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Report: Judge in Mueller case may have conflict of interest
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There may be a conflict of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller’s case against a Russian company facing charges of election interference.
The husband of the judge presiding over Mueller’s case against the Russian firm Concord Management is a prosecutor who has connections with Mueller and his team.
District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich is married to former Justice Department attorney Matthew Friedrich, who worked alongside Mueller’s top attorney, Andrew Weissman, who the New York Times described in 2017 as Mueller’s “legal pitbull.” A 2014 article by attorney Sidney Powell notes that Mr. Friedrich and Weissman worked together in the past, notably on the Enron Task Force.
Mr. Freidrich has also been photographed alongside then-FBI Director Mueller, as a Twitter user noted. The connections have some social media users wondering why the judge hasn’t recused herself from the case.
Truly remarkable that she’s hearing this case given the fact that her husband worked so closely with Weissmann…and also interacted with Mueller while he led FBI. pic.twitter.com/fLfNR71GyX
— Beekman Cruger 🔦🔎 (@BeekmanCruger) January 7, 2019
Concord Management is one of three Russian companies accused by Mueller of election interference along with 13 Russian “trolls.” A grand jury charged the company last year with attempting to influence the 2016 election using disinformation on social media. Since the Russians were never expected to show up in U.S. court, many saw Mueller’s indictments as politically motivated, and it took Mueller’s team by surprise when attorneys for Concord Management pleaded not guilty to the charges in U.S. court, setting off a colorful war of words between the defense team and Judge Friedrich.
In court filings and in court appearances, attorneys Eric Dubelier and Kate Seikaly have argued that Mueller’s team is leading a biased investigation into a made-up crime and have accused Mueller of a wide range of misconduct, such as withholding evidence from the defense without warrant, violating the confidentiality of the defense’s counter-evidence and even accusing Mueller at one point of collecting a “nude selfie” in connection with the probe.
In a December filing, Dubelier brought up Weissmann’s role in securing an eventually overturned conviction against accounting firm Arthur Andersen LLP while he led the task force to investigate Enron as evidence of the Mueller team’s reckless approach to justice.
Judge rebukes defense lawyer
On Monday, Judge Friedrich unloaded on Dubelier over a court filing last week which accused Mueller’s team of prejudiced prosecution against Concord Management and which included “inappropriate” references to the movie “Animal House.”
“I’ll say it plain and simple: knock it off,” U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich said.
Friedrich dismissed a motion from Concord’s attorneys in November to have the case thrown out.
While the judge appeared to take umbrage at the colorful language, Politico noted that the Monday hearing seemed to have been scheduled specifically by Friedrich to give a “public dressing-down” of the attorneys. Friedrich mounted an indignant defense of Mueller and accused the lawyers of trying to coerce her into granting them access to evidence from Mueller’s team.
Dubelier responded by accusing Friedrich of bias and questioned whether he could stay on the case. “I need to go and discuss this with my client,” said Dubelier Monday. “There appears to be some bias on the part of the court,” he added.
Friedrich denied any bias, and in a court filing Tuesday, Dubelier doubled down on accusations that Friedrich created “at a minimum an appearance of bias or prejudice in favor of the government” with her verbal attack which he said led to intimidation and death threats against him and Seikaly after MSNBC host Rachel Maddow brought attention to the courtroom spat on her show. In the filing, Dubelier did not mention Mr. Friederich’s connections with Mueller and his attorneys but did note that Judge Friedrich was alone among “10 or more lawyers and investigators” in taking umbrage at his court filings.
“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,” Dubelier said, adding, “It is curious why the Court was not offended by the Special Counsel’s filing as well.”
Dubelier questioned why the judge was placing the burden on the defense to prove their entitlement to access evidence from Mueller, writing, “Unfortunately, it appears that the Court believes it is the burden of the Defendant to establish it is entitled to discovery as opposed to the burden of the Special Counsel to establish that Defendant is not entitled to discovery. Given the fact that there is no case law to support the Special Counsel’s position in this case, Defendant remains perplexed by the Court’s statement, but will leave that argument for another day.”
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