The Justice Department has referred ex-Acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin to its internal watchdog over an unauthorized interview he gave about the Capitol insurrection, a senior prosecutor said on Tuesday.
Justice Department Criminal Division Chief John Crabb told a federal judge that Sherwin’s interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” likely violated DOJ rules on prosecutorial conduct, and said that Sherwin had been referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility for investigation.
Sherwin is a former Miami line prosecutor whom former Attorney General William Barr promoted to one of the highest positions in one of the country’s most important U.S. Attorney’s Offices last year.
CBS ran an interview with Sherwin on Sunday, in which the federal prosecutor said that sedition charges were being considered and that former President Trump himself may be “culpable” for the breach.
Sherwin had said at a Jan. 12 briefing for reporters that a “sedition task force” had been set up to investigate the issue.
But the “60 Minutes” interview shocked many observers, not so much for its content but for Sherwin’s decision to violate openly the rule that prosecutors do not discuss ongoing criminal investigations.
Since the interview, at least one defense attorney with a client facing charges emanating from the Jan. 6 Capitol breach has mentioned that Sherwin’s appearance was unusual.
Carmen Hernandez, defense lawyer for an Oath Keepers member charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress, told the New York Times that she was “surprised that the former U.S. attorney would comment so publicly on the case.”
“We have an obligation as counsel in cases not to make comments to the media,” Hernandez added to the paper.
In D.C., U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ordered a separate hearing on Tuesday to discuss both Sherwin’s interview and the New York Times story in which Hernandez was quoted, which revealed that federal prosecutors are considering sedition charges against members of the Oath Keepers.
At the hearing Tuesday, Mehta railed against the government.
“This case will not be tried in the media,” he said, adding that “these types of statements in the media have the possibility of affecting the jury pool.”
Crabb told Mehta that he had the same concerns as the judge, and added that he did not believe the trial team assigned to the Jan. 6 investigation had been the source of the New York Times report.