D.C.'s new top cop vs. Steve Bannon

Graves comes to the job with experience that is directly relevant to the Bannon case. He had a front row seat when a criminal referral from Congress to the Justice Department – against baseball pitcher Roger Clemens for false testimony – resulted in a high profile defeat. He later led the DCUS law firm’s team that handled Congressional motions for law enforcement.

Not that Graves has shied away from dealing with well-known personalities and controversial customers, like that its financial disclosure. His private sector clients included Ben Carson, a subsidiary of a Russian state energy giant, and the State of Qatar. This track record has raised some concerns among the revolving door guard about how he will deal with corporate misconduct. But in interviews with POLITICO, four people who worked with Graves in government said he had the highest ethical standards and was well suited to the challenges.

A US attorney general declined to provide Graves or comment on the story.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat representing Washington, DC, endorsed Graves for the job. She said his background in handling national security cases means he is well prepared for the Jan. 6 investigation – the largest in the history of the Justice Department.

Shortly before Bannon’s indictment, she told POLITICO that she had no doubt that Graves would take over the former top adviser to the White House.

“I think it’s pretty much an open case,” she said.

First use in the DOJ

Graves went to Washington and Lee University for a bachelor’s degree and then to Yale Law School as his Confirmation questionnaire from the Senate Details. He worked for Judge Richard Roberts at the DC District Court and then worked as an associate with WilmerHale for five years. He then joined the DCUS law firm for nine years in May 2007 and eventually headed the firm’s fraud and public corruption department.

In the US prosecutor’s office, he worked on several sanction cases, including investigations against Commerzbank AG and Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, which resulted in postponement agreements.

“He handled a number of complex, sensitive procedures for the office and did an excellent job each time,” said Ronmachen, who was a US attorney for part of Graves’ tenure in the office.

One of the best known cases of Graves was the indictment of the then representative. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) For spending $ 750,000 of his campaign money on personal expenses.

“It was a case that had to be done perfectly,” said Matthew Solomon, partner at Cleary Gottlieb and former Graves manager. “It couldn’t be considered anything other than a post-book charge. And Matt did a great job on this case. ”

The Congressman pleaded guilty and was convicted up to 30 months in prison.

Life after the DOJ

After almost a decade in the US attorney’s office, Graves moved to the global mega-corporation DLA Piper. His Financial disclosure form lists a variety of major corporate customers, including Coca-Cola, Nike, and General Electric.

Also on the list: Carson, the former presidential candidate who later served as secretary for housing and urban development for former President Donald Trump. A Carson spokesman confirmed that Graves was representing him but did not address the nature of his work. Carson was investigated by an Inspector General in 2017 for approving the use of federal funds to order a $ 31,000 dining room for his office. After the public outcry, Carson had the order canceled. Investigators eventually concluded that he had done nothing wrong. Carson said he spent $ 60,000 on attorneys over the investigation. according to the New York Times.

Graves also represented Gazprom Neft, a Russian state-owned energy company with a market capitalization of over $ 30 billion. Graves’ disclosure form gives no indication of what he did for the company. The European Commission has targeted its parent company, Gazprom, in 2018 for anti-competitive practices, however no fines imposed. In the US, Gazprom has long been exposed to fierce bipartisan criticism for its work to build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Graves’ financial disclosure form shows that he represented the tiny, gas-rich Gulf state of Qatar. He also represented Qatar’s state-owned media company Al Jazeera, the humanitarian aid organization Qatar Charity and the Qatar Foundation International LLC. It is unclear what he did for these customers. Qatar has been criticized by human rights groups, including for its treatment of migrant workers Preparation for the 2022 World Cup, which will be hosted there.

Graves’ overseas customers weren’t limited to Qatar and Russia. When Fadi Elsalameen, a Palestinian-American activist, sued the Bank of Palestine, claiming it worked with Palestinian intelligence agencies to target him, Graves defended the bank. Then Judge Merrick Garland – now US Attorney General – joined two other judges in dismissing Elsalameen’s case, citing jurisdictional issues.

Graves has also reportedly represented a number of other banks. A customer, Arab Bank PLC, is facing a lawsuit of Israeli victims who claim to have funded terrorist groups.

He also represented a recruiting firm that was sued by the Justice Department for discriminating against people who were not citizens of the United States. That company, Chancery Staffing Solutions LLC, came to an agreement with the DOJ. According to Law360, Alan Dershowitz – who defended Trump in his second impeachment trial – also represented the HR company. Dershowitz told POLITICO that he didn’t know Graves.

Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Project, which is part of the left-wing center for economic and political research, said he was concerned about Graves’ move between Big Law and the Justice Department. It’s not uncommon for lawyers to switch back and forth between private business and government work. But this dynamic has long been criticized by the watchdogs of good government.

“Our greatest concern is that Graves will prove unwilling to build bridges with American corporations by breaking with the norms of the last few decades and actually cracking down on corporate laws,” Hauser told POLITICO.

Day 1: January 6th

Now that he’s returned to the DOJ, Graves is immediately faced with a major challenge: overseeing the prosecution of Bannon, the Trump White House adviser turned podcaster for criminal disregard for Congress.

The congressional panel investigating the January 6 attack summoned him in September. citing his reported communication with Trump on December 30th on the certification of the electoral college and his January 5th prediction that “[a]Tomorrow all hell breaks loose. “

Bannon refused to testify, citing Trump’s assertion of executive privileges. He left the White House in 2017, several years before the attack. The House of Representatives voted on October 21 to view him as a disregard for Congress and sent a prosecutor’s referral to the Justice Department. Now the DOJ has brought charges against the former adjutant.

Matt Whitaker, who briefly headed the Department of Justice during the Trump administration, described the indictment in Fox News as “serious abuse of the Department of Justice.” over the weekend.

But people who worked with Graves during his first tenure at the DOJ said they would expect him to block out the political noise as he worked on the Bannon case. Jonathan Haray, partner at DLA Piper and alum of the office, said Graves was “not someone to get into hand wrestling.”

“He’s smart and thoughtful, but also decisive, and that’s the kind of problem that takes all of those qualities,” he said.

As his former supervisor, Matthew Solomon, put it: “Matt is not going to offer anything to anyone.”

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