As we all know, at the time Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel it was already well known that the FBI investigation on which the Special Counsel mandate was explicitly based (in Rod Rosenstein's authorization letter) was utterly bogus, because it was based on the already discredited Steele "dossier." The question facing Mueller and his Deputy Andrew Weissmann--whom most regard as the true head of the Mueller inquisition--was clearly: How to proceed in the face of this lack of evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the president? One approach would be to seek to provoke Trump into a misstep that could be called "obstruction," but that would be time consuming and uncertain of success. Slogging through the Russia Hoax allegations faced the same uncertainty. What about a quick strike at Trump? Remember, the true aim was to force Trump out--whether by impeachment or resignation hardly mattered, and resignation was probably preferable because it would be quicker. But how to force the issue?
Andrew Weissmann had a bright idea. What was needed was sensational allegations against Trump that would make his position politically untenable. And the mechanism for manufacturing this scheme was at hand--or, more accurately, in Vienna--in the person of the Ukrainian "oligarch" Dmytro Firtash. (Dmytro is the correct Ukrainian version of his name.) Who is Firtash? Wikipedia offers the basics, into which we needn't delve too deeply:
Dmytro Vasylovych Firtash (... born 2 May 1965) is a Ukrainian businessman who heads the board of directors of Group DF. He was highly influential during the Yuschenko administration and Yanukovych administration. As a middleman for the Russian natural gas giant Gazprom, Firtash funneled money into the campaigns of pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine.
Firtash was arrested by Austrian authorities in March 2014. In February 2017, the Vienna Court of Appeals ordered that Firtash be extradited to the United States, to face charges that he had secured a titanium extraction permit in India through $18.5 million in bribes.
The hook to the US was that Firtash had been indicted in Chicago--the Indian titanium in question had been destined for Chicago based Boeing. As of early June, 2017, Firtash was fighting extradition, and it was beginning to look--based on new evidence--that the US case against Firtash was starting to fall apart.
Two central witnesses were in the process of recanting testimony, and a document the FBI portrayed as bribery evidence inside Firtash’s company was exposed as a hypothetical slide from an American consultant’s PowerPoint presentation, according to court records I reviewed.
That's when Weissmann stepped in.
First of all, it's necessary to understand that in negotiations for a plea deal it's normally the defendant who makes the initial overture. If the US has indicted somebody that means--or should mean--that the US believes in good faith that the subject has committed a crime and that the US believes it can prove the case. The prosecutors want a written "proffer" from the defendant of what testimony the defendant can provide that could be useful to the government. That's not what happened with Firtash.
What Weissmann was to make an unsolicited approach to Firtash's US legal team on June 4, 2017, only two weeks after Mueller's appointment. One can imagine that Weissmann was probably about the last person Firtash's lawyers expected to be hearing from, and what he suggested to them was equally surprising. Solomon was able to review memos written by Firtash's lawyers, who have unsurprisingly turned Weissmann's approach to the benefit of their client, Firtash:
According to a defense memo recounting Weissmann’s contacts, the prosecutor claimed the Mueller team could “resolve the Firtash case” in Chicago and neither the DOJ nor the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s Office “could interfere with or prevent a solution,” including withdrawing all charges. “The complete dropping of the proceedings … was doubtless on the table,” according to the defense memo.
What Weissmann was looking for in return was "dirt" on Trump and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Now, Firtash's lawyers were well aware that Weissmann simply didn't have that kind of authority. The Special Counsel had no authority to take over a case that was under indictment by a US Attorney. The suspicion, of course, is that the brash Weissmann regarded that difficulty as a bridge to be crossed later--he may have believed he would be able to buffalo Rod Rosenstein into supporting the scheme because, well, what might happen to Rosenstein if the Special Counsel gambit came up short? Rosenstein was, in effect, riding a tiger.
But there were more surprises in store for Firtash's lawyers. In a July 7, 2017, meeting with Firtash’s American lawyers and FBI agents, Weismmann proceeded to share his theories on the Mueller inquisition into Trump, Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russia. This is according to defense memos that Solomon has reviewed:
For example, Firtash’s legal team wrote that Weissmann told them he believed a company called Bayrock, tied to former FBI informant Felix Sater, had “made substantial investments with Donald Trump’s companies” and that prosecutors were looking for dirt on Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Weissmann told the Firtash team “he believes that Manafort and his people substantially coordinated their activities with Russians in order to win their work in Ukraine,” according to the defense memos. And the Mueller deputy said he “believed” a Ukrainian group tied to Manafort “was merely a front for illegal criminal activities in Ukraine,” and suggested a “Russian secret service authority” may have been involved in influencing the 2016 U.S. election, the defense memos show.
This is really quite remarkable. It almost looks as if Weissmann is taking Firtash into a sort of partnership. Or put it a bit differently: Given that Weissmann's theories were merely speculation, it certainly looks as if Weissmann was drawing Firtash a roadmap for cooperation--confirm my theories and your US legal troubles vanish! After all, what Weissmann was really looking for was sensational allegations that could lead Trump to decide that his seat behind the Oval Office desk wasn't worth it any more. To come out of the Special Counsel gate charging ahead in this manner just might have that effect.
What happened next was even more remarkable, all things considered. Firtash refused the bait:
Remarkably, Firtash turned down Weissmann’s plea overtures even though the oligarch has been trapped in Austria for five years, fighting extradition on U.S. charges in Chicago alleging that he engaged in bribery and corruption in India related to a U.S. aerospace deal. He denies the charges.
The oligarch’s defense team told me that Firtash rejected the deal because he didn’t have credible information or evidence on the topics Weissmann outlined.
And now, in a delicious example of karma, of a bad deed coming back to bite you, Firtash's lawyers are using Weissmann's gambit in their fight against extradition:
But now, as Firtash escalates his fight to avoid extradition, the Weissmann overture is being offered to an Austrian court as potential defense evidence that the DOJ’s prosecution is flawed by bogus evidence and political motivations.
In a sealed court filing in Austria earlier this month, Firtash’s legal team compared the DOJ’s 13-year investigation of Firtash to the medieval inquisitions. It cited Weissmann’s overture as evidence of political motivation, saying the prosecutor dangled the “possible cessation of separate criminal proceedings against the applicant if he were prepared to exchange sufficiently incriminating statements for wide-ranging comprehensively political subject areas which included the U.S. President himself as well as the Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
... and Austrian officials suddenly reversed course last week and ordered a new, lengthy delay in extradition.
It certainly looks like Firtash and his lawyers have taken the measure of Mueller and Weissmann--and, sadly, of the US legal system as it has become. Is it any wonder that Mueller and Weissmann were out the door of DoJ so quickly after Barr took charge--and Weissmann first of all?
I'll repeat what I said this morning: Barr's job will not be completed until he turns the entire Mueller inquisition inside out.
Read Solomon's entire article. And kudos to Sidney Powell, who warned the world about Weissmann years ago--and is now trying to do something about him and his type of prosecutors.