‘Putin’s Chef’ Lawyer’s Tactics Called ‘Unprofessional’ by Judge

Andrew Harris

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. judge presiding over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case against Russian internet trolls scolded a lawyer for his running commentary in court papers, including a profanity from the fraternity hi-jinx movie "Animal House."

"It’s unprofessional, inappropriate and ineffective," Judge Dabney Friedrich told defense lawyer Eric Dubelier during a Washington federal court hearing on Monday. "Knock it off!"

Dubelier responded that he believed she was biased against him -- a charge she denied -- and that he’d need to discuss with his client whether he should continue.

Dubelier’s client is Concord Management and Consulting LLC, a company run by Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, a man sometimes referred to as "Putin’s chef" because Vladimir Putin had hosted dinners in his restaurants.

Concord is accused of bankrolling an effort by two other Russian companies and 13 individuals to sow dissent in the U.S. during the 2016 campaign, with online postings and by staging rallies with unsuspecting campaign operatives. Concord failed to have the case dismissed. The company is charged with conspiring against the U.S.

The judge insisted motions would be decided on their merits and that Dubelier would prevail "if, and only if, the facts and the law are on your side." She later closed the courtroom to the public to hear some arguments, because prosecutors said they involved the grand jury investigation.

National security concerns implicated in the case had prompted the court to issue an order appointing a so-called "firewall counsel" to screen information that Dubelier may want to share with his clients in Russia. The lawyer has bridled against those restrictions. He says they’re impairing his preparation for trial and some of the information may have been leaked to the prosecution.

Dubelier asked the court to compel the government’s lawyers to disclose how they otherwise came to know the information he’d shared with firewall counsel. Prosecutors submitted their response under seal last week, telling Friedrich it concerned a "matter occurring before the grand jury."

Dubelier responded on Friday by quoting “Animal House,” the 1978 comedy in which a straight-laced character known as Flounder is lulled by his fraternity brothers into trusting them with his brother’s car.

"Flounder, you can’t spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes! You f**ked up... you trusted us! Hey, make the best of it!," Dubelier wrote in the court filing.

The case is U.S. v. Internet Research Agency LLC, 18-cr-32, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington)

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Washington at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Joe Schneider, Steve Stroth

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