" Flores said.

Lausch was asked by Attorney General Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray during the weekend to oversee the document review and transfer. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney in Chicago said that Lausch would not be available to discuss his new role.

According to the DOJ spokesperson in Washington, Lausch will have "independent authority to oversee this production and report progress to the Attorney General. Mr. Lausch will also be available to meet with members of Congress to discuss the redaction process to ensure that they remain confident in the Department's efforts to be as transparent as possible with the Committee."