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'Knock it off' - judge rips into 'unprofessional' attorney involved in Russia probe case

A federal judge today reprimanded an attorney for a Russian company accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election, saying his references to Looney Tunes and movie Animal House in recent court filings are inappropriate.

US District Judge Dabney Friedrich confronted attorney Eric Dubelier after his most recent court filing included quotes from the raunchy 1978 comedy Animal House to criticise special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

"I'll say it plain and simply: Knock it off," the judge told Dubelier. The judge's reprimand prompted a heated back-and-forth in which Dubelier accused Friedrich of bias.

Dubelier has mounted a combative defence of Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which Mueller has accused of funding a large-scale Russian conspiracy to use internet trolls and fake social media accounts to sway American public opinion during the 2016 election.

The case was the first brought by Mueller to directly attach criminal charges to Russian attempts to interfere in the election. Prosecutors say those efforts were in part aimed at helping Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

Dubelier has dismissed the case as involving a "made up" crime and accused prosecutors of misconduct.

Dubelier's past court filings have quoted the movie Casablanca and the Looney Tunes character Tweety Bird to slam Mueller. In his latest complaint, Dubelier insinuated in a court filing that Mueller's team had improperly obtained information that his client shared with a court-appointed attorney.

Mueller's team denied any impropriety. But Dubelier scoffed, using a quote for emphasis from character Eric "Otter" Stratton, one of the leaders of the fictional Delta Tau Chi fraternity in Animal House.

"The Special Counsel's argument is reminiscent of Otter's famous line, '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, using stars to censor the profanity.

Today, Friedrich said she wasn't amused, calling his conduct "unprofessional, inappropriate and ineffective."

Dubelier then accused Friedrich of bias, an allegation she rejected, saying: "Mr Dubelier, you have had many inappropriate remarks in your filings and you know it."

"Your Honor, that's your opinion," Dubelier fired back. He also raised the prospect of his withdrawing from the case, saying he will discuss with his client whether the company still wants to retain him in light of the judge's comments.

Concord Management was indicted last year along with 15 other defendants in the first case brought by Mueller to directly attach criminal charges to Russian attempts to interfere in the election. None of the other Russian defendants has appeared in a US court to face the charges.

Concord is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman known as "Putin's chef" for his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Attorneys Eric Dubelier, right, and Katherine Seikaly, left, representing Concord Management and Consulting LLC, walk out of federal court in Washington. Source: Associated Press