Trump de­fense strug­gles in city with Mueller con­nec­tions

‘Swamp’ holds power

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The Trump-Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, with its dy­namic cast of judges, de­fend­ers and prose­cu­tors, can have the look of an ex­clu­sive club.

Checks of of­fi­cial bi­ogra­phies and le­gal sources re­veal a maze of pro­fes­sional con­nec­tions that, while not un­eth­i­cal, show that the Wash­ing­ton es­tab­lish­ment thrives in­side the Jus­tice De­part­ment. What Pres­i­dent Trump called “the swamp” is often con­trol­ling le­gal ma­neu­vers — and pos­si­bly his fate.

“Per­son­nel is power in D.C., and Trump ad­vo­cated an An­drew Jack­son takeover [of] the gov­ern­ment with half mea­sures and bad hir­ing,” said a for­mer Jus­tice De­part­ment lawyer who asked not to be named for ca­reer rea­sons.

When de­fense coun­sel Eric A. Dube­lier filed an ar­gu­ment Dec. 20 for his Rus­sian client, he at­tacked spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, the top Rus­sia

in­ves­ti­ga­tion pros­e­cu­tor and long­time Wash­ing­ton fig­ure, by hark­ing back to a ma­jor Jus­tice De­part­ment con­vic­tion that failed.

On the sur­face, the ref­er­ence to the de­funct ac­count­ing firm Arthur An­der­sen ap­peared to be pure le­gal ar­gu­ing.

But a closer look shows that the U.S. Dis­trict Court judge to whom Mr. Dube­lier was ar­gu­ing, Dab­ney Friedrich, has a con­nec­tion to the An­der­sen case. Her hus­band, Matthew W. Friedrich, was one of the lead prose­cu­tors. He per­suaded the jury to con­vict Arthur An­der­sen of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice in the En­ron fi­nan­cial scan­dal.

His co-coun­sel was An­drew Weiss­mann, who to­day is one of Mr. Mueller’s se­nior prose­cu­tors.

The Arthur An­der­sen case ended in fail­ure for the Friedrich-Weiss­mann, et al., task force. In 2005, the Supreme Court threw out the con­vic­tion in a 9-0 rul­ing, es­sen­tially say­ing there was no crime.

In his Dec. 20 ar­gu­ment, Mr. Dube­lier chas­tised the Mueller team for with­hold­ing ev­i­dence on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds from his client, Con­cord Man­age­ment and Con­sult­ing. Judge Friedrich, one of Mr. Trump’s early Dis­trict Court nom­i­nees, so far has sided with Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Dube­lier ac­cused Mr. Mueller of try­ing to gain a tem­po­rary po­lit­i­cal vic­tory with­out wor­ry­ing about an ap­peals re­ver­sal. He specif­i­cally cited the ghost of Arthur An­der­sen. In essence, he was crit­i­ciz­ing the judge’s hus­band, Mr. Friedrich, now a cor­po­rate lawyer, and Mr. Weiss­mann, with­out men­tion­ing their names.

The Judge Friedrich con­nec­tion is an ex­am­ple of how the lives of Jus­tice lawyers in­ter­sect.

Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­nec­tions

● U.S. Dis­trict Chief Judge Beryl A. How­ell over­sees the Mueller grand jury. She re­cently granted the spe­cial coun­sel’s re­quest to ex­tend the jury an­other six months.

Ap­pointed by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in 2010, Judge How­ell worked along­side Mr. Weiss­mann in Brook­lyn in the early 1990s when both were as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­neys.

Writ­ing of the How­ell-Weiss­mann friend­ship in 2017, the Daily Beast said, “Fed­eral prose­cu­tors often form close, life-long re­la­tion­ships with their fel­low as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­neys.”

They not only pros­e­cuted to­gether, but they also wrote to­gether. Judge How­ell and Mr. Weiss­mann co-au­thored a New York Law Jour­nal ar­ti­cle in June 2006 on ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

Judge How­ell would have to ap­prove for re­lease any re­port the grand jury writes.

● FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher A. Wray, a Trump ap­pointee, is an in­te­gral player in the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion. His agents do the ground­work, try­ing to cre­ate cases for per­jury, ob­struc­tion of jus­tice or Rus­sia elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence. Agents rec­om­mend to Mr. Mueller whether to pros­e­cute.

Mr. Wray also played an im­por­tant role in Mr. Weiss­mann’s ca­reer.

In 2004, as as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney gen­eral, Mr. Wray pro­moted Mr. Weiss­mann to chief of the En­ron task force. In a press re­lease, Mr. Wray praised Mr. Weiss­mann for win­ning con­vic­tions against Arthur An­der­sen and five Mer­rill Lynch ex­ec­u­tives. The Mer­rill Lynch case, like Arthur An­der­sen, also lay in sham­bles once ap­pel­late judges were fin­ished. The same le­gal prob­lem: There wasn’t a crime.

● Mr. Wray is a long­time friend of Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, an­other Trump ap­pointee. Mr. Rosen­stein, a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney for Mary­land, is the man who cre­ated the Robert Mueller ex­press train when he ap­pointed him spe­cial coun­sel in May 2017. Mr. Rosen­stein didn’t con­sult first with the White House.

Mr. Wray signed an en­dorse­ment let­ter to the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee for Mr. Rosen­stein as deputy. Mr. Rosen­stein backed Mr. Wray to suc­ceed FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Wray’s FBI gen­eral coun­sel is Dana Boente, who came from Mr. Rosen­stein’s of­fice as an as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral.

“Trump would have been bet­ter served air-drop­ping ran­dom Kansans into D.C.,” said the for­mer Jus­tice De­part­ment lawyer. “In­stead, he em­pow­ered Rod and Rod’s cronies.”

● One of Mr. Mueller’s first moves was to bring in Mr. Weiss­mann, who then led Jus­tice’s fraud divi­sion. The spe­cial coun­sel quickly as­signed Mr. Weiss­mann the job of pros­e­cut­ing for­mer Trump cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort and get­ting him to talk.

Mr. Mueller has a long work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Mr. Weiss­mann. As FBI di­rec­tor, he ap­pointed him as FBI spe­cial coun­sel and then gen­eral coun­sel in the 2000s.

Mr. Mueller also coaxed Jeannie Rhee from Wilmer Hale, his just-va­cated law firm.

She, like Mr. Weiss­mann, has ties to Mr. Trump’s 2016 op­po­nent, Hil­lary Clin­ton. Ms. Rhee de­fended the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion and Mrs. Clin­ton in two civil cases. She con­trib­uted the max­i­mum amount to the Demo­crat’s cam­paign. Mr. Weiss­mann at­tended what was sup­posed to be Mrs. Clin­ton’s vic­tory party in New York.

● For­mer FBI agent Peter Str­zok, who wrote a string of anti-Trump mes­sages to his lover, pro­vided a peek into how some agents view judges. He sug­gested in one mis­sive that he in­vite U.S. Dis­trict Judge Rudolph Con­tr­eras to a “cock­tail” party. Mr. Str­zok sent the July 25, 2016, text just as he was open­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into sus­pected Rus­sian col­lu­sion with the Trump cam­paign.

Mr. Str­zok’s mes­sag­ing in­cluded a dis­cus­sion that Judge Con­tr­eras sits on the panel that ap­proves wire­taps, known as For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act (FISA) war­rants. “Rudy is on the FISC! Did you know that?” texted his lover, then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

“We talked about it be­fore and after,” Mr. Str­zok re­sponded. “I need to get to­gether with him.”

Mr. Str­zok told the Jus­tice De­part­ment in­spec­tor gen­eral that no such party was held.

Judge Con­tr­eras, with­out ex­pla­na­tion, sud­denly re­cused him­self from the Michael Flynn per­jury case in De­cem­ber 2017 after he was as­signed as Flynn’s judge and ac­cepted his guilty plea.

● Jus­tice De­part­ment In­spec­tor Gen­eral Michael Horowitz in­ves­ti­gated how the de­part­ment han­dled the Clin­ton email scan­dal. He now is in­ves­ti­gat­ing how the FBI re­lied on a Demo­cratic Party-fi­nanced dossier to tar­get the Trump cam­paign and ob­tain wire­taps.

Mr. Horowitz sat from 2003 to 2008 on the U.S. Sen­tenc­ing Com­mis­sion, which is­sues guide­lines to judges and can be a spring­board to judge­ships and other top ap­point­ments. Among his fel­low com­mis­sion­ers: Judges Beryl A. How­ell and Dab­ney Friedrich.

● Mr. Trump’s pick to head the Jus­tice De­part­ment, Wil­liam Barr, has ex­pressed com­plete con­fi­dence in Mr. Mueller.

He should know the spe­cial coun­sel well. They are “best friends,” the Daily Mail re­ported.

“Their wives at­tend the same Bible study to­gether, and Mueller has at­tended the wed­dings of two of Barr’s daugh­ters,” the Mail said.

The for­mer Jus­tice De­part­ment lawyer, who knows many of its play­ers and who spoke to The Wash­ing­ton Times, was asked to as­sess the per­sonal and pro­fes­sion con­nec­tions.

“As an out­sider, Trump needed to turn this town up­side down but failed to do so and made money for all the wrong peo­ple,” the lawyer said. “The re­sult of his bad hir­ing is a huge, gap­ing self-in­flicted wound, with col­lat­eral dam­age to loy­al­ists that has made him look weak and vul­ner­a­ble to the in­sid­ers of the place he said he was go­ing to drain.”

Friedrich-Dube­lier-Arthur An­der­sen

Judge Friedrich and her hus­band were Jus­tice De­part­ment prose­cu­tors when they met and mar­ried in 2001. Both trav­eled in blue-blood Repub­li­can cir­cles. Judge Friedrich had a stint in the Ge­orge W. Bush White House.

“I have spent a large por­tion of my ca­reer as a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor,” she told the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee in her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing.

Mr. Friedrich left the Jus­tice De­part­ment in 2009. He is now gen­eral coun­sel for the tech­nol­ogy firm Cog­nizant.

That the Con­cord Man­age­ment and Con­sult­ing case is be­ing con­tested is sur­pris­ing. Le­gal pun­dits sug­gested that none of the Rus­sian in­di­vid­u­als or firms in­dicted by Mr. Mueller’s grand jury would ap­pear in Wash­ing­ton to face charges.

But Con­cord, which is ac­cused of fi­nanc­ing Rus­sian so­cial me­dia trolling dur­ing the elec­tion, did ap­pear — in the per­son of de­fense at­tor­ney Eric A. Dube­lier.

Mr. Dube­lier has launched an ag­gres­sive court­room strat­egy against Mr. Mueller — and the judge.

Like Judge Friedrich, Mr. Dube­lier is an alum­nus of the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s pros­e­cu­tor class. He is in­censed that the judge is back­ing Mr. Mueller’s po­si­tion that he can keep hid­den sen­si­tive pieces of ev­i­dence so it won’t fall into the hands of Moscow.

Mr. Dube­lier has a flair for in­ject­ing col­or­ful prose into oth­er­wise le­gal­is­tic mo­tions. In his Dec. 20 brief, he cited the specter of Arthur An­der­sen by ac­cus­ing Mr. Mueller of play­ing pol­i­tics with Con­cord.

“Spe­cially, the short-term po­lit­i­cal value of a con­vic­tion far out­weighs a re­ver­sal by a higher court years from now,” he said. “This tac­tic, though rare, is not new.”

His Jan. 4 fil­ing trig­gered Judge Friedrich’s anger. He called her ev­i­dence de­ci­sions “oner­ous and un­prece­dented.” He quoted a line from the frat-boy com­edy “An­i­mal House” to de­scribe mo­tives for what he be­lieves is pos­si­ble mis­con­duct by Mr. Mueller’s team.

At a Mon­day hear­ing, Judge Friedrich vented — and de­fended Mr. Mueller.

“Mer­it­less per­sonal at­tacks on the spe­cial coun­sel, his at­tor­neys, other mem­bers of the trial team, and fire­wall coun­sel will play no role in my de­ci­sion on your mo­tion, nor will in­ap­pro­pri­ate and what you clearly be­lieve to be clever quotes from movies, car­toons, and else­where,” the judge said. “Your strat­egy is in­ef­fec­tive. It’s un­der­min­ing your cred­i­bil­ity in this court­house. I will say it plain and sim­ple: Knock it off.”

Mr. Dube­lier didn’t back off. The next day, he filed a brief ac­cus­ing Judge Friedrich of trig­ger­ing a wave of hate mes­sages in emails and voice­mails against him and his co-coun­sel.

“For a rea­son un­known to un­der­signed coun­sel, the court [judge] took it upon it­self to de­fend the spe­cial coun­sel, cre­at­ing at a min­i­mum an ap­pear­ance of bias or prej­u­dice in fa­vor of the gov­ern­ment,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller, the spe­cial coun­sel in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, has deep pro­fes­sional con­nec­tions that show the Wash­ing­ton le­gal es­tab­lish­ment thrives in­side the Jus­tice De­part­ment.

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