FBI Director Christopher A. Wray was an assistant attorney general in 2004 when he heaped praise on an ambitious Mafia-tested prosecutor while promoting him to the top of the Justice Department’s high-profile Enron task force.
Andersen was finished as a company; four Merrill executives went to prison.
Today, Mr. Weissmann stands as special counsel Robert Mueller’s top gun in a squadron of nearly 20 prosecutors and scores of FBI agents delving into Trump–Russia. Mr. Weissmann is leading the probe into the biggest target to date, Paul Manafort, President Trump’s onetime campaign manager.
He rode into Texas from New York City in 2002 fresh from putting a number of Mafiosos in prison.
By the time he left in 2005, he had rung up some impressive numbers, such as 22 guilty pleas and millions of dollars in restitution. But he also suffered historic courtroom losses. And how he won and how he lost is still the subject of bitter comments from his adversaries in Houston.
“Do not misunderstand my disdain for him with ineffectiveness or something not to be concerned with,” said Dan Cogdell, who represented three Enron defendants. “He’s a formable prosecutor. If I’m Donald Trump and I know the backstory of Andrew Weissmann, it’s going to concern me. There is no question about it.”
The backstory: Defense attorneys say Mr. Weissmann bent or broke the rules. As proof, they point to appeals court decisions, exhibits and witness statements.
They say he intimidated witnesses by threatening indictments, created crimes that did not exist and, in one case, withheld evidence that could have aided the accused. At one hearing, an incredulous district court judge looked down at an Enron defendant and told him he was pleading guilty to a wire fraud crime that did not exist.
Said Mr. Cogdell, a colorful courtroom performer dubbed a “gunslinger” by the local press, “He’s the most aggressive prosecutor I’ve ever been up against. He is, if not win at all cost, he’s win at almost any cost.”
Those convictions for which Mr. Wray offered praise in 2004?