In Mueller's Russia troll case, 'Animal House' and accusation of bias

PHOTO: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington, June 21, 2017.PlayAndrew Harnik/AP, FILE
WATCH Investigators: Russian trolls set up fake groups to organize real activists

In a short but fiery hearing involving Robert Mueller's special counsel team Monday, a federal judge admonished an attorney representing a Russian firm, calling his behavior "unprofessional, inappropriate and ineffective."

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Citing what she called "meritless personal attacks" on the special counsel's office in court filings, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich told Eric Dubelier, lead counsel for the Russian firm, Concord Management and Consulting, LLC, to "knock it off."

In a defiant response, Dubelier said he was merely "telling the truth" and said it was only the judge's opinion that his remarks had been unprofessional.

PHOTO: The Kremlin in Moscow in an undated stock photo. STOCK/Getty Images
The Kremlin in Moscow in an undated stock photo.

Dubelier, an attorney at Reed Smith, accused the judge of showing "some bias" against him and, because of that, he said, he would have to confer with Concord about whether he should continue to represent them.

Dubelier is known for filing colorful motions that have included sarcastic quips and quotes from pop culture. Most recently, on Friday Dubelier quoted the 1970s movie "Animal House" in criticizing a special counsel motion.

"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," read the quote.

On Monday, Friedrich said "clever quotes from movies [or] cartoons" will not be effective in persuading the court.

PHOTO: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington, June 21, 2017. Andrew Harnik/AP, FILE
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington, June 21, 2017.

Concord and the special counsel for weeks have been locked in an argument over whether Concord's attorney can share some information -- marked "sensitive" by the government -- with officers of Concord, including Yevgeniy Prigozhin, known to be an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Concord was among three Russian business entities and 13 Russian individuals, including Prigozhin, accused by the special counsel of involvement in a massive troll factory operation in which Russian nationals allegedly created hundreds of online personas, pretending to be Americans, with the goal of swaying the 2016 U.S. presidential election and, more generally, sowing social and political discord in America. Concord, the only defendant to answer the charges in court, is accused of funding the operation and has pleaded not guilty to a conspiracy charge.

The question of how sensitive information is shared is a critical one both to the case and to the broader Mueller investigation. Previously, legal and national security experts told ABC News there was a concern that information provided to Concord for their defense could end up at the Kremlin, exposing U.S. secrets to an adversary.

Before sealing the courtroom from the public so the two sides could discuss the discovery question, Friedrich set the next court hearing for the case for March 7.