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Chicago U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald to keep his job--for now

February 16, 2009 |  6:18 pm

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago will be keeping his job at least in the short-term despite the change in presidential administrations

Word from Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin's office is that the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald, will be keeping his job.

At least for now.

Although there was a big fuss when President Bush tried to replace six of the 93 U.S. Attorneys around the country, the political reality is that when a president, especially of the other party, comes into office, those 93 folks go out.

But President Obama has sent word that the 93 will be staying on, for a while at least, while they get sorted out. It seems the new administration has a few other things on its political plate like a tanking economy and failing banks and auto companies. And how's it look for a Democrat to talk bipartisanship and then can 93 people appointed by a Republican?

U.S. Attorneys in Illinois are never very popular among the Democratic crowd from whence sprang Obama and his chief of staff, ex-Rep. Rahm Emanuel. Local prosecutors just seem unable to spot the kind of chronic political corruption that leaps out to federal eyes.

An additional complication for Obama firing Fitzgerald right now is that the attorney is in the midst of a multi-year investigation of two former Obama pals -- Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who's been convicted and is singing to the FBI to reduce his pending sentence, and ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who hasn't been charged yet, but how'd it look for the president to fire the prosecutor hot on his tail?

A U.S. Attorney out in New Mexico is pursuing another pay-to-play probe of another Obama political pal, Gov. Bill Richardson, who was nominated to be secretary of Commerce but withdrew when word spread of the investigation into one of his big political donors also benefiting from state business.

Fitzgerald, who was appointed by Bush in 2001, was the special fellow who pursued Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, into perjury-land. In December, Fitzgerald went out of his way to exonerate Obama of any involvement when announcing the criminal pay-to-play complaint against Blagojevich.

Down the road a bit it would look a whole lot better if Obama's Atty. Gen. Eric Holder was to promote Fitzgerald out of the Chicago job. Who could argue with that then?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Associated Press