by WorldTribune Staff, January 13, 2019
A cursory look at the roster of the main players in the Trump-Russia “collusion” investigation shows deep professional connections which “can have the look of an exclusive club,” a report said.
The Washington establishment not only thrives inside the Department of Justice, but “what President Trump called ‘the swamp’ is often controlling legal maneuvers – and possibly his fate,” security correspondent Rowan Scarborough wrote for The Washington Times on Jan. 10.
“Personnel is power in D.C., and Trump advocated an Andrew Jackson takeover [of] the government with half measures and bad hiring,” a former Justice Department lawyer, who asked not to be named, told Scarborough.
“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.”
The report cited several Russia investigation connections:
- U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, who oversees the Mueller grand jury. The Obama appointee recently granted the special counsel’s request to extend the jury another six months. Judge Howell worked alongside special counsel Robert Mueller’s so-called “pit bull” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann in Brooklyn in the early 1990s when both were assistant U.S. attorneys.
- FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. His agents recommend to Mueller whether to prosecute. Wray also played an important role in Weissmann’s career. In 2004, as assistant U.S. attorney general, Wray promoted Weissmann to chief of the Enron task force. In a press release, Wray praised 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. Wray is also a longtime friend of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller special counsel in May 2017.
- Weissmann was one of the first players brought on by Mueller. He was quickly assigned the job of prosecuting former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and getting him to talk. As FBI director, Mueller had appointed Weissmann as FBI special counsel and then general counsel in the 2000s. Weissmann attended what was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s victory party in New York in 2016.
- Mueller also brought on Jeannie Rhee from Wilmer Hale, his just-vacated law firm. Rhee, like Weissmann, has ties to Hillary Clinton. She defended the Clinton Foundation and Clinton in two civil cases. She also contributed the maximum amount to the Democrat’s presidential campaign.
- 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 invited U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras to a “cocktail” party. Strzok sent the July 25, 2016, text just as he was opening an investigation into suspected Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. 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,” Strzok responded. “I need to get together with him.” 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.
- Trump’s pick to head the DOJ, William Barr, has expressed complete confidence in 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.
- 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. 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.
- Friedrich is the U.S District judge presiding over the Concord Management and Consulting case. The Russian firm was indicted by Mueller for alleged interference in the 2016 election. Her husband, Matthew W. Friedrich, was one of the lead prosecutors in the Enron case. His co-counsel was Weissmann. They persuaded the jury to convict Arthur Andersen of obstruction of justice. In 2005, the Supreme Court threw out the conviction in a 9-0 ruling, essentially saying there was no crime.
The former Justice Department lawyer said that “Trump would have been better served air-dropping random Kansans into D.C. Instead, he empowered Rod (Rosenstein) and Rod’s cronies.”