President Trump nominated a permanent U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia on Monday, naming current U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman to the position.
The move brings acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Timothy Shea’s brief, fraught tenure to an end, while putting Herdman in charge of a U.S. Attorney’s Office that’s seen politicized intervention from Attorney General Bill Barr to benefit two associates of the President’s.
The office has jurisdiction over some of the country’s most sensitive — and politically delicate — matters. It is unique in its ability to prosecute both local and federal crimes in the nation’s capital. These can run the gamut from terrorism to alleged public corruption by politicians and those in their orbit.
Shea signed off on May 7 on an explosive motion to drop charges against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, asking a federal judge to allow the Justice Department to stop prosecuting Flynn for a crime to which he pleaded guilty in 2017.
Barr had tasked U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Jeff Jensen with carrying out a review of the Flynn prosecution, and used the product — mischaracterizations and all — as a justification for dropping the case.
That review came as other U.S. Attorneys around the nation have been tasked with conducting probes investigating various theories that have also been propagated by allies of the President. John Durham, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, is probing alleged criminal wrongdoing related to the origins of the Mueller investigation, while Scott Brady, the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh, has jurisdiction over “matters related to Ukraine.”
It does not appear that Herdman played a role in these investigations. A former New York City assistant attorney and former Cleveland federal prosecutor, Herdman was recommended for his position in Ohio by both Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
“Justin Herdman is an experienced prosecutor and public servant who has what it takes to serve Ohio’s Northern District,” Brown said in a statement at the time.
Barr applauded Herdman’s nomination in a statement Monday, saying that Herdman had “taken an increasing role in the leadership of the Department and this nomination is a reflection [of] his sharp intellect, sound judgment, and dedication to the mission of the Department of Justice.”
Herdman’s nomination also comes after the DOJ asked for a lighter sentence for Roger Stone, the longtime GOP operative and associate of President Trump’s, after a team of career prosecutors had already asked for a tougher term of confinement.
Back in March 2019, one month after Barr took the reins at the Justice Department, Herdman was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about Barr’s efforts to set policy priorities for the Justice Department.
The article described Barr meeting with various U.S. Attorneys from around the country.
“He’s very interested in what is working and what isn’t,” Herdman was quoted as saying about a meeting he had held with Barr. “He was an active listener. He asked probing questions.”