The search is on for a new top federal prosecutor to root out Chicago corruption. The congressman in charge of the search says he's waiting to get instructions from the Donald Trump Administration, not shutting out Democrats like they suggest.
With the resignation of U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions looks to Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, for referrals on the person to head the U.S. Attorney's office in northern Illinois. That office has been responsible for the convictions of former governors Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, and George Ryan, a Republican. Most recently, Fardon's office prosecuted former House Speaker Dennis Hastert in his bank fraud case involving child molestation from his days as a P.E. teacher in suburban Chicago.
Democrat Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth are criticizing the southern Illinois Republican for not including them in the picks and delaying the process.
"Rep. Shimkus has delayed re-establishing this bipartisan process in order to consult with the Trump Administration," their letter said.
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Shimkus said they have a list of potential picks and any delays in the process isn't of his doing.
"It's been two months since I've talked to them on this issue and one month since the attorney general's been sworn in," Shimkus said. "There's a perception that nothing's been going on. We have been gathering names and we have a spreadsheet. I've also empowered my Republican colleagues from the northern and central [parts of the state] to help filter those names. The bottom line is, I'm the senior Republican. It's my call."
In the U.S. senators' letter to Shimkus, they also said they were concerned with the inclusion of Kathy Lydon, head of Illinois' Washington D.C.-based office. Shimkus said including a member of Gov. Bruce Rauner's Washington staff isn't meant to include the governor on picks, but to use Lydon's experience from when she was the chief of staff for former congresswoman Judy Biggert.
"It's really just asking her opinion on gathering of the paperwork and the forms. Just how they went through it last time," he said.
Faisal Khan of the investigative nonprofit Project Six and previous legislative inspector general of Chicago says the federal prosecutor overseeing Chicago has to be willing to take on machine politicians and big businesses alike.
"If any jurisdiction needs a strong, independent prosecutor, it is the northern district of Illinois," he said. "Someone who comes from a background that isn't very 'Chicago-y' for lack of a better term. Someone who's not connected and willing to take on a fight."
U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions asked for the resignation of 46 United States attorneys that included Chicago-based Fardon. The post serves at the pleasure of the president and typically changes with the president, who relies on the senior party member in the state to refer candidates for a replacement. Fardon has been prosecutor since 2013.