A former Trump-appointed top prosecutor supervising Capitol riot cases angered top Justice Department officials when he agreed to sit for a “60 Minutes” interview that the agency had not authorized, Business Insider reported late Monday.
The public comments about the investigation could jeopardize the investigation and taint the jury pool for cases that won’t likely come to trial for months.
CNN previously reported that Michael Sherwin, a former interim U.S. attorney of Washington, appeared for the interview without prior authorization from top Justice Department officials.
Additional reporting from Insider on Monday indicated that Sherwin had also been approached in January, during the final weeks of the Trump administration, about being interviewed for a segment on the agency’s probe into the insurrection before sitting for the interview which was taped on Wednesday and aired Sunday.
A person familiar with the Justice Department’s deliberations told Insider that after Sherwin was contacted about the CBS interview, he had consulted with Justice Department leaders working under then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who opted against giving him permission to take part.
During the interview, which aired days after he stepped down from supervising the investigation, Sherwin had reiterated comments he made in January for the potential of bringing charges of seditious conspiracy against some members of the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Sherwin said.
“I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that,” he added.
Sherwin stepped down March 3, allowing the Biden administration to rename Channing Phillips as acting U.S. attorney while a permanent nominee is selected.
Sherwin also told “60 Minutes” that he had watched some of the events Jan. 6 unfold and had witnessed some people with helmets and tactical gear leave early while he accompanied D.C. police to then President Donald Trump’s rally.
In unaired portions of the interview, Sherwin also debunked claims about left-wing professional provocateurs posing as Trump supporters, “60 Minutes” reported.
Sherwin’s remarks have since sparked questions about whether he violated protocol prohibiting public comments about pending cases. Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed last month as he began his tenure, that he will direct particular focus on the Capitol insurrection.
Garland inherited a Justice Department that was often politicized and frequently succumbed to political pressure during the Trump administration. Garland has vowed to prioritize combating extremist violence as attorney general, while staying free from the fray of political considerations.
“I have grown pretty immune to any kind of pressure, other than the pressure to do what I think is the right thing, given the facts and the law. That is what I intend to do as the attorney general,” Garland said during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing last month. “I don’t care who pressures me in whatever direction.”