Sunday, February 18, 2018

Andrew Weissmann

Mueller’s ‘Pit Bull’ Andrew Weissmann Busted for Withholding Evidence in Previous Case

“Reprehensible and subject, perhaps, to appropriate disciplinary measures”

Sara Carter Sara Carter February 17, 2018 487,625
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In 1997 Andrew Weissmann was officially reprimanded by a judge in the Eastern District of New York for withholding evidence
Weissmann was reported to the Department of Justice Inspector General and Senate Judiciary Committee for alleged "corrupt legal practices"
A formal letter from U.S. Attorney Eastern District of New York Zachary Carter requested the judge to remove Weissman's name, according to documents
Civil rights and Criminal Defense Attorney David Schoen said Weissmann needs to be investigated for alleged past misconduct in court cases
The top attorney in Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel’s office was reported to the Department of Justice’s Inspector General by a lawyer representing whistleblowers for alleged “corrupt legal practices” more than a year before the 2016 presidential election and a decade before to the Senate Judiciary Committee, this reporter has learned.

Described by the New York Times as Mueller’s ‘pitbull,’ Andrew Weissmann, a former Eastern District of New York Assistant U.S. Attorney, rose through the ranks to eventually become Mueller’s general counsel at the F.B.I.

In 2015 Weissmann was selected to run the Department of Justice’s criminal fraud section and was later handpicked by Mueller to join the ongoing Special Counsel’s Office investigation into the alleged obstruction and alleged collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.

But Weissmann’s rise to the top was rocky from the start. Although he’s been described as a tough prosecutor by some, his involvement in a case targeting the Colombo crime family in a New York Eastern District Court was the first of many that would draw criticism from his peers, as well as judges.

READ: Weissmann met with AP to discuss Manafort case before joining special counsel
Civil rights and criminal defense attorney David Schoen, was the lawyer who reported Weissmann. Schoen met with Inspector General Michael Horowitz and several FBI officials to discuss Weismann in 2015. Schoen, who says he has never been a member of a political party, told this reporter his concerns about Weissmann do not stem from politics but from Weissmann’s ‘egregious’ actions in previous cases. He became involved in Colombo crime cases more than 20 years ago after evidence revealed that the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence in the case.

Schoen said he decided to revisit the case based on new witness information and “recent evidence that has come to light in the last several months.”

“The issue with Weissmann both pre-dates and transcends any of these current political issues,” said Schoen, who also used to represent the ACLU in Alabama. “I have met with Senator (Charles) Grassley’s staff and the DOJ IG about these issues and that was well before all of this…I care about these issues as a person who chose this profession and am otherwise very proud to be able to practice law, as the proud son of an FBI agent, and as a civil rights attorney dedicated to doing my part in trying to improve public institutions.”

John Lavinsky, a spokesman for the DOJ’s Office of Inspector General, declined to comment on Schoen’s meeting with Horowitz.

Weissmann also declined to comment for this story.

The FBI and The “Grim Reaper”
The case against the Colombo crime family in the late 1990s involved Theodore Persico, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, loan sharking, racketeering and firearms charges. Persico was the brother of Colombo boss Carmine Persico, Jr, and the network was one of five major Italian mafia organizations operating out of New York.

Weissmann, who was a young Assistant U.S. Attorney with the Eastern District of New York, was the lead attorney in the case against Persico and described by those who knew him as ambitious.

READ: New Strzok, Page Texts Discuss Evasion of Message Archiving
The case against Persico wasn’t a slam dunk and would reveal how Weissmann, “would do anything for a conviction,” Schoen said.

Reprehensible and subject, perhaps, to appropriate disciplinary measures
Judge Sifton
A court memorandum and order, which has never been made public before it was obtained by this reporter, reveals that Chief Judge Charles P. Sifton, who presided over the case, reprimanded Weissmann for failing to disclose that Gregory Scarpa, Sr., a witness on behalf of the prosecution, was also working for years as an FBI informant. Scarpa’s moniker in the mafia underworld was ‘grim reaper’ and ‘Hannibal.’ He was accused of being connected to more than 100 gruesome murders related to his work for the Persico faction of the Colombo mafia crime family, reports stated.

Sifton denied the defendants’ the extraordinary relief of dismissing the case, but he singled out Weissmann for withholding information. The judge described then AUSA Weissmann’s conduct as the “myopic withholding of information” and “reprehensible and subject, perhaps, to appropriate disciplinary measures,” according to the opinion obtained by this reporter.

Evidence suggested that Scarpa was involved in a personal relationship with his FBI handler, Lindley DeVecchio. DeVeccio, who was also a witness in a case connected to the Persico case.

Andrew Weissmann
Weissmann had DeVecchio testify against Michael Sessa, a captain in the Colombo family, despite knowing DeVecchio was under investigation by the FBI for his relationship with Scarpa. Weissmann and his team failed to disclose that to the courts and presented him as a solid witness in the case, according to Schoen and court documents.

There was also evidence that Scarpa received confidential information from DeVecchio that may have helped Scarpa “wage war” against another mafia faction, according to the 1998 appeal’s court documents. DeVecchio was eventually forced to retire from the FBI and was subsequently indicted for allegedly being involved in the four murders committed by Scarpa.

Those charges against DeVecchio were later dropped in 2007 due to lack of evidence, but the judge in DeVecchio’s case warned ‘the FBI was willing to make their own deal with the devil.” The judge was referring to the FBI’s use of Scarpa as an informant, according to reports. Scarpa was later convicted of the murders and died in a New York prison, as reported.

Persico and his co-defendants appealed their case in 1997, arguing that there was egregious Brady violations by Weissmann and the prosecution during their trial. “Brady” refers to the U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, in which the court held prosecutors are required to give the defendants evidence favorable to the defense.

Memorandum and Order Reversed
Sifton’s suggestion that Weissmann is brought before a disciplinary board never came to fruition.

Powerful allies came to his defense. In fact, then U.S. Attorney Eastern District of New York Zachary Carter fought to remove Weissmann’s name from the memorandum and order. Carter wrote a letter to Judge Sifton on Feb. 21, 1997, “to request that you amend your memorandum and order dated Feb.18, 1997 in the above-captioned case to delete the name of AUSA Andrew Weissmann from the sentence which it appears on page 46 of the opinion.”

Carter went on to say, “while the court has determined that the failure to make the disclosure was an error, the nondisclosure cannot fairly be characterized as the kind of egregious misconduct that warrants castigating an attorney by name in a published judicial opinion.”

In the end, Carter succeeded in getting Weissmann’s name removed from the memorandum and order, according to a second memorandum and order issued by Sifton’s obtained by this reporter.

“Sifton complies and withdraws the order that singles out Weissmann and issues a replacement order that does not mention Weissman’s name,” said Schoen. “I have never ever seen such a thing.”

Schoen said the failure to hold Weissmann accountable for his actions in the Persico case “began the process, it seems, of leading Weissmann to believe that he has a license to act without regard to the bounds of the rules of ethics or pursuant to the prosecutor’s oath to seek justice.”

An appeals court’s ruling in the Persico trial reflects the significance of the breach made by Weissmann and the other prosecutors in the case. Persico and his four co-defendants asked for a new trial, and while Persico’s was denied, his co-defendants were granted the right to a new trial, according to court records.

Sifton stated in his ruling, after reviewing the evidence “released by the government, my confidence in the verdict of guilty on these counts is substantially undermined, and a new trial is ordered as to these defendants.”

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office, noted that the “2nd Circuit and the appeals court concluded that the impeachment evidence withheld by the government does not meet the Brady standard of ‘materiality.’”

Sidney Powell, an appeals lawyer in Dallas, who successfully challenged Weissmann’s task force in the Justice Department during the Enron case disagreed stating, “the appellate court, loathe to reverse a criminal conviction for misconduct of the prosecutor, substituted itself for the jury and rationalized that the defense really couldn’t have done much with the withheld information.”

Powell is describing the appeals court decision, which stated, “evidence that Scarpa lied to the FBI about murders he committed provides little direct support for the conclusion that he also lied to his own co-conspirators about who was responsible for the murders…”

Schoen also disagrees with Carr’s explanation from the Special Counsel’s Office, saying it is disingenuous: “Anyone from DOJ in any way familiar with this series of cases knows that every single defendant from that point forward– and there were many– was acquitted when the evidence Weissmann withheld before Sifton was disclosed at trial.”

The judge who handled many of the cases ruled that the jury should be told and many of the “defendants were found not guilty. So, for DOJ to claim this was cumulative or material to the defense is really unfair and misleading,” stated Schoen.

“The FBI had to redo their whole guidelines on the use of informants over this,” said Schoen. “Weissmann and crew did not just withhold evidence. They actively allowed a mafia killer to remain on the street killing.”

This new information on Weissmann’s alleged past conduct may shed light on National Review author and attorney Andrew McCarthy’s recent article revealing why the new judge in Michael T. Flynn’s case Judge Emmet G. Sullivan filed “an order directing Mueller to provide Flynn with any evidence in the special counsel’s possession that is favorable to Flynn, whether on the issue of guilt or sentencing.”

NOTE: An editorial mistake in the first paragraph incorrectly stated that Andrew Weissmann was reported to the IG nearly a decade before the 2016 presidential election. Weissmann was reported to the IG a year before the 2016 presidential election and nearly a decade before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Memo

established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.


Investigation Update

On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. Page is a U.S. citizen who served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump presidential campaign. Consistent with requirements under FISA, the application had to be first certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI. It then required the approval of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.

The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC. As required by statute (50 U.S.C. §,1805(d)(l)), a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the FISC every 90 days and each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause. Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. Then-DAG Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.

Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA submissions (including renewals) before the FISC are classified. As such, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard—particularly as it relates to surveillance of American citizens. However, the FISC’s rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government. In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts. However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.

1) The “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application. Steele was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign, via the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.

b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of—and paid by—the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.

2) The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News. The Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News—and several other outlets—in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington D.C. in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.

a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations—an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016, Mother Jones article by David Corn. Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September—before the Page application was submitted to the FISC in October—but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.

b) Steele’s numerous encounters with the media violated the cardinal rule of source handling—maintaining confidentiality—and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.

3) Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files—but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.

a) During this same time period, Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research, paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS. The Ohrs’ relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC.

4) According to the head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, Assistant Director Bill Priestap, corroboration of the Steele dossier was in its “infancy” at the time of the initial Page FISA application. After Steele was terminated, a source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated. Yet, in early January 2017, Director Comey briefed President-elect Trump on a summary of the Steele dossier, even though it was—according to his June 2017 testimony—“salacious and unverified.” While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations. Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.

5) The Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok. Strzok was reassigned by the Special Counsel’s Office to FBI Human Resources for improper text messages with his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page), where they both demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton, whom Strzok had also investigated. The Strzok/Lisa Page texts also reflect extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an “insurance” policy against President Trump’s election.