Special Counsel Mueller’s criminal charges against one of Russia’s key companies engaged in election interference just passed a key test in court today.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C. just shot down the hopes of one of the main companies behind Russia’s Internet Research Agency, Concorde Management, which tried to get Mueller’s criminal charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States dismissed.
It marks the third time a federal judge has upheld the Special Counsel’s indictments under successive challenges by former campaign chair Paul Manafort and the company that Russia’s government contracted to deceive Americans.
Mueller charged Concorde with conspiracy to evade the disclosure and reporting requirements of the Federal Elections Commission Act, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and for obtaining entry visas under false pretenses. CNN reports:
In a 32-page opinion, Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected efforts by Concord Management and Consulting to dismiss the indictment, which accused the Russian company of conspiring to defraud the US government. Mueller’s team says the company was involved in a well-funded “troll farm” that pumped out political propaganda to millions of Americans throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.
It was the second time that Friedrich, a Trump appointee, sided with Mueller and let the case proceed.
In declining Concorde’s motion to dismiss the indictment, the judge noted that the government’s burden of proof in the kind of conspiracy case Mueller filed is actually lower than a case seeking to prove the underlying crimes.
All prosecutors have to prove is that more than one person and/or company agreed to participate in a scheme to avoid required reporting and disclosures to the Department of Justice, the FEC and to lie to the Department of State.
According to The Hill, the troll farm’s lawyers came up with a novel defense that held absolutely no water in court:
The company’s attorney, Eric Dubelier, has previously argued that there is no federal law prohibiting “interference” in a U.S. election and that there isn’t a federal law making it a crime to conspire to do so.
The Russian company Concorde Management is the only one of the defendants who Mueller indicted in February to appear in court. The main target of Mueller’s indictment is the man known as “Putin’s Chef“, Yevgeny Prighozin, who put together the troll farm used to interfere in America’s 2016 elections.
Just last month, a Russian news source revealed that Prighozin isn’t just trolling his enemies in the press, but actively ordering hits on them. His band of mercenaries has also been accused of murdering three Russian journalists reporting on his mercenary activities in the Central African Republic.
But Putin’s top crony can’t get out of Mueller’s criminal charges as easily as sending armed men to blow away whatever stands in his path.
The US and Russia do not have an extradition treaty, so there’s little chance that Prighozin will appear in federal court to stand trial. However, Prighozin’s ability to travel to other countries who do extradite accused criminals to America has been cut off.
It goes without saying that this precedent is very bad news for the President and the rest of his cronies. No wonder he’s been tweeting about Mueller so much!
Read the judge’s complete ruling here: