Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is the public face of the government’s unprecedented effort to identify, arrest, and prosecute those connected to the Jan. 6, 2021 protest at the Capitol. But the person handling the day-to-day management of one of the largest and most politically freighted efforts in the history of American law enforcement has largely flown under the radar: Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
An appointee of President Biden, Graves’ office has prosecuted at least 1,100 Jan. 6 defendants — including roughly 200 people so far this year. Republicans claim that the Justice Department’s steady pace of Jan. 6 arrests and Graves’ prosecutions aim to keep one of Biden’s animating narratives in the news — that, as the president put it, “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.”
The political nature of the Jan. 6 prosecutions is illustrated by the long partisan history of Graves and his wife, Fatima Goss Graves.
According to documents on file with the U.S. Senate, Matthew Graves, a registered Democrat, served as a domestic policy adviser to the Biden campaign in 2020. According to the questionnaire submitted for his Senate confirmation, he “assisted with Vice-Presidential vetting for the Kerry Campaign in 2004,” resulting in the nomination of John Edwards, well before an extramarital affair got wide attention and helped end Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington’s Democratic delegate to the House of Representatives, recommended Graves for his influential current post.
Recently, Graves declined to pursue charges against Hunter Biden for tax offenses. And his wife is an influential progressive activist who has frequently visited the White House as her husband has pursued the president’s political opponents.
One week after he was sworn into office, Graves indicted longtime Trump confidant Steve Bannon on two contempt of Congress charges, acting on a referral from then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Jan. 6 Select Committee. Graves filed a separate indictment on the same charges against Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro in June 2022. Both men were quickly convicted by D.C. juries; Bannon’s conviction is on appeal, with oral argument scheduled for October. Navarro’s lawyers recently filed a motion seeking a new trial.
Much of Graves’ work now involves prosecuting the steady stream of people the FBI has arrested in connection with Jan. 6. On Aug. 30, Nathan Hughes was taken into custody at a Fayetteville, Arkansas, mall by at least seven FBI agents brandishing rifles. That same morning at least 10 vehicles apparently driven by FBI agents and local law enforcement raided Hughes’ Bentonville home. “They ordered my girlfriend Taylor out of the house with her hands up and had rifles pointed at her too,” Hughes would write. “They put her in handcuffs, unplugged our home security cameras, and turned our house upside down searching it.”
Hughes was later indicted for assaulting or interfering with police, civil disorder, and three misdemeanors for his involvement in the Jan. 6 mayhem at the U.S. Capitol. Four other men were named as Hughes’ co-defendants, charged for crimes they allegedly committed nearly 33 months ago. His case, like every other Jan. 6 case, is now transferred to Washington, D.C., the scene of the alleged “attack on the Capitol.”
Graves appears to be making good on his pledge to double the number of Jan. 6 defendants, a growing caseload that monopolizes Department of Justice resources and clogs the D.C. federal court calendar with trials and hearings. Graves told The Washington Post in a February 2022 interview that “somewhere around 2,000 people” could be identified and charged before his work was over — or before the statute of limitations for most offenses expires in 2026.
In September, for example, Graves announced the arrest of 17 more individuals related to Jan. 6 — including Ray Epps, a man whom many suspect of being a plant of some sort, charged with a single misdemeanor offense. Graves also published his sixth report on the status of Jan. 6 cases documenting the number of convictions and categories of offenses: “The Department of Justice’s resolve to hold accountable those who committed crimes on January 6, 2021, has not, and will not, wane.”
Near-daily press releases trumpet details of the latest arrest, which are subsequently posted on Graves’ social media account. Roughly three-quarters of the posts on X (formerly Twitter) are Jan. 6-related; at the same time, Graves is under fire for declining to prosecute 67 percent of violent crimes in the nation’s capital amid an unabated crime wave. (Graves is the only U.S. attorney responsible for prosecuting federal and local crimes in his jurisdiction.)
While the overwhelming majority of Jan. 6 defendants face low-level nonviolent charges such as “parading” in the Capitol or remaining on restricted grounds, the Justice Department continues to cast the crimes committed as quite serious.
For example, despite the common description of Jan. 6 as an “armed insurrection,” only 10 percent of all defendants have been charged with a weapons violation, usually involving flag poles, riot shields, and pepper spray, not firearms. And no one has been charged with insurrection.
Separately, House Republicans have asked Graves to explain why he, according to IRS whistleblowers, declined to charge Hunter Biden for failing to report income in 2014 and 2015 during his time on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma. The IRS investigators told the House Ways and Means Committee that Graves overrode the recommendation of a career prosecutor in his office to protect the first son from prosecution in the matter.
Graves is expected to sit for a transcribed interview with the House Judiciary Committee within the next few weeks.
In a statement to RealClearInvestigations, Tristan Leavitt, Jason Foster, and Mark Lytle, the legal team representing IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley, said that “as an appointee of President Biden, U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves had no business making charging decisions regarding the President’s son. Nor should he have even been consulted about the strengths or weakness of the case. The IRS whistleblowers’ testimony to Congress suggests he became involved contemporaneous with the White House reiterating that the President believed his son had done nothing wrong, presenting a clear conflict of interest for Mr. Graves. That he overruled his own career First Assistant, as the IRS whistleblowers testified they had been informed, is even worse.”
Friends in High Places
Concerns about Graves’ impartiality are intensified because of his wife’s involvement in partisan issues and her closeness to the Biden White House. As president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) — whose primary focus is reforming the Supreme Court, demanding unrestricted access to abortion, and promoting LGBTQ rights — Fatima Goss Graves plays a crucial role in advancing priorities of Democrats and the Biden administration.
According to government records, Goss Graves has visited the Biden White House at least 28 times since her husband was confirmed. Some appointments and events have involved the president, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Democratic lawmakers, and top cabinet officials. (Logs also indicate Matthew Graves joined his wife for a Fourth of July barbecue at the White House in 2022.)
Earlier this month, Goss Graves took part in a White House roundtable organized by top Biden advisers to discuss economic issues for black women. “White House officials and participants discussed strategies for further closing wage gaps, as well as opportunities for partnership to continue advancing the economic security of Black women and their families,” according to a White House readout of the Sept. 15 event.
The Graveses seem particularly close to Vice President Kamala Harris. Graves and Harris’ husband, Douglas Emhoff, were both partners at DLA Piper law firm in Washington before Graves took his new assignment. Goss Graves has attended several meetings with Harris and her staff over the past few years; her social media accounts feature numerous photos of the vice president.
Meena Harris, the vice president’s niece, is an NWLC board member. (It’s unclear whether board members are compensated.)
The National Women’s Law Center is a beneficiary of some of the richest foundations in the world; the Ford Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation are listed as donors in a report by InfluenceWatch. The Tides Foundation, heavily funded by global activist George Soros, has donated at least $45,000 to the NWLC since 2017.
Contributions spiked in 2021, the year Biden took office and her husband was confirmed as arguably the country’s most powerful U.S. attorney. The group reported $67.7 million in assets in 2020; in 2021, that figure skyrocketed to $101.7 million, a 44 percent increase.
That same year, grant money from deep pockets tied to the Democratic Party started to flow in. Two of NWLC’s largest benefactors are satellite nonprofits tied to Arabella Advisors, a multibillion-dollar “consulting company” run by a former Clinton administration official that the liberal Atlantic magazine has described as “the massive progressive dark-money group you’ve never heard of” and “the indisputable heavyweight of Democratic dark money.”
The NWLC received $993,000 from the New Venture Fund and $200,000 from the Hopewell Fund, two affiliates in Arabella’s network, in 2021. Records indicate it was the first year either nonprofit donated to the NWLC.
Sights Set on SCOTUS
A big part of Goss Graves’ work is delegitimizing and reconfiguring the Supreme Court. For example, she was deeply involved in the organized opposition to Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination in 2018. After President Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination, Goss Graves spoke at a nighttime rally outside the Supreme Court. “We are not going back to the days when women were considered a pre-existing condition,” Graves shouted into the microphone as Sen. Bernie Sanders stood beside her. “We know Judge Kavanaugh’s record. We know Trump’s promises. If we all join together, we will win this fight!”
Goss Graves then helped amplify unproven allegations that Kavanaugh committed sexual assault as a teen and college student. She accused Senate Republicans in 2018 of “trotting out the 1991 playbook” in comparing the treatment of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford to that of Clarence Thomas accuser Anita Hill. (Hill is a NWLC board member.) As co-founder of the “Time’s Up Defense Fund” formed in response to the #MeToo movement, Graves helped organize a national walk-out in support of Ford and fellow Kavanaugh accuser Deborah Ramirez in September 2018.
Goss Graves now is a leading figure in a broad coalition that wants Clarence Thomas removed from the Supreme Court for alleged ethics violations, which the justice vigorously denies. NWLC signed on to a six-figure ad campaign this spring as part of an umbrella organization called “Alliance For Justice,” demanding Thomas’ resignation. The blitz involved posting “video ads and banners that appeared online in major national outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Politico, Fox, and The Hill,” according to the group’s website.
While ProPublica, The New York Times, and other influential outlets have suggested that the partisan, political efforts of Thomas’ conservative wife, Ginni, raise questions about the justice’s impartiality, they have ignored potential conflicts involving the Graveses.
In addition to enjoying close relationships with top officials in the Biden White House, Goss Graves also counts top Democratic lawmakers as friends and allies. In May, she joined Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Alex Padilla for a Capitol Hill press conference to publicly call for Thomas’ resignation. Congressional Democrats are keeping the heat on Thomas; Whitehouse wants the body that oversees the federal judiciary to send a criminal referral to Attorney General Merrick Garland and ask the DOJ to open an investigation into Thomas for failing to report income and gifts.
But Goss Graves’ perceived political enemies don’t just wear black robes; some wear yoga gear and business suits. She recently unleashed a fierce tirade against Moms for Liberty, a group fighting woke ideology, among other issues in public school curriculums. Writing in Philadelphia Gay News in July, Goss Graves accused Moms for Liberty of “actively terrorizing parents, teachers, and worst of all — our children — claiming to do so in the name of ‘parental rights.’”
“Moms for Liberty is anything but a grassroots band of moms who just care about their kids. Instead, let’s call it out for what it is: they’re deeply entrenched in a mutually beneficial relationship with the GOP machine.” Goss Graves noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center this year designated Moms for Liberty an “extremist group” in a recent report.
The CEO and president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Margaret Huang, sits on the NWLC board of directors.
No issue, however, seems to animate Goss Graves more than abortion. She routinely testifies to Congress about the need to protect unfettered access to abortion with no restrictions. During a July 2022 House hearing on the impact of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Goss Graves said that “access to abortion is a key part of a person’s liberty, equality, and economic security” and warned the opinion could “signal a rollback of other fundamental rights, including the rights to contraception, same-sex marriage, and consensual sexual relations, among others.”
Suggesting a connection between her politics and her husband’s official actions, critics note that Matthew Graves indicted nine pro-lifers last year in connection with a non-violent October 2020 protest in Washington, D.C., accusing the individuals of engaging in a “conspiracy to create a blockade at the reproductive health care clinic to prevent the clinic from providing, and patients from receiving, reproductive health services.” The conspiracy, according to Graves, involved “blockading two clinic doors using their bodies, furniture, chains and ropes.”
All nine were convicted by D.C. juries in two separate trials and taken into immediate custody per Graves’ request; they now are being held in a D.C. jail awaiting sentencing. (Defendants include three women in their 70s.) All face up to 11 years in prison.
Goss Graves has a record of publicly expressing racially tinged views related to Donald Trump and his supporters. Writing for CNN in November 2020, Goss Graves criticized white women who voted for Trump. “To be clear, most White women who support Trump are not blindly voting against their own self-interest. These Trump supporters, aided by a toxic mix of racism and disinformation, seem to be consciously supporting what they believe to be their own group interest, putting them on the same team as the White men society has been largely built to benefit.”
White women who oppose Trump, Goss Graves continued, “need to push to dismantle systemic racism within White communities. This includes having difficult conversations with other White women in their families and communities to address and stop implicit bias, end racism, and move forward the common causes that are shared with women regardless of race, gender, sexuality and disability.”
After Jan. 6, Goss Graves issued a statement on behalf of the NWLC calling for Trump’s impeachment. She referred to Capitol protesters as “terrorists” and demanded that Trump’s “enablers” in Congress “must be held accountable for their attempt to subvert our democracy.”
“The disconnect between the treatment of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters this summer and violent insurrectionists this week puts our unequal society on full display, making all the more clear the national travesty Black people have lived with for generations.”
Graves told Congress earlier this year that his predecessors dropped many of the charges filed against those responsible for the 2020 riots in Washington after the police killing of George Floyd. And his office has not brought new charges against anyone involved in the mayhem, which lasted for weeks and resulted in more destruction than the events of Jan. 6, along with hundreds of assaults on federal law enforcement officers, according to a government report. Graves also has not indicted individuals who attempted to assault lawmakers leaving a White House event in September 2020 or those who attacked Trump supporters during election rallies in November and December 2020.
Graves, however, did help settle a civil lawsuit between BLM rioters — whom his office described as “racial justice demonstrators” — and law enforcement related to accusations of excessive force at Lafayette Square in 2020. “We appreciate the Park Police and Secret Service for their efforts to constantly review and revisit their law enforcement policies to evolve and protect those that seek to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights,” Graves said in an April 2022 press release.
Graves’ office declined to comment. The NWLC did not respond to an email seeking comment.
This article was originally published by RealClear Investigations.