Trump to nominate new top prosecutor for Washington, DC

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WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 09: The Justice Department building on a foggy morning on December 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. It is expected that the Justice Department Inspector General will release his report on the investigation into the Justice and FBIs conduct during the FISA warrant process as it relates to the 2016 election today.(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The Trump administration is replacing the US attorney in Washington, DC, who oversaw the controversial moves in the late stages of the prosecutions against Trump allies Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter.

President Donald Trump plans to nominate Justin Herdman, the US attorney in Cleveland, to take over the role that is currently held by Tim Shea, according to an administration official.

Shea, a longtime aide of Attorney General William Barr, was tapped by the attorney general to lead the US attorney’s office on an interim basis earlier this year, with the hope that he could eventually be the President’s nominee and fill the job permanently. But a rocky tenure after his handling of politically sensitive cases had dimmed his chances.

Shea is expected to be moved over to lead the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to the administration official.

Shea’s tenure was limited to 120 days by law, and although it could have been extended with the consent of the US district court in Washington, DC, that was not likely, the officials said.

His ouster caps a tumultuous period in the powerful office that has been marked by departures and accusations of political manipulation. Herdman will inherit a number of crises, including a leak investigation that could ensnare political enemies of the President’s.

Shea had worked at the Justice Department under Barr’s first stint as attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration, and was called back to serve as a counselor to Barr soon after the attorney general arrived in 2019. In late January, Barr installed Shea as interim US attorney in DC, where he played a key role in the crisis that unfolded days later when the Justice Department clawed back a sentencing recommendation for Stone that Barr felt was too stiff, prompting unprecedented protest from the career attorneys handling the case.

Earlier this month, when the Justice Department moved to drop the charges against Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, Shea’s signature was the only one to appear on the filing after career prosecutors refused.

Typically, US attorneys are nominated by the president and must receive Senate confirmation before taking over an office. If there is a vacancy in an office, federal law allows for the attorney general to name someone as an interim chief for 120 days. If that term expires, the district court can appoint someone to fill the vacancy.

In New York’s southern district, based in Manhattan, the top federal judge allowed the prosecutor picked by the Trump administration that had been heading the office in an interim role to continue on permanently. Similar situations have played out in other districts across the country, making the split in Washington, DC, especially striking.

Herdman was sworn in as the US attorney in the Northern District of Ohio after winning Senate confirmation in 2017.

This story has been updated with additional information about Shea’s departure.

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