President Joe Biden on July 26 nominated eight prosecutors to become U.S. attorneys, including one who would handle cases stemming from the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach.
Biden nominated Matthew Graves, a partner at Washington law firm DLA Piper, to be the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Graves, an assistant U.S. attorney during the Obama administration and a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts, would oversee the prosecution of Jan. 6 cases if confirmed by the Senate.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) recommended Graves to Biden and praised the president for adopting the recommendation.
“Matthew Graves not only possesses all the necessary qualities to be an exceptional U.S. Attorney for D.C.: integrity, temperament, and intelligence,” Norton said in a statement, “he served with distinction as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, giving him the best possible experience to serve as U.S. Attorney for the District.”
The top prosecutor post was held by Michael Sherwin from May 2020 until March 3, when he stepped down at the request of Biden, shortly after giving a lengthy interview about prosecuting Jan. 6 cases. During the interview, he claimed the government could charge some individuals with sedition, which hasn’t happened as of July 26.
The comments drew the rebuke of a federal judge, and the matter was referred to the Department of Justice for investigation.
Channing Phillips is the current interim U.S. attorney for D.C.
Biden also tapped Maryland Rep. Erek Barron to be U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, lawyer Nicholas Brown to be U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford Johnson for the top post for the Northern District of Indiana, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Myers to be U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, government investigator Trini Ross to be U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York, government trial attorney Vanessa Waldref to be U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, and Suffolk County, Massachusetts, District Attorney Rachael Rollins to serve in the top post for the District of Massachusetts.
Rollins is one of a number of progressive prosecutors who won elections in recent years after promising to dramatically change how they would approach the criminal justice system. During her campaign, Rollins said she wouldn’t prosecute drug possession, disorderly conduct, or shoplifting, among other charges.
Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) cheered the nomination, noting they had recommended it.
“District Attorney Rollins is a national leader on transforming the criminal justice system and shifting away from an approach based on punishment and penalization to one that combats the root causes of injustice, whether it be poverty, substance use, or racial disparity,” they said in a joint statement. “She has prosecutorial experience, and is dedicated and committed to advancing equal justice for all, and we are certain that she will be a tremendous U.S. Attorney.”
A simple majority vote would confirm each nominee. With the Senate split 50–50, the chamber is currently controlled by the Democrats because, in her role as president of the body, Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tiebreaking votes.
The White House said the eight nominees “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.”
Their confirmations will play into Biden’s effort to combat the rise in crime the U.S. has seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House said.