Former Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin could face an internal review over comments he made during a recent interview about the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, a department lawyer told a judge on March 23.
John Crabb, the chief of the criminal division for the U.S. attorney’s D.C. office, made the comments after a federal judge admonished the department over recent disclosures to the media about the ongoing investigation into the Capitol breach. One of the disclosures was Sherwin’s television interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” while the other was a New York Times report that cited anonymous sources.
“These types of statements in the media have the potential to affect the jury pool and the rights of these defendants,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said during a hearing in the case against 10 members and associates of the Oath Keepers paramilitary group, who are charged with conspiracy.
“Let this hearing serve as notice on the Department of Justice that I will not tolerate continued publicity in the media that I believe affect the fair trial rights of these defendants.”
Crabb acknowledged that both media disclosures likely violate DOJ policy and that both matters have been referred to the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
“We understand and we share the court’s concerns about the media contacts and disclosures that have been made,” Crabb said. “The department has already taken steps with respect to both of those.”
During his rebuke, Mehta said he was “surprised … to say the least” to see Sherwin make public comments about a pending criminal investigation.
“Let me just say at the outset that I am surprised, I’m being restrained in my use of terminology, to say the least, to see Mr. Sherwin sitting for an interview about a pending case in an ongoing criminal investigation,” the judge said, according to The Hill.
Sherwin, who was overseeing the Capitol breach investigation until last week, told “60 Minutes” that he believes that the evidence obtained by federal investigators so far would likely allow the federal government to prove cases of sedition against some individuals.
“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.”
Under federal law, sedition includes a conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government, or to oppose the authority by force, or prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States. These charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.
So far, none of the more than 400 cases the Justice Department opened in relation to the Jan. 6 breach have charged sedition. But a small number of the defendants have been charged with conspiracy, including individuals affiliated with militia groups.
Sherwin said of those 400 defendants that more than 80 percent of the individuals were charged with trespassing on the U.S. Capitol, while about 100 individuals have been charged with assaulting federal and local police officers.
Sherwin didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.