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The Trump investigation lawyer who served a helpful apprenticeship

As a younger lawyer, Nicholas Gravante made an uncommon selection: he left Cravath, Swaine & Moore, one of many oldest and most prestigious US regulation corporations, to go to work for Gerald Shargel, a New York Metropolis legal lawyer whose purchasers included mob bosses and drug sellers.

Working for Shargel helped make Gravante one of many metropolis’s prime litigators and white collar attorneys. In a roundabout method, it has additionally landed him in the midst of one of many period’s largest circumstances: Manhattan district legal professional Cyrus Vance’s investigation of former president Donald Trump and the Trump Group.

That investigation escalated this month with the grand jury indictment of Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Group’s longtime chief monetary officer, for alleged tax fraud.

Weisselberg, who as soon as described himself as Trump’s “eyes and ears”, is accused of accepting free lease, vehicles and faculty tuition for his grandchildren from the corporate with out paying taxes on these advantages. He has pleaded not responsible, though prosecutors are hoping he is perhaps induced to show in opposition to Trump and strike a deal to assist their investigation.

Within the meantime, in line with individuals briefed on the probe, they’re now scrutinising one other member of the Trump Group’s govt suite for related violations: Matthew Calamari, the chief working officer.

Calamari has retained Gravante to symbolize him. He did so primarily based on the advice of Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump Group, who occurred to be considered one of “Jerry” Shargel’s younger associates when Gravante joined the regulation agency in 1990.

“It’s come full circle and now we’re type of within the limelight in a really high-profile case whereas within the outdated days it was our boss, Jerry, who was within the limelight daily,” Gravante, 60, stated. “I’m actually having fun with it, I’ve to say.”

Vance’s workplace is giving Gravante a chance to argue why his shopper shouldn’t be charged — simply as they did for Weisselberg. Gravante was reluctant to preview his defence arguments, however made it clear he intends to argue there are clear distinctions between the 2 Trump lieutenants.

Whereas Weisselberg was an accountant by coaching, and the CFO, the beefy Calamari is a former American soccer participant who got here to Trump’s consideration after tackling a heckler on the US Open tennis event in 1981 whereas working as a safety guard on the occasion. He joined Trump as a bodyguard and whereas accompanying the boss round constructions websites through the years he discovered the ins and outs of venture administration earlier than ultimately rising within the organisation.

“He’s not even a university graduate — he’s a safety man,” Gravante stated. “He has no monetary sophistication in anyway!”

Calamari did have a Trump residence in Manhattan and an organization automobile, however they have been important to his job offering safety for the household and their properties, Gravante argued, and the fee was deducted from his wage.

He might be making his case to Mark Pomerantz, one other veteran New York defence lawyer, who left non-public observe earlier this 12 months to assist Vance’s investigation. Pomerantz taught Gravante contract regulation and legal defence at Columbia Regulation College. “It’s a small world,” Gravante stated.

Aside from the media consideration — and the reunion with outdated associates — Gravante views the case as an important precedent for the attainable prosecution of a former president by political adversaries. 

“If you go down this highway, it’s a extremely harmful path for the nation,” stated Gravante, who has additionally represented Hunter Biden, and is near a number of New York Democrats, together with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

He added: “That’s why it’s a extremely fascinating case — not solely due to the gamers, not solely due to the press consideration, however as a result of I don’t suppose we’ve ever skilled a scenario like this earlier than, and it’s going to be fascinating to see the way it unfolds.”

Vance and Letitia James, the New York attorney-general, each Democrats who have been elected to their posts, argue the investigation is about confirming a distinct precedent: that no one — even a former president — is above the regulation.

Gravante grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the son of a neighborhood actual property lawyer who ready taxes for, amongst others, convicted mafia hitman Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano.

Earlier than the Trump case, Gravante made headlines for his function at Boies Schiller Flexner, the litigation agency based by tremendous lawyer David Boies. Gravante, a Boies protégé, was elected co-managing accomplice in late 2019 to attempt to stabilise a agency that was haemorrhaging expertise after a collection of missteps, together with Boies’ illustration of Harvey Weinstein, and his involvement with Theranos, the allegedly fraudulent blood-testing start-up. 

Gravante pushed for a merger with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, after which decamped there himself when that effort failed. “I did consider that Boies Schiller ought to have merged with Cadwalader. I fought for that to occur. It didn’t occur,” he stated, calling his new job a chance to work with a staff of “all-stars” that has a powerful roster of monetary companies purchasers.

Whereas he praises Boies as “the best litigator of our era”, Gravante could find yourself drawing extra on his Shargel expertise if prosecutors cost Calamari. “Jerry taught me all the things about being a trial lawyer,” Gravante stated, recalling how troublesome it was to return by courtroom expertise at a giant agency. “For the 2 years I labored for him, I lived in court docket.”

Shargel’s agency was a far cry from Cravath, the place Gravante had toiled on sprawling company circumstances just like the Eighties Texaco-Pennzoil litigation. “We had organised crime circumstances, there have been drug circumstances. The purchasers who got here into the workplace have been individuals who have been charged with crimes. A lot of them have been convicted. It was a really, very totally different environment. It was like night-and-day.”

Among the many classes Shargel imparted to Gravante: learn all the things. Whereas different legal attorneys had assistants put together summaries of depositions and different trial paperwork, Shargel poured over the underlying supplies himself. It was the one technique to be ready within the occasion {that a} witness may say one thing surprising throughout a cross-examination.

Shargel, who famously received the acquittal of New York mob boss John Gotti in 1990 (he was later convicted on separate costs), additionally emphasised the significance of credibility.

“You may state 20 factors in a gap assertion, you get considered one of them that finally ends up being fallacious you’re going to get hammered over the pinnacle with that all through the trial,” Gravante stated. “So you recognize what? You persist with the 19 certain issues. You don’t overstate something. As a result of as soon as your credibility is shot, it’s a catastrophe.”

Different classes have been extra refined — like the right way to seize the rostrum, how to reply to a decide, and the necessity to embrace a shopper always, even one you don’t notably like.

“Everybody’s all the time watching and forming impressions,” Gravante noticed. “Should you’re strolling again together with your shopper from lunch — for those who appear like you actually don’t like your shopper, and there’s this notion you don’t get alongside, why ought to anybody else within the jury like them?” 

Should you see Gravante smiling alongside Calamari within the days forward, it could be real affection. Or, it could be the knowledge of Jerry Shargel.

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