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Biden taps corruption prosecutor to run office taking Capitol rioters to trial

President Joe Biden on Monday nominated eight new U.S. attorney positions across the country, including in the office overseeing the prosecutions of hundreds of defendants charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Among the nominees announced Monday is Matthew Graves, a former fraud and public corruption prosecutor in the U.S. attorney´s office in the District of Columbia who is being tapped to run that office at a time when it is consumed by hundreds of cases arising from the Capitol riot. He is currently a  partner at the firm DLA Piper.

Unlike other U.S. attorney’s offices, the D.C. office handles both federal and local crimes, including a wave of gun violence on D.C. streets. 

The Trump administration appointee who held the job during the riot, Michael Sherwin, later left the Justice Department. The position has been held on an acting basis by Channing Phillips, who served in the same role during the Obama administration. 

Matthew Graves

President Joe Biden nominated attorney to be U.S. Attorney for Washington D.C. at a time when it is consumed by hundreds of cases arising from the Capitol riot

The office of the U.S. attorney in Washington D.C. takes local cases - including D.C. rising gun violence - and federal cases, such as the January 6th MAGA riot (above)

The office of the U.S. attorney in Washington D.C. takes local cases – including D.C. rising gun violence – and federal cases, such as the January 6th MAGA riot (above)

If confirmed by the Senate, the nominees would run offices in the District of Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Washington state. 

Most would be historic firsts, including the first black or female attorneys to lead their districts, the Biden administration said.

The eight were ‘chosen for their devotion to enforcing the law, their professionalism, their experience and credentials in this field, their dedication to pursuing equal justice for all, and their commitment to the independence of the Department of Justice,’ according to the White House.

The nominees come as the Justice Department is continuing to round out its leadership team under Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The Justice Department’s 93 U.S. attorneys, who are responsible for federal criminal prosecutions in their respective districts, are likely to be central to efforts to combat violent crime.

The lawyers represent the first batch of U.S. attorney nominees advanced by the Biden White House, which is still working to fill key Justice Department posts six months into the administration. The White House last week announced the nomination of a lawyer to run its antitrust division but withdrew its nominee for the civil division head. No nominee has been announced for the key solicitor general role.

Rachael Rollins, the district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, would be the first black woman to serve as U.S. attorney in that state. 

Rollins became the first black woman elected as district attorney in Massachusetts in 2018 and has championed progressive reforms in the role, including declining to prosecute a slate of low-level, non-violent crimes that she argued has resulted in over-incarceration, especially for people of color. 

Erek Barron, a former federal prosecutor and policy advisor to Biden and a current state lawmaker, would be the first black U.S. attorney in the District of Maryland, the White House said.

He worked for Biden and for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee as their counsel and policy adviser from 2007 to 2009. 

The Maryland office also handles a range of high-profile prosecutions, including political corruption and domestic terrorism. 

Rachael Rollins, the district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, would be the first black woman to serve as U.S. attorney in that state

Erek Barron, a former federal prosecutor and policy advisor to Biden and a current state lawmaker, would be the first black U.S. attorney in the District of Maryland

Rachael Rollins, the district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, would be the first black woman to serve as U.S. attorney in that state (left) and Erek Barron, a former federal prosecutor and policy advisor to Biden and a current state lawmaker, would be the first black U.S. attorney in the District of Maryland (right)

Other nominees include Zachary Myers, who specializes in national security and cyber matters as a federal prosecutor in Maryland and who the White House says would be the first Black U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Indiana; and Clifford Johnson, who would be the first Black lawyer to lead the Northern District of Indiana after spending nearly 35 years in that office.

Justice Department environmental lawyer Vanessa Waldref would be the first woman to run the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Washington. 

And Nicholas Brown, who has been a federal prosecutor and general counsel to the governor, would be the first Black lawyer to run the Western District of Washington, which encompasses Seattle.

The Justice Department disclosed in February that it was seeking the resignation of most U.S. attorneys appointed during President Donald Trump’s administration, though it did leave in place David Weiss, the top federal prosecutor in Delaware, where law enforcement officials have been conducting a criminal tax investigation involving Biden’s son, Hunter.

U.S. attorneys serve at the president´s pleasure and are routinely nominated with a recommendation from a home-state senator. For instance, Trini Ross, a former federal prosecutor who is being nominated as U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York in Buffalo, was recommended for the job by the state’s senior senator, Charles Schumer.


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