Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn departs U.S. District Court, where he was expected to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. — who recently signed court filings that benefited felons who are allies of President Donald Trump — will become acting boss of the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to an NBC News report that cited senior law enforcement officials.
Tim Shea, the interim U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, is set to be replaced by Justin Herdman, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, according to an announcement Monday by Trump of Herdman’s planned nomination.
The president did not say whether Shea would be taking the DEA job.
However, according to senior law enforcement officials who spoke to NBC News, Shea will replace acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon. Dhillon will take a high-level Justice Department post, the officials also told NBC. Dhillon has served as the DEA’s acting administrator since July 2018.
The White House declined to comment on NBC’s report. A Justice Department spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is one of the most prominent federal prosecutor posts in the United States. The office often handles politically sensitive cases and other high-profile matters because of its jurisdiction, which is home to the seats of the federal government.
Shea is a former top advisor to Attorney General William Barr. He has been in the interim D.C. prosecutor’s job only since late January. Less than two weeks after taking that post, Shea sparked controversy by overruling prosecutors in the case of Trump friend Roger Stone.
Shea, in a court filing, recommended a lower criminal sentence for the longtime Republican operative Stone than the one that had been first suggested by the case’s trial prosecutors, who had asked that he be sent to prison for up to nine years. Shea’s reversal of the recommendation, which was highly unusual, if not unprecedented, came after Trump criticized the call for a stiff prison sentence for Stone.
Roger Stone, former adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Court House on April 30, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson | Getty Images
All four trial prosecutors quit the case in apparent protest of Shea’s move, and one of them resigned outright from the Justice Department.
Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress and of witness tampering, ended up being sentenced to 40 months in prison. But he remains free pending his appeal.
Shea on May 7 signed a court filing asking a judge to agree to dismiss the prosecution of Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Trump’s first national security advisor. Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his discussions with a Russian diplomat, was awaiting sentencing at the time of Shea’s move.
Shea in his filing seeking dismissal argued that the FBI’s interview of Flynn was not justified by a counterintelligence investigation, and that his lies about what he said to a Russian diplomat were not “material” to that probe.
The decision to request a dismissal had been approved by Barr but generated a storm of criticism by former Justice Department officials.
Trump has criticized the prosecutions of both Stone and Flynn.
The judge in Flynn’s case, Emmet Sullivan, so far has not acted on Shea’s unusual request to drop the prosecution, which was not signed by any of the prosecutors directly involved in the case.
Sullivan instead has asked a former federal judge, John Gleeson, to provide him with arguments opposing the request to dismiss the case. Gleeson also has been asked by Sullivan to evaluate whether Flynn lied under oath when he admitted his guilt and whether the retired Army lieutenant general should be held in criminal contempt for perjury because of that.
Jonathan Kravis, the federal prosecutor who resigned from the Justice Department because of being overruled by Shea in Stone’s case, wrote in The Washington Post last week that in both Stone’s and Flynn’s cases “the department undercut the work of career employees to protect an ally of the president, an abdication of the commitment to equal justice under the law.”
“Prosecutors must make decisions based on facts and law, not on the defendant’s political connections,” Kravis wrote.
“When the department takes steps that it would never take in any other case to protect an ally of the president, it betrays this principle.”