Illinois Congressmen in D.C. frustrated with prolonged wait for U.S. attorney appointment

By Gary Scott on March 31, 2018 at 6:00am

Republican Congressman Darin LaHood is expressing frustration with the President’s prolonged process in selecting central Illinois’ top prosecutor.

According to an article in yesterday’s “State Journal Register,” the wait for President Trump to appoint a U.S. Attorney in the state’s central district has gone on too long for LaHood, who represents Illinois’ 18th Congressional District.

In a statement obtained by the Springfield paper, LaHood says that he is “very frustrated by that process. It’s gone on way too long. U.S. attorneys have been selected across the country. I’ve weighed in with the Justice Department and the White House. We did just get our (U.S. marshal) approved, but the U.S. attorney needs to happen.”

Once a candidate is selected, they will be tasked with overseeing a number of high-profile cases, including the prosecution of former U.S. Representative Aaron Schock, the man who formerly held the position LaHood now occupies, who is alleged to have spent over $100,000 in government funds to redecorate his office in the style of the hit television show Downton Abbey. The eventual U.S. attorney for Illinois’ central district will also be charged with handling an investigation into Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc.

Along with several other lawmakers, LaHood took part a process of evaluating and recommending candidates for federal judgeships, for top prosecutors and U.S. marshal positions in the northern, central and southern districts of Illinois. This process is traditionally overseen by the longest-serving Congress member from the party of the president.

Congressman John Shimkus, a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives from Collinsville was tasked with leading that process this year. In doing so, Shimkus worked closely with both LaHood and Taylorville-based Congressman Rodney Davis in evaluating and recommending candidates for Illinois’ Central District, which includes Springfield, Peoria, Decatur, Champaign, Bloomington-Normal and of course Jacksonville.

The group then forwarded four names for consideration to the White House and Justice Department in June of 2017. That list included: Tim Bass, an assistant U.S. attorney in Springfield who is prosecuting Aaron Schock; Joe Hartzler, the lead prosecutor in the case against the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and who’s served as a special counsel for Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner; former federal prosecutor and retiring Stark County judge Thomas Keith, and Sangamon County state’s attorney John Milhiser.

It’s standard protocol for these types of appointments to also involve input from Illinois’ two U.S. Senators, Democrats Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. Despite Durbin saying that their recommendations were sent to the White House “months ago,” according to the State Journal Register, Durbin says, “Nothing has happened. I can’t explain what is happening, but from the Senate side, we had a timely review of each of the applicants, we gave our approval to one of the applicants, we sent that to the White House and just haven’t heard back.”

According to the article, White House officials say that 60 out of 94 U.S. attorney positions have been filled across the country, but gave no indication as to when an announcement might come for Illinois’ central district.

Congressman LaHood expressed to the paper that, despite his frustration, he hopes for an announcement to come “within the next three months.”