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Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio and Steve Malzberg discuss the “not guilty” plea entered by one of the Russian firms indicted by Robert Mueller’s team.


Mike Papantonio: In February ’16, indictments were handed down from the office of special prosecutor, Robert Mueller. 13 of these indictments were issued to individuals and three were for businesses, but all of them were connected to Russia. These indictments claimed that the individuals and businesses had illegally interfered with the 2016 US presidential election to the benefit of Donald Trump. While the prosecutor’s office likely thought that none of these people, none of these companies would show up in court to defend themselves, one company decided that they were going to fight back against the charges. Concord Management and Consulting, one of the firms that was indicted, sent their lawyers to court to enter a plea of not guilty, and to exercise their right to a speedy trial.

That’s bad news for the special prosecutor’s office. The lawyers from Concord Management are now seeking all of the documents, all of the evidence, and any secret surveillance that Mueller’s team might have gathered about their businesses and employees. The special prosecutor’s office absolutely doesn’t want to hand that information over for very good reason. The prosecutors never dreamed that any of these indictments result in actual court cases, so, they never thought for a minute that they’d have to hand over their intelligence to anyone. This is a smart legal move on the part of Concord Management and hopefully, these other firms will follow suit.

If Mueller’s team is confident that their evidence is going to show anything, they should have no problem handing it over. But, if they’re committing crimes and they’re doing things wrong about the way that they’re handling this, then they do have a problem. If they have something to hide, they need to be very concerned about the future of this investigation, and the indictments that they’re handing out.

Joining me now to talk about this is Steve Malzberg, talk show host and political analyst. Steve, start by telling us what those 16 indictments from February were about. Give us the background on that.

Steve Malzberg: First of all, it’s a pleasure to be here. In your introduction, you made so many great points. This is Mueller and company saying “Hey, big announcement. Indictments. The evil Russians. We have 13 individuals, one of them is very, very close to Putin.” We have three companies and they’re charged with all kinds of things including information warfare. Conducting information warfare against the United States by taking fake personas out on social media, on internet media, troll farms, all these catch phrases that make it sound very evil. Basically, they’re there to sew political discontent in the United States.

Big announcement, none of those people involved were in the United States, none of them had any plans to come to the United States. This was going to be a name and shame, as I guess in the legal profession they like to say. A name and shame indictment where nobody shows up, but just by implication, you’re ruined, and you’re guilty.

Mike Papantonio: Think how smart this is though, Steve. If you’re a defense lawyer, you understand that already Mueller is trying to hold back some of the FBI information, some of the hidden information that everybody’s trying to get to. Mueller is trying to hold back. He can’t go forward with these indictments without some of that information. If you’re the defense lawyer arguing, wait just a second, you’ve charged my client with a crime. Being charged with a crime, he has a right to all of the information. You’d make a request for that information, request for discovery. If Mueller says no to anything, you know what happens to the indictments? They go away. Very clear constitutional right to confront your accusers. When you ask for that information that Mueller’s, that everybody’s trying to get to, everybody wants this information. Part of it ties into these indictments, I promise you.

Look, when Concord Management had their lawyers show up in court, do you think that the prosecutors were ever expecting anything to happen like the defense lawyer showing up and saying, “Hey, we want our day in court.” What’s your take on that, Steve?

Steve Malzberg: Absolutely not. Like I said, this was supposed to be a PR, I don’t want to call it a stunt, but a PR event announcing the indictments, and then that would be the end of it. But, when Concord sent two lawyers to court and started demanding their rights, their rights to all the information that Mueller had, they want the grand jury instructions read back to them in public, in open court. They want their right to a speedy trial. They’re complaining that Mueller is not being forthcoming and handing over the information they’ve requested. Some of it is in Russian. They want it translated from Russian. I’m telling you, this is a nightmare for Mueller and his team.

Mike Papantonio: It is. You know what happens Steve, and I mean, some of the best material I’ve seen written about it really got this story right. Mueller was in a funk. Nothing was happening with his investigation. People were doubting anything. We heard Russia, Russia, Russia, and all of a sudden, he has to do something. He says, “Look, I’m going to issue these indictments. They’re not going to come back from Russia. Nobody is going to show up to actually fight this and I’m going to look like I’m actually delivering something.” Now, I don’t know whether Mueller made those decisions, but his prosecutors did, and he’s responsible for those decisions.

Now, he’s going to be pushed to the max. Good defense lawyers are going to use this to say you’ve got to put up or shut up. You don’t indict my people without giving me all the information. I have a right to confront my accusers. What that means is I have the right to confront every piece of evidence that you used, or you suggested, to that grand jury to have me indicted. From the start, these indictments seem more symbolic. Like they wanted to show that Russia was involved without ever having to backup those claims. Isn’t that kind of playing itself out here?

Steve Malzberg: Absolutely. They’re requested from a judge. Mueller’s team, the prosecutors wanted a delay, and the judge said no. Now, they’re faced with either handing over information … By the way, they can’t handle over redacted information like they give to the congressional committees. They’ve got to give them all the information. There’s no way they’re going to do that, because as you correctly pointed out, they never expected any of this. What’s the alternative? The alternative is drop the charges. You know what that’s going to look like. You know how long between the time they drop the charges and Donald Trump starts tweeting about it. How many seconds?

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, yeah. Here, look. We all know where this started. Hilary Clinton lost. She ended up blaming people like me who were pro-Bernie, all the Bernie bros were blamed for the loss. Virtually Susan Sarandon was blamed. I can go on forever about people who were blamed. Misogynists were blamed, the Russians were blame, and Podesta … Here’s what’s interesting about this case to me. Podesta unleashed all this. Tony and John Podesta who are now pretty much on the lam themselves. It won’t be long till we see investigations taken place about them, but they started all this, and then the next thing that happened Steve, if I’m looking at this, the issue about Russia is out there. So, what happens? All the war hawks start stepping in. The defense industry says, “Wow, this might be the chance to start another cold war with Russia! We’re going to sell a lot of missiles, this is a good thing.” Then, the thing starts taking off and Mueller becomes an absolute patsy to all of that. Absolute patsy.

You know, when he first came on the scene I did a show and I said “I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy, I’ve looked at his career.” Except for the uranium issue was a little sketchy, but I said I think he’s going to do the right thing. Then, almost immediately, we start seeing this turning into a political juggernaut. What is your take about where this goes, Steve? I’m interested to know, where does this land?

Steve Malzberg: You mean the whole Mueller investigation?

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, yeah. Where does it go?

Steve Malzberg: I think it goes to the congress. I think he writes a report. I think he finds, in his mind, what he considers to be evidence of obstruction of justice. He’s not going to find collusion, he’s going to find poor judgment in certain meetings, the one that Trump, JR had, here and there. He’s not going to find any evidence of collusion, ’cause we would have heard about evidence of collusion. He’s going to stretch it and say by firing Comey for the stated reasons, the interview he gave to Lester Holt at a campaign rally, he called on the Russians to release Hilary’s emails. He’s going to use all this and try to present a case of obstruction, and give it to the congress. I say if the democrats take the house, they will impeach Donald Trump. He won’t be convicted in the senate, but they will impeach him.

Mike Papantonio: There’s no question that they intend to do that. What do you think about the noise? You’ve got noise with Clapper, noise with Brennan. You’ve got some real questions that need to be asked. How does that factor in here? If you’re taking a look at this … Here’s my point. You’ve got Concord saying you’ve indicted my client, we want to tell the whole story. That gives them the right, it gives them a very broad reach on the depositions they can take. You follow me?

Steve Malzberg: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: When those depositions start tying up part A to part B, don’t some of these other people … Isn’t it one of those deals where be careful what you ask for, because you might get it? Isn’t that kind of what’s happening here?

Steve Malzberg: Well, yeah. I guess you folks in the law professional say never indict someone if you’re not prepared to go to trial with it, and that’s exactly what’s happening here. Look, there’s all kinds of doors and avenues to open, and go down here in discovery. You’re absolutely right, and people like Brennan and Clapper, why there hasn’t been an investigation from the attorney general’s office from the Department of Justice, ordered by the Attorney General of this country. By the way, has anybody seen Jeff Sessions, ’cause he’s missing in action. He has been for about a year and a half. There’s so much he needs to do and I just don’t understand why he won’t do it. Even this DOJ investigation that they gave to Trump. Oh, we’ll let the inspector general look into the alleged spying of the FBI in your campaign. The inspector general can’t subpoena anybody. We need a special prosecutor to look into that.

But, you’re right when it comes to Concord. Look, there’s no way that the government is going to let these attorneys for Concord go down this road. They will drop the charges, eat it, and just take the bad publicity.

Mike Papantonio: Let me tell you where it gets really weird. If you’re the lawyer representing the GOP, let’s see the GOP, Wikipedia, Trump, all of them have been sued. If you’re the person representing those folks, imagine the depositions you’re going to be able to take in that lawsuit that the DNC filed, and they did it as a fundraiser. We’re going to file this case and we’re going to raise a lot of money. A, it wasn’t a big money raise and B, I really don’t think it’s going to be the result that they think.

Steve, thanks for joining me, okay. This is a story that’s going to get more interesting as time-

Steve Malzberg: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Mike Papantonio: Bye-bye.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.