Confirmation hearings for D.C. Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Joe Biden’s first U.S. Supreme Court nominee, began Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. During an event in Washington, D.C. on Monday morning, activists gathered to rally on behalf of the nominee who could be the first black woman seated on the nation’s highest court.
“It’s also, for so many of us, a moment that is personal,” Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, told the crowd. “It is personal if you have ever been the only person sitting in a room. It is personal if you have ever wondered, ‘Is that for me?’” Over the past several weeks, Graves, a graduate of Yale Law school, has given dozens of interviews in support of Jackson’s nomination.
In a January column for CNN, Graves denounced “the current homogeneity of the legal profession and judicial system” and claimed “the perspective of White men has been treated as the default” in court proceedings.
Graves’ D.C.-based nonprofit promotes any number of radical causes including unfettered access to abortion, gender “justice,” free child care, and LGBTQ equity. Appointed to lead NWLC one month after Trump’s inauguration, Graves was an outspoken critic of the president; she co-founded the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in 2018 in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement and strongly opposed the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
After the media declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election, Graves, in a racist screed, berated the 55 percent of white women who voted for President Trump:
[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. The right-wing has long focused its sales pitch to White women on the promise of preserving the modest gains a misogynistic system has allowed them—advancing a delusion of forced scarcity that pits White, cisgender, heterosexual women against all others in a zero-sum fight for survival.
In the post-Trump era, Graves insisted, white women opposed to Trump must “double down on dismantling racism in White communities so everyone can rise.”
But Graves’ activism didn’t stop when Trump departed the White House. In congressional testimony last year, Graves described the Texas abortion ban as a “constitutional crisis” and blamed Trump for gutting Roe v. Wade.
“What is happening in Texas is the horrifying but inevitable outcome of decades of attacks by antiabortion state lawmakers, and it was made possible by strategic manipulation of the shadow docket and a strong anti-abortion majority on the Court,” Graves told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.
The following month, the same committee unanimously confirmed her husband, Matthew Graves, as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia—the office prosecuting hundreds of Trump supporters for their involvement in the protest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Within the incestuous cesspool that is the nation’s capital, it’s not unusual for a power couple to work on the same side of the political aisle. Matthew Graves is a registered Democrat who served as a domestic policy advisor for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.
What is highly unusual—and should raise the eyebrows of congressional Republicans (it won’t) and January 6 defense attorneys (it might)—is that the unprecedented criminal investigation into the four-hour disturbance at the Capitol over a year ago is in the hands of a partisan prosecutor married to a radical left-wing activist who has openly condemned, with racist language, supporters of Donald Trump.
Since taking over the U.S. attorney’s office in October, Graves has ramped up the Justice Department’s witch hunt into the events of January 6. Originally described as the “Capitol breach” probe, Graves recently replaced the word “breach” with “siege,” and is seeking to hire at least 20 new prosecutors to handle the growing January 6 caseload.
In January, Graves indicted 13 alleged members of the Oath Keepers including founder Stewart Rhodes, for “seditious conspiracy, the first time the Justice Department has sought those charges in over a decade. His prosecutors just squeezed the first plea deal on the outlandish charge, giving a legal imprimatur to the dubious “insurrection” narrative.
Graves’ office has repeatedly sought jail time for nonviolent trespassers, such as those who plead guilty to “parading” in the Capitol, a Class B misdemeanor.
In a sentencing memo for Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon shaman who pleaded guilty to one felony count of obstruction last year, government attorneys asked for 51 months in prison even though Chansley committed no violent crime on January 6 and was allowed into the building as police stood by. A lengthy prison sentence, Graves informed the court, was necessary as a deterrent “in cases involving domestic terrorism, which the breach of the Capitol certainly was.” (Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Chansley, who spent 317 days in solitary confinement under pretrial detention, to 41 months in jail.)
It was a separate lengthy prison sentence that reportedly drove Matthew Perna, a January 6 defendant from Pennsylvania, to take his own life last month. Perna’s attorney told me that after Graves’ office indicated they would ask for years rather than a few months in prison for Perna’s plea deal on the same obstruction charge, his client was driven “over the edge” and hanged himself on February 25. Two weeks later, without comment about the suicide, Graves dropped the case against Perna.
Fatima Goss Graves herself condemned the events of January 6. Trump should be impeached, Graves wrote in a statement on January 7, 2021, and his “enablers in Congress must be held accountable for their attempt to subvert our democracy and embolden these terrorists.”
Graves once again invoked race. “The disconnect between the treatment of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters this summer [sic] 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 claimed, contrary to all evidence. She further demanded a “thorough investigation” into what happened on January 6.
To say she’s getting her wish is an understatement. Nearly 800 Americans, nearly all white, have been arrested so far, with new charges filed every week. The abusive prosecution, with help from the media, is destroying lives—and Graves’ office isn’t done yet.
It’s been clear for months the January 6 investigation has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with politics. A more alarming question now is whether the prosecution also is rooted in racial grievances.
At the very least, the Graves are just another example of how high-powered interests in Washington collaborate under the radar to seek retribution against their political foes.