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Trump, Barr Are Shaking Things Up in a Major Way at the D.C. Office That Prosecuted Michael Flynn


WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: (L-R) U.S. Attorney General William Barr and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a signing ceremony for an executive order establishing the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, in the Oval Office of the White House on November 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. Attorney General Barr recently announced the initiative on a trip to Montana where he met with Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe leaders.

President Donald Trump on Monday nominated U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman to move from the Northern District of Ohio to the District of Columbia. Here is a recap of the shakeup involving several people and highlights from the careers of the men making key moves.

Herdman, in addition to being the top federal prosecutor in this current district which serves Cleveland, Toledo, Akron and Youngstown, is also vice president of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of United States Attorneys. Herdman is a 2001 Harvard Law School graduate.

Almost simultaneously, Attorney General William Barr announced that his former aide Timothy J. Shea, the current top prosecutor in D.C., will slide out of his current role and into one overseeing the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Shea is the only prosecutor who signed the government’s original motion to dismiss the prosecution of former Trump National Security Advsor Michael Flynn.

Timothy Shea was the top prosecutor put in place shortly before the DOJ’s Roger Stone sentencing memo debacle unfolded in public view. Not long after that, Shea’s office dropped its criminal case against Russian troll farm defendant Concord Management and Consulting LLC. In May, a month after Barr had tasked Eastern District of Missouri U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen with reviewing the Flynn case, the DOJ moved to dismiss the Flynn matter.

Between the tenures of Shea and Herdman, Michael Sherwin will serve as acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Sherwin recently handled the case of the shooting at the naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., which Barr discussed at length earlier Monday. Axios described Sherwin as “a close confidante” of Barr’s.

Sherwin is also known for winning the conviction of a Chinese woman caught trespassing at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.  The woman, Yujing Zhang, 33, was accused of being caught with four cell phones, a laptop, a hard drive, and a thumb drive containing malicious malware.  When interviewed, Zhang said she was there to attend a “United Nations Chinese American Association” event or a “United Nations Friendship Event” that didn’t exist on the club’s calendar.  She was sentenced to eight months in jail and was set to be deported.

Herdman, of Ohio, has come out strongly against cases involving threats of and acts involving political and religious violence.  “Go ahead and make your case for Nazism, a white nation, and racial superiority,” Herdman said rhetorically of defendants who crossed paths with the Department of Justice.  “The Constitution may give you a voice, but it doesn’t guarantee you a receptive audience.”

“Your right to free speech does not automatically mean that people will agree with you,” he went on to say.  “In fact, you have an absolute God-given and inalienable right to be on the losing end of this argument.  What you don’t have, though, is the right to take out your frustration at failure in the political arena by resorting to violence.”

Speaking of several high-profile cases, Herdman added the following:

“Threatening to kill Jewish people, gunning down innocent Latinos on a weekend shopping trip, planning and plotting to perpetrate murders in the name of a nonsense racial theory, sitting to pray with God-fearing people who you execute moments later — those actions don’t make you soldiers, they make you criminals.”

Attorney General Barr praised Herdman.

“I am pleased that the President has chosen Justin Herdman as the nominee to be the next United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.  Justin has taken an increasing role in the leadership of the Department and this nomination is a reflection his sharp intellect, sound judgment, and dedication to the mission of the Department of Justice,” Barr said in a statement. “Justin has proven himself to be a fair prosecutor, capable litigator, and excellent manager, and I look forward to his confirmation by the Senate for this important position.”

Barr also expressed “gratitude” to Shea and said their work together would continue in Shea’s future role.

CNN noted that as an acting AG, Shea’s tenure was limited; the cable news outlet also highlighted the issues that Herdman will inherit:

Shea’s tenure was limited to 120 days by law, although it could have been extended with the consent of the US district court in Washington, DC. But the judges in the DC court in recent days made clear that wasn’t likely, multiple officials familiar with the matter said.

His ouster caps a tumultuous period in the powerful office that has been marked by departures and accusations of political manipulation. Herdman will inherit a number of crises, including a leak investigation that could ensnare political enemies of the President’s.

[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.