On Monday, attorneys for a company indicted for its role in using trolls posing as Americans to push propaganda on social media during the 2016 election were in court to ask a judge to look into the case brought against them by Special Counsel Mueller. They claim that interference in an election by a foreign entity is a “make-believe crime” and accused Mueller of needing to indict Russians for political purposes and to justify his existence.
Concord Management and Consulting LLC, the company accused of funding the Kremlin backed Internet Research Agency that pushed disinformation and propaganda via fake social media accounts in an attempt to harm Hillary’s candidacy, is asking the judge to review the instructions given to the grand jury, the Daily Beast reports.
The attorneys lay out this somewhat unusual argument in a legal filing posted Monday afternoon. In it, they ask for the judge overseeing the case to review the instructions Mueller’s team gave to the grand jury before it indicted their client, Concord Management and Consulting LLC–which allegedly funded the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency. Mueller’s team failed to show “that the Defendant acted willfully, in this case meaning that Defendant was aware of the FEC and FARA requirements,” attorneys Eric Dubelier, Katherine Seikaly, and Reed Smith wrote.
Additionally, they write, Mueller accused their clients of a “make-believe crime” in order to advance a “political” agenda of prosecuting people for Russian interference in the U.S. election.
“The risk here is acute,” the filing continues, “that is, a foreign corporation with no presence in the United States is indicted in an unprecedented case of a type never before brought by the DOJ for conspiring to defraud the United States purportedly by not complying with certain regulatory requirements that are unknown even to most Americans.”
Concord has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges and claims Mueller hasn’t shown those involved knew they were breaking the law. They are among 3 companies and 13 individuals from Russia who have been indicted in the Special Counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the election. Concord is the only one of the indicted Russians to respond in court. In cases of indictments of foreign nationals and companies, it is unusual to see the defendants in an American court.
Indictments are not the only consequences being levied against the Russians accused of meddling in the presidential election. In addition to being indicted by Mueller, Concord Management and Concord Catering, with ties to Yevgeny Prigozhin “Putin’s chef”, were also sanctioned by the Treasury Department. Prigozhin was on the list of the 13 Russians indicted in February.
Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump administration appointee, will be in D.C. district court with both sets of lawyers on Wednesday.
Why It Matters
At the heart of the defendant’s argument is Mueller has to prove the Russians knew what they were doing was against the law.
The indictment itself seems to answer that question by providing evidence that employees of Internet Research Agency, allegedly funded by Concord, destroyed evidence when the FBI closed in. Typically, people who don’t realize they are breaking the law don’t destroy evidence.
The indictment quotes from an email sent by an employee: “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues.” KAVERZINA further wrote, “I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”
The indictment can be found here and is worth looking over as this case proceeds in court this week.
Ultimately, how this case plays out in the legal system will impact the boldness with which Russia and other nefarious nations meddle with our democratic process in the future. Russia has long meddled with the U.S. in every possible way. That is nothing new. But the boldness with which they approached the 2016 presidential election is staggering. If not punished appropriately, they will continue and they will escalate as the 2016 Intelligence Community report stated:
We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US
presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their