Politics

D.C.’s new top cop vs. Steve Bannon

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Graves comes into the job with expertise that’s straight related to the Bannon case. He had a front-row seat when one congressional legal referral to the Justice Division — in opposition to baseball pitcher Roger Clemens for making false statements — resulted in a high-profile defeat. He later ran the crew within the D.C. U.S. lawyer’s workplace that dealt with Congress’s requests for prosecution.

Not that Graves has shied away from dealing with notable figures and controversial purchasers, in keeping with his financial disclosure. His personal sector purchasers included Ben Carson, a subsidiary of a Russian state-owned vitality behemoth, and the state of Qatar. That monitor document has generated some concern amongst revolving door watchdogs as to how he’ll deal with company wrongdoing. However in interviews with POLITICO, 4 individuals who have labored with Graves in authorities mentioned he has the very best moral requirements and is properly suited to the challenges.

A spokesperson for the U.S. lawyer’s workplace declined to make Graves accessible or remark for this story.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents Washington, D.C., endorsed Graves for the job. She mentioned his background dealing with nationwide safety circumstances means he’s well-prepared for the Jan. 6 investigation — the most important within the Justice Division’s historical past.

Shortly earlier than Bannon’s indictment, she advised POLITICO that she had little question Graves would tackle the previous top White Home aide.

“I believe it’s just about an open-and-shut case,” she mentioned.

First stint at DOJ

Graves went to Washington and Lee College for undergrad after which on to Yale Legislation College, as his Senate confirmation questionnaire particulars. He clerked for Decide Richard Roberts on the D.C. District Courtroom, then labored at WilmerHale as an affiliate for 5 years. After that, in Might 2007, he started a nine-year stint on the D.C. U.S. lawyer’s workplace, in the end main the workplace’s Fraud and Public Corruption Part.

On the U.S. lawyer’s workplace, he labored on a number of sanctions circumstances, together with probes into Commerzbank AG and Crédit Agricole Company and Funding Financial institution that resulted in deferred prosecution agreements.

“He dealt with plenty of advanced, delicate prosecutions for the workplace and he did an impressive job each time,” mentioned Ron Machen, who was U.S. lawyer throughout a part of Graves’ tenure within the workplace.

Certainly one of Graves’ most high-profile circumstances was the prosecution of then-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Sick.) for spending $750,000 of his marketing campaign’s cash on private bills.

“It was a case that needed to be achieved completely,” mentioned Matthew Solomon, a companion at Cleary Gottlieb and Graves’ former supervisor. “It couldn’t be seen as being something aside from a by-the-book prosecution. And Matt did an ideal job with that case.”

The congressman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in jail.

Life after DOJ

After nearly a decade within the U.S. lawyer’s workplace, Graves went to the worldwide mega-firm DLA Piper. His financial disclosure form lists a bunch of main company purchasers, together with Coca-Cola, Nike and Common Electrical.

Additionally on the checklist: Carson, the previous presidential candidate who went on to function secretary of Housing and City Improvement for former President Donald Trump. A spokesperson for Carson confirmed that Graves represented him, however didn’t elaborate on the character of his work. Carson confronted an inspector common probe for greenlighting using federal funds to order a $31,000 eating room set for his workplace in 2017. After public outcry, Carson had the order canceled. Investigators in the end concluded he hadn’t achieved something incorrect. Carson mentioned he spent $60,000 on attorneys due to the probe, according to The New York Times.

Graves additionally represented Gazprom Neft, a Russian state-owned vitality firm with a market cap north of $30 billion. Graves’ disclosure kind doesn’t give any clues as to what he did for the corporate. The European Commission targeted its parent company, Gazprom, in 2018 for anti-competitive practices, however did not impose any fines. Stateside, Gazprom has lengthy confronted scorching bipartisan criticism for its work constructing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Graves’ monetary disclosure kind exhibits he represented the tiny, gas-rich Gulf state Qatar. He additionally represented Qatar’s state-owned media firm Al Jazeera, the humanitarian aid group Qatar Charity, and Qatar Basis Worldwide LLC. It’s unclear what he did for these purchasers. Qatar has confronted criticism from human rights teams, together with for its treatment of migrant workers getting ready for the 2022 World Cup, which it can host.

Graves’ abroad purchasers weren’t simply linked to Qatar and Russia. When Fadi Elsalameen, a Palestinian American activist, sued the Financial institution of Palestine, alleging it labored with Palestinian intelligence to focus on him, Graves defended the financial institution. Then-Decide Merrick Garland — now U.S. lawyer common — joined two different judges in throwing out Elsalameen’s case, citing jurisdiction points.

Graves has additionally represented a bunch of different banks, in keeping with his disclosure. One shopper, Arab Financial institution PLC, faces a lawsuit from Israeli victims who allege it financed terror teams.

Moreover, he represented a staffing firm sued by the Justice Division for discriminating in opposition to individuals who didn’t maintain U.S. citizenship. That firm, Chancery Staffing Options LLC, reached a settlement with DOJ. According to Law360, Alan Dershowitz — who defended Trump in his second impeachment trial — additionally represented the staffing firm. Dershowitz advised POLITICO he doesn’t know Graves.

Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Challenge, which is a part of the left-leaning Heart for Financial and Coverage Analysis, mentioned he was troubled by Graves’ strikes between Large Legislation and the Justice Division. It’s not unusual for attorneys to travel between personal corporations and authorities work. However that dynamic has lengthy confronted sustained criticism from good-government watchdogs.

“Our largest concern is that Graves will show unwilling to burn bridges with company America by breaking with the norms of latest many years and truly aggressively pursuing company lawbreaking,” Hauser advised POLITICO.

Day One: Jan. 6

Now that he’s returned to DOJ, Graves faces a serious problem proper off the bat: supervising the prosecution of Bannon, the Trump White Home aide-turned-podcaster, for legal contempt of Congress.

The congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6 assault subpoenaed him in September, citing his reported communication with Trump on Dec. 30 in regards to the electoral faculty certification, in addition to his Jan. 5 prediction that “[a]ll hell goes to interrupt unfastened tomorrow.”

Bannon has refused to testify, citing Trump’s assertion of government privilege. He left the White Home in 2017, a number of years earlier than the assault. The Home voted to carry him in contempt of Congress on Oct. 21, and despatched a prosecution referral to the Justice Division. Now, DOJ has introduced prices in opposition to the previous aide.

Matt Whitaker, who headed the Justice Division for a quick stint through the Trump administration, referred to as the indictment “a critical abuse of the Division of Justice” on Fox Information over the weekend.

However individuals who labored with Graves throughout his first stint at DOJ mentioned they anticipate him to tune out the political noise when dealing with the Bannon case. Jonathan Haray, a companion at DLA Piper and alum of the workplace, mentioned Graves is “not somebody who will get caught up in hand-wringing.”

“He’s sensible and deliberative but in addition decisive, and that is the sort of subject that requires all of these qualities,” he mentioned.

His former supervisor, Matthew Solomon, put it this fashion: “Matt’s not going to do anyone’s bidding on something.”

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