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Former No.2 DOJ official joins law firm in Washington

By Casey Sullivan and David Ingram

(Reuters) - Gary Grindler, a former high-ranking Justice Department official who became embroiled in Operation Fast and Furious, the failed gun-trafficking probe along the U.S.-Mexico border, has rejoined his former law firm King & Spalding, the firm said on Monday.

Grindler, 62, was acting deputy U.S. attorney general and chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Holder, for most of his four years at the Justice Department.

He returns to King & Spalding as a partner in Washington, D.C., where he will specialize in government investigations with a focus on financial fraud, health care and False Claims Act cases, the firm said.

That is the area of specialty Grindler had when he worked at the firm as a partner between 2000 and 2009.

Grindler announced his departure from the Justice Department in December, in what aides said was part of regular staff turnover as President Barack Obama prepared to begin a second four-year term.

During his tenure at the Justice Department, Grindler was criticized by congressional Republicans and a report by the department's inspector general for his involvement in Operation Fast and Furious.

The operation became a political scandal in Obama's first term, causing the U.S. attorney in Arizona and some U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials to resign.

In the operation, federal agents in Arizona with the ATF failed to seize about 2,000 potentially illegal firearms as they tried to build a case against traffickers who supplied Mexican drug cartels.

Grindler became aware of the operation in December 2010 when two of the 2,000 guns were found at the scene of a U.S. border agent's death, according to a September 2012 report from the Justice Department's inspector general. However, he did not immediately alert Holder about the two guns and their link to Operation Fast and Furious, the report said.

Grindler was also part of the team that helped negotiate the $4.5 billion settlement filed in November between the federal government and BP Plc over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Justice Department said.

Grindler did not immediately respond to a request for comment through a spokesperson on Monday. Three top King & Spalding executives did not return requests for comment.

The 127-year-old King & Spalding is headquartered in Atlanta with 800 lawyers in 17 offices worldwide.

(Editing by Dale Hudson)

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