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How a Missouri Feud Ousted a U.S. Attorney

POSTED: 03:01 PM ET, 10/ 3/2008 by Derek Kravitz

If you believe federal investigators, the fight between the offices of Missouri Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond and former U.S. Attorney Todd P. Graves was sparked by the clashing personalities of two young aides.


GRAPHIC: An overview of the events and strained relations that led to Todd Graves's ouster as U.S. attorney in Missouri, as detailed in a Justice Department report. (washingtonpost.com)

The behind-the-scenes row between the two surfaced this week in the Department of Justice's lengthy report (PDF) on the politicized firing in 2006 of nine U.S. attorneys. The report alleges that Bond's office orchestrated Graves's ouster in January 2006.

At the time, Justice officials suggested Graves's departure was precipitated by two misconduct allegations against him, charges later found to be without merit. In reality, this week's report says, Bond's staff lobbied to get rid of Graves because he was seen as uncooperative in helping mediate disputes between Bond's office and the office of Graves's brother, Missouri Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.).

The report describes heated encounters between Bond's then-chief of staff, Jason Van Eaton, and Jeff Roe, the former chief of staff to Graves's brother, which ultimately led to the U.S. attorney's removal, The Post's R. Jeffrey Smith reports today.

Bond's staff acknowledged to the investigators that they had pressured the congressman to fire Roe, a controversial political consultant. Roe is well known in Missouri politics: The Associated Press notes his "bare-knuckles" political style and, in a profile last year, The Kansas City Star described him as Karl Rove-like and compared his approach to "blunt-force trauma."

The report indicates that when congressman Graves wouldn't fire Roe, Bond's staff turned to Graves' brother Todd, the U.S. attorney. Todd Graves told federal investigators that Bond's staff "angrily insisted" that he persuade his brother to fire Roe. When he refused, Bond's staff bluntly told him they could "no longer protect" his job, he said.

Graves said he eventually told Van Eaton in a phone call that he would not get involved in the matter. "I'm not playing in your reindeer games," he told Van Eaton.

Van Eaton, who earlier this year mulled a run for Congress, told The Post that he couldn't recall that conversation.

For his part, Roe said in an interview Monday with the AP that Van Eaton was primarily responsible for the fight between the two offices. "It is breathtaking that Jason Van Eaton, a political pygmy, was able to use the power and majesty of the United States Senate to settle a petty personal political squabble," said Roe, now a political consultant who might become a paid adviser for Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser, The Kansas City Star's political blog, "Prime Buzz," reports.

Van Eaton and Roe are both in their mid-30s and each "sought an influential reputation," sources told The Post. Their bosses worked well together, but for the two aides "it was all about personality clashes, who is the more important and powerful staffer," said a Republican who knows the pair.

In their report, the DOJ investigators said: "We find it extremely troubling that the impetus for Graves's removal as U.S. Attorney appears to have stemmed from U.S. Attorney Graves's decision not to respond to a Bond staff member's demand to get involved in personnel decisions in Representative Sam Graves's congressional office."

Bond himself offered up an apology of sorts after the report's release, saying that he did not know of his staff's involvement in Graves's removal.

"Missouri deserves better and I expect better of my staff," he said.

By Derek Kravitz |  October 3, 2008; 3:01 PM ET
Previous: McCain Aide's Freddie Mac Connection | Next: Picks of the Week: Wall Street, Counterfeit Chinese Parts and PAC Money

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