POLITICS

Justice Department Moves To Drop Charges Against Russian Firms Implicated By Mueller

Prosecutors claim the companies are using the court system to access sensitive information that could hurt national security.

The Department of Justice filed a motion to drop all charges against two Russian shell companies accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election, saying the firms were attempting to exploit the court system to gain access to sensitive information that could hurt U.S. national security.

Federal prosecutors said Monday that Concord Management and Concord Consulting were charged in a 2018 indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller alongside 13 Russians and a troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency. But the two firms consistently fought the charges in court and at times refused to comply with court orders, instead seeking to “reap the benefits of the Court’s jurisdiction while positioning itself to evade any real obligations or responsibility.”

The case was set to go to trial next month.

“Upon careful consideration of all of the circumstances, and particularly in light of recent events … the government has concluded that further proceedings as to Concord. ... promotes neither the interests of justice nor the nation’s security,” prosecutors wrote in the motion. “The better course is to cease litigation.”

The motion, if granted, would abruptly end a two-year effort to hold the Russian-tied organizations accountable for their role in elevating President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Prosecutors also noted Monday that it would be almost impossible to punish Concord, which has no presence in the United States.

Concord was charged by Mueller in the special counsel’s first major indictments of Kremlin-linked individuals and groups. The two companies were accused of engaging in “‘information warfare against the United States of America’ ― a systematic effort to sow political discord and influence the outcome of the 2016” presidential election.

The New York Times notes that, at the time, investigators found that the companies and the Internet Research Agency were arms of the Russian government working to influence voter turnout and sow division within America. Last year, prosecutors said they were worried documents shared with the company’s attorneys would be weaponized and made public, including U.S. government sources and investigation methods.

The Justice Department echoed those concerns in its motion on Monday.

“Concord has been eager and aggressive in using the judicial system to gather information about how the United States detects and prevents foreign election interference,” prosecutors wrote. They later added: “The government must also weight the potential risks to national security that are necessarily associated with a trial of this nature.”

The Times also reported that the Justice Department was not moving to undermine Mueller’s work and that the government is still pursuing charges against the others cited in the special counsel’s indictment.