Critics say Weissmann’s hardball approach can result in prosecutorial overreach
US President Donald Trump. PHOTO: Reuters
A veteran federal prosecutor recruited onto particular counsel Robert Mueller’s staff is understood for a talent which will come in useful within the investigation of potential ties between Russia and US President Donald Trump’s 2016 marketing campaign group: persuading witnesses to activate pals, colleagues and superiors.
Andrew Weissmann, who headed the US Justice Division’s felony fraud part earlier than becoming a member of Mueller’s group final month, is greatest recognized for 2 assignments – the investigation of now-defunct power firm Enron and organised crime instances in Brooklyn, New York – that depended closely on gaining witness cooperation.
Securing the cooperation of individuals near Trump, lots of whom have been retaining their very own legal professionals, could possibly be essential for Mueller, who was named by the Justice Division as particular counsel on Might 17 and is investigating, amongst different points, whether or not Trump himself has sought to impede justice. Trump has denied allegations of each collusion and obstruction.
“Flipping” witnesses is a standard, though not all the time profitable, tactic in felony prosecutions.
Robert Ray, who succeeded Kenneth Starr because the unbiased counsel analyzing former President Invoice Clinton, famous that Trump’s fired former nationwide safety adviser, Michael Flynn, has already provided by means of his lawyer to testify earlier than Congress in change for immunity, suggesting potential willingness to cooperate as a witness.
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“It might appear to me the time is now to make some selections about what you have got and what leverage could be utilized to get the belongings you don’t have,” Ray stated, referring to Mueller’s group.
Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s son-in-regulation Jared Kushner and others near the president have already got employed their very own legal professionals to assist navigate Mueller’s increasing probe and ongoing congressional investigations.
Kathryn Ruemmler, who served as White Home counsel underneath former President Barack Obama, stated Weissmann is prepared to take dangers to safe witness testimony that different prosecutors won’t. Ruemmler labored with Weissmann on the Justice Division’s Enron activity drive that investigated the huge company fraud that led to the corporate’s 2001 collapse.
Ruemmler recalled that Weissmann had a hunch that former Enron treasurer Ben Glisan can be prepared to speak regardless of already having pleaded responsible with out agreeing to cooperate. So Weissmann had US marshals convey Glisan earlier than the grand jury from jail, Ruemmler stated.
‘NOT AFRAID TO LOSE’
Different prosecutors may need feared Glisan’s testimony might contradict their concept of the case, Ruemmler stated, however Weissmann’s gamble paid off when the previous government turned a key witness.
“He’s not afraid to lose, and that’s typically an uncommon high quality,” Ruemmler stated of Weissmann.
Weissmann additionally led prolonged negotiations with legal professionals for Andrew Fastow, Enron’s former chief monetary officer and a star prosecution witness within the case, gaining leverage from the truth that prosecutors had indicted Fastow’s spouse, additionally a former Enron worker, on tax fraud fees.
Each pleaded responsible, and Fastow testified towards former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, who was convicted in 2006.
Fastow declined to remark. Glisan couldn’t be reached for remark. Representatives for Mueller and the Trump authorized group declined to remark.
Critics have stated say Weissmann’s hardball strategy can result in prosecutorial overreach. Quite a lot of Enron convictions have been overturned on attraction, and Skilling’s 24-yr sentence was later lowered by 10 years.
Protection lawyer Tom Kirkendall, who represented shoppers associated to the Enron case, stated the duty drive intimidated witnesses and misinterpreted the regulation.
However Sam Buell, a former prosecutor who was a member of the Enron process pressure, referred to as such criticism routine in excessive-stakes instances.
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Mueller has a number of different extremely skilled legal professionals on his workforce, together with US Deputy Solicitor Basic Michael Dreeben. Trump has additionally been constructing a authorized group led by New York lawyer Marc Kasowitz, with veteran Washington defence lawyer John Dowd lately coming aboard.
Earlier than his work referring to Enron, Weissmann served as a federal prosecutor within the organised crime bureau in Brooklyn. In 1997, he and trial associate George Stamboulidis introduced down one of many nation’s strongest mob bosses, Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, with the assistance of turncoat witnesses.
“We reduce our tooth within the organised crime part,” stated Stamboulidis, now in personal apply. “And the one method you can also make these instances is to get individuals to cooperate, even when the oath of Omerta [a Mafia code of silence and non-cooperation with authorities] was robust and in full play.”
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