A Trump-appointed federal judge on Monday reprimanded the lawyer defending the indicted Russian company Concord Management and Consulting for being "unprofessional, inappropriate and ineffective."
Concord, accused of backing a Russian conspiracy to distribute politically charged social media posts to American voters, has been fighting to free evidence in its case that the Justice Department locked down because it is sensitive to national security.
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The company, which has pleaded not guilty to the conspiracy charge, would like its powerful Russian directors and other legal industry helpers to review some of the documents, especially those written in Russian. Some of the evidence in the case is currently protected by both a third-party reviewer from the Justice Department and by a court order.
But to make those arguments, the Washington-based defense attorney Eric Dubelier has written more and more flamboyant briefs, most recently citing a quote in court papers from the movie "Animal House," "You f---ed up," to attack the special counsel's collection of evidence in the case.
Dubelier's also deployed several references and pop culture quotes such as from Looney Tunes, Casablanca and Animal House to make his points and draw attention.
Judge Dabney Friedrich, a 2017 Trump appointee in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, made her displeasure clear.
"Meritless personal attacks on the Special Counsel's Office ... will play no role in my decision," to keep or loosen national security protections placed on evidence in the case, Friedrich said.
The movie and cartoon quotes, she added, are "undermining your credibility in this courthouse. I'll say it plain and simple: Knock it off."
The back-and-forth is the latest courtroom drama in a case where Dubelier has been an antagonistic foe of the special counsel's team and the Justice Department.
Concord is the only one among 26 Russians and three companies indicted by Mueller to enter a plea in US court. Typically, the Russians would simply ignore a case such as this.
Now, with the judge's rebuke in the public record, Concord could want its US-based attorney to exit the case.
Dubelier said in court Monday he must now check with his client whether he should continue representing it "seeing that there appears to be bias on the part of the court." He accused Friedrich of personally attacking him, to which she shot back that he had personally attacked the special counsel's office rather than based his arguments in law.
"I've been telling the truth," Dubelier responded after the judge raised her voice.
Dubelier and his US-based international law firm Reed Smith represent the company Concord, accused of funding a Russian social media propaganda conspiracy intended to influence the 2016 presidential election. Dubelier does not represent in court other Russians indicted in the conspiracy, including the oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin, though Prigozhin is said to be behind the company's operations leading up to the election.
The next hearing in the case is set for March.