The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. is getting a new interim U.S. Attorney at an interesting time, raising eyebrows for the usual reasons. Attorney General William Barr handpicked his counsel at the Department of Justice, Timothy Shea, to replace Jessie Liu–at a time this U.S. Attorney’s Office is “oddly” backtracking on a recommendation for Michael Flynn to do time in prison.
People immediately noticed the timing, the method of installation, the close link to Barr, and the fact that Shea will “oversee some of the lingering cases from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.”
Barr shouldn’t be installing any US Attys. Constitution gives President power to nominate such officials, requiring Senate confirmation to hold office.
The repeated circumvention of Congress to install people in powerful roles loyal only to Trump is a scandal of highest order. https://t.co/h3OMlriQYt
— Ian Bassin (@ianbassin) January 30, 2020
One day after USAO DC mysteriously backs off its sentencing recommendation for Mike Flynn, a new US Attorney is named. https://t.co/6vhaod9POF
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) January 30, 2020
NEW: Attorney General William Barr has nominated Timothy Shea, one of his closest advisers, to be the next top prosecutor in the nation’s capital. Shea will lead the U.S. attorney's office in DC, the largest in the country. https://t.co/HScfloujkM
— Mike Balsamo (@MikeBalsamo1) January 30, 2020
Liu’s departure from the D.C. USAO, it should be noted, has been expected. She is going to fill a top role at the Treasury Department, as the White House noted in Dec. 2019 (“President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate and Appoint Individuals to Key Administration Posts”):
Jessie K. Liu of Virginia, to be the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes at the Department of the Treasury.
Ms. Liu currently serves as the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. She also serves as Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, a group of United States Attorneys that represent the United States Attorney community and provide advice and counsel to the Attorney General on matters of policy, procedure, and management. Previously, Ms. Liu served in a number of senior positions across the government, including as Deputy General Counsel for the Department of the Treasury, as well as in the National Security Division at the Department of Justice. In addition, she was a partner at the law firms of Morrison & Foerster and Jenner & Block. Ms. Liu clerked for then-Chief Judge Carolyn Dineen King of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Houston, Texas, and received her A.B., summa cum laude, from Harvard University in 1995 and J.D. from Yale Law School in 1998.
A Barr adviser handling “lingering” Mueller cases (and an Andrew McCabe case?) is certainly notable, but there’s another element to Shea’s recent work garnering attention [emphasis ours], per the AP:
He is a senior counselor to the attorney general and was Barr’s right-hand man helping institute reforms at the federal Bureau of Prisons after Jeffrey Epstein’s death at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City.
In the wake of Epstein’s death, Barr and Shea worked hand-in-hand to manage the crisis and investigation into the circumstances surrounding the wealthy financier’s death. Shea visited the jail days after Epstein’s suicide and helped advise the attorney general as Barr shook up the agency’s leadership, removing its acting director.
In a statement, Barr praised Shea for his “reputation as a fair prosecutor, skillful litigator, and excellent manager [who] is second-to-none.” He added that Shea’s “commitment to fighting violent crime and the drug epidemic will greatly benefit the city of Washington.”
[Image via Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images]