President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump tears into ’60 Minutes’ after segment with whistleblower Bright James Woods defends Trump: He ‘loves America more than any president in my lifetime’ Kansas governor to meet with Trump at White House MORE on Monday said he intends to nominate a new U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., an office that has been at the center of controversial Department of Justice (DOJ) moves this year benefiting the president’s political allies.
Trump has picked Justin Herdman, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, to replace Timothy Shea, the White House announced. Shea has served as U.S. attorney for Washington on an interim basis since January.
Shea’s temporary appointment, which by law may not exceed 120 days, was set to expire early next month.
As the permanent replacement, Herdman requires Senate approval. If the chamber fails to vote on his nomination, it will fall to the D.C. District Court to appoint a new interim head of the office until the vacancy is filled. The Senate confirmed Herdman by voice vote in 2017 for his current position.
During Shea’s tenure, the Washington office has played a central role in DOJ’s request to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the department’s pursuit of a lighter sentence for Trump’s longtime political ally Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneJudge in Roger Stone case orders Trump administration to turn over Ukraine emails Judge invites outside parties to weigh in on Flynn case, delaying DOJ effort to drop charges Almost 2,000 former Justice officials condemn department for dropping Flynn case MORE.
Critics argue that Shea, who previously served as senior counsel to Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrPresident weakens US counterintelligence and promotes armed protests Trump assault on women’s choice continues despite pandemic Trump puts pressure on GOP, dismisses Biden and jabs media in Saturday tweetstorm MORE, has been instrumental in the politicization of the DOJ.
After Shea and other top agency officials overruled career prosecutors earlier this year to request a more lenient sentence for Stone, the entire four-person prosecution team withdrew from the case, a stunning move taken in apparent protest.
One of those prosecutors, Jonathan Kravis, quit the department entirely. He broke his silence this month to excoriate what he described as political influence over the DOJ after Shea signed a motion to drop criminal charges against Flynn, despite his previously pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.
Another career prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack, who had helped secure Flynn’s plea agreement, abruptly withdrew from Flynn’s case, without explanation, less than an hour before DOJ moved to drop the charges. He reportedly also withdrew from other cases, but has not resigned.
Herdman gained national attention last year for viral remarks in which he rebuked white supremacy while announcing charges against a white nationalist suspect accused of threatening an attack on a Jewish community center.
Herdman also co-chairs a DOJ task force that aims to combat prescription pill fraud and abuse.
Updated at 2:25 p.m.