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Former WV GOP chairman Stuart nominated as US attorney

Gazette-Mail file photo
Mike Stuart (right) speaks at the West Virginia Capitol in January 2016 after filing papers for Donald Trump to run for president in the state. Stuart, who was chairman of Trump’s campaign in West Virginia, is the Trump administration’s nominee as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Mike Stuart, the former state Republican Party chairman who served as co-head of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in West Virginia last year, is the Trump administration’s nominee to be U.S. attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announced the nomination in a news release Friday evening, calling Stuart an “excellent choice.”

“His impressive professional experience, as well as his commitment to acting honorably and ethically, make him uniquely qualified to serve the people of West Virginia in this capacity,” the Republican senator said in a release.

Reached by phone Friday evening, Stuart said, “I’m very thankful to President Trump for the nomination.” He said he learned of the nomination Thursday evening, and he was not only “appreciative of President Trump and Attorney General Sessions’ confidence in me,” but also their “commitment to West Virginia.”

Stuart, an attorney at Steptoe and Johnson, must still be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The son and grandson of coal miners, he said he was humbled by the nomination.

“If confirmed, I’ll serve with great humility and I will work tirelessly for the people of West Virginia,” he said.

Asked about his plans for the office, Stuart said: “I don’t really want to talk about the goals,” he said. “I’m just very proud and pleased to be nominated.” He directed questions about plans to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Stuart said he had “no idea” if his work for Trump’s campaign was considered. “I’d refer that question to the Department of Justice press line,” he said. “I can tell you in my discussions with the Department of Justice and the executive office of the U.S. Attorney, that’s never been discussed.”

He also said while he has met Trump several times, “I have not discussed this with the president.”

The U.S. Attorney is the chief federal criminal prosecutor in a given district, and also represents the federal government in civil trials. The U.S. attorney’s job would be Stuart’s first foray into law enforcement, he said.

“It’s just a true honor to get the nomination,” he said. “I have an amazing respect for law enforcement.”

Stuart was elected chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party in July 2010 and lasted 20 months on the job. He stepped down in March 2012, after he announced that he would work to put a referendum banning table games on the ballot in Kanawha County. Owners of the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort slammed the proposal, saying it would cost hundreds of jobs, and many of Stuart’s fellow Republicans distanced themselves from him. Then-Delegate Mitch Carmichael, now state Senate president, said, “At this point, it’s good to have new leadership in the party.”

Since 2005, Stuart has worked for the Steptoe and Johnson law firm in Charleston, according to that firm’s website. He has also worked at Spilman Thomas and Battle in Charleston, and at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP in Boston.

Stuart “concentrates his practice in the areas of corporate law, energy and commercial transactions, securities, and government relations,” his Steptoe & Johnson biography states. He counsels both international and U.S. clients on mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, business development, mergers, dissolutions, financing, and management,” according to the Steptoe website.

In 2006, Stuart ran for the state House of Delegates in Kanawha County. He was the top Republican vote-getter in the seven-member 30th Delegate District, but finished behind the seven Democrats running in the general election. He later served as Kanawha County’s Republican chairman, and as head of the West Virginia Conservative Foundation, a “tea party” group, before being elected state GOP chairman.

Stuart received his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and his law degree from Boston University, according to a biography on the White House website.

Since the start of 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of West Virginia has been headed by Carol Casto. She has worked in the office for more than 25 years, and was first assistant U.S. attorney under Booth Goodwin, before Goodwin stepped down to make an unsuccessful run for governor. Goodwin also replaced a longtime assistant federal prosecutor, Charles Miller, who left the office and is now Kanawha County’s prosecuting attorney.

Reach Erin Beck at erin.beck@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5163, Facebook.com/erinbeckwv or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.

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