With Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees scheduled for Wednesday, I thought about bringing you another one of our “20 questions just for fun” commentaries, but so many friends in media have offered great questions (Gregg Jarrett says he’s got 37) that I thought we’d go another way. There are some new developments that Republicans need to bring up during the hearings. Perhaps they can word their questions so they somehow fall within the “four corners” of the report; perhaps not. Either way, the questions need to be on the record, whether Mueller answers them or not. Some of them involve the lead attorney on his special counsel team, Andrew Weissmann.
Mueller’s appointment of Andrew Weissmann as his right-hand man --- even tasking him with hiring the rest of the investigative team --- has always been suspect. Weissmann, we knew, was so “with her” that he even attended Hillary’s election night “victory” fiasco. The people he brought on board in 2017 to go after President Trump were Hillary supporters and donors as well.
One of them, Jeannie Rhee, was Ben Rhodes’ personal attorney and had also represented the Clinton Foundation and even Hillary herself –- in her email case! Really, how in anyone’s wildest imagination did a Hillary attorney end up on the special counsel team investigating Trump? If anything screamed “witch hunt,” it was this, but neither Mueller nor Weissmann cared about appearances. When you consider Mueller’s various conflicts of interest --- see yesterday’s commentary about Mueller and Comey --- and the people he hired, it’s beyond belief that this investigative team actually existed, yet it did, for almost two years, long after Mueller knew there was no evidence of “collusion.” We all got to see Lady Justice’s blindfold ripped from her eyes, and the people out to get Trump were actually happy about that.
It’s not just that Weissmann was pro-Hillary. He was what we all think of when we hear the term “sleazebag lawyer.” Whenever somebody tells you a lawyer joke, he’s the sort of lawyer you picture. His background, which we’ve examined in detail, was replete with atrocious tactics; he’s notorious for hiding exculpatory evidence. In her recent book LICENSED TO LIE, former DOJ official Sidney Powell, now representing Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has written about Weissmann’s ruination of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen and its thousands of employees before the conviction was overturned 9-zip by the Supreme Court, which cited prosecutorial misconduct. Of course, by then the company had gone under.
In another case, thanks to Weissmann’s tactics, four former Merrill Lynch executives spent a year in prison until their convictions were overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court.
Sure enough, we’ve seen since then that the leopard doesn’t change his stripes, er, spots, as exculpatory evidence was hidden in the cases of Trump associates Carter Page (his FISA application), George Papadopoulos, Mike Flynn and even Paul Manafort. The FBI had already started down that path in its FISA applications, but it’s easy to imagine Andrew Weissmann taking it to the tenth power. It’s his specialty.
Well, that catches us up to today. On the eve of Mueller’s House testimony, investigative reporter John Solomon of THE HILL has uncovered something new about Mueller’s “pit bull” Weissmann. The story was confirmed to him by multiple sources with direct knowledge as well as contemporaneous defense memos that he personally read.
In early June of 2017, just two weeks into the special counsel probe –- while he presumably was still interviewing candidates for the team and moving boxes into his new office digs –- Weissmann quietly contacted a Ukrainian oligarch (translation: billionaire) named Dmitry Firtash, who had been criminally charged in the U.S. in 2014. He told Firtash that Mueller might make those charges go away if Firtash could give them “some dirt on Donald Trump in the Russia case.”
According to Solomon, Weissmann laid out for Firtash just what he was looking for, sharing with him a detailed theory about Trump’s so-called collusion (hint: he hypothesized that it involved Manafort) in hope that the oligarch would give him something that would support it. This isn’t something prosecutors would typically do, according to legal experts Solomon consulted, because it can lead to witnesses crafting their testimony.
Firtash was fighting extradition to the U.S. from Austria on charges, which he denies, that he engaged in bribery and corruption in India involving an American aerospace deal. Much as he surely would’ve liked to see those charges dropped, the oligarch didn’t take the deal, as he simply didn’t have any information about a Trump/Russia conspiracy. I guess he could have made something up to please Weissmann, but he apparently had more integrity than our own top intel people.
According to Solomon, this brash move on Weissmann’s part was driven by his knowledge that the Russia case was already unraveling, thanks to the Steele “dossier” turning out to be, as Solomon puts it, “an uncorroborated mess.” The case against Firtash was apparently falling apart as well.
For those not familiar with legal negotiations, such an aggressive push for a deal so early in the process would seem quite premature and even desperate. In fact, Firtash’s defense team thought the claim that the special counsel could have the charges dismissed was an exaggeration, as such a move would have had to be approved by the attorney general.
Interestingly, as Firtash’s case drags on and his fight against extradition continues, his legal team has brought the Weissmann deal to the attention of an Austrian court, “as potential defense evidence that the DOJ’s prosecution is flawed by bogus investigations and political motivations.” Wow, our Department of Justice is getting quite an international reputation for sleaziness. The Firtash case reads like such a mess that it looks as though he might not face trial in the U.S. after all.
Muelller surely knew about Weissmann’s outrageous overture to this Ukrainian oligarch in the beginning days of their investigation. This is the kind of thing they were doing early on to try to find something, anything on President Trump to tie him to Russia. We know Mueller won’t have anything to say about it during Wednesday’s hearing, but it sure would be fun to ask the questions, anyway. Hope somebody brings it up.