A federal judge on Tuesday openly criticized the U.S. Department of Justice after prosecutors and insiders spoke to various media outlets about the ongoing investigation into the January 6 Capitol riot.
Reuters reported that U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said during a court hearing that he was “surprised” to see prosecutor Michael Sherwin tell CBS’ “60 Minutes” that the DOJ may file sedition charges against some of those charged in the riot.
“I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that,” Sherwin told CBS.
As The Daily Wire’s Tim Pearce previously reported, Sherwin also said during that interview that former President Donald Trump could face charges related to the January 6 riot. Trump gave a speech that day, telling his supporters to march “over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Sherwin, however, suggested Trump incited the violence.
“It’s unequivocal that Trump was the magnet that brought the people to D.C. on the 6th. Now the question is, is he criminally culpable for everything that happened during the siege, during the breach?” Sherwin said. “What I could tell you is this, based upon, again, what we see in the public record. And what we see in public statements in court. We have plenty of people – we have soccer moms from Ohio that were arrested saying, ‘Well, I did this because my president said I had to take back our house.’ That moves the needle towards that direction.”
“Maybe the president is culpable for those actions. But also, you see in the public record, too, militia members saying, ‘You know what? We did this because Trump just talks a big game. He’s just all talk. We did what he wouldn’t do,’” he added.
In addition to Sherwin, Judge Mehta also criticized anonymous DOJ sources who spoke to The New York Times about the ongoing investigation.
“I found it troubling that sources within the Department of Justice were detailing the possibility of additional charges in a pending criminal case and an ongoing criminal investigation,” Mehta said, according to Reuters. He added: “this case will not be tried in the media.”
Mehta continued, saying the way that prosecutors were discussing the case in the media could undermine the defendants’ due process rights. Mehta, who is overseeing one of the cases against the rioters, specifically one against those associated with the right-wing Oath Keepers group, also said during the hearing that he may have to impose a gag order if prosecutors and DOJ officials keep talking to the media.
At the same hearing the head of the criminal division for the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C., John Crabb, said Sherwin’s “60 Minutes” interview had been referred to the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal watchdog, to determine whether any department policies were violated.
The Associated Press reported further that Crabb told Mehta that the Department would also investigate the Times article that included comments from anonymous sources within the DOJ.
“We understand and we share the court’s concerns about the media contacts and disclosures that have been made,” Crabb said, according to the AP. “The Department has already taken steps with respect to both of those.”
The AP reported: “The flap over the interview highlights the Justice Department’s challenges in handling the sprawling case that involves hundreds of defendants from across the country. Prosecutors have sometimes struggled to maintain a consistent narrative across multiple cases, and have had to walk back some statements made in court hearings or papers because they weren’t in line with what leaders were prepared to publicly argue.”
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