Justice Department Drops Criminal Trial against Russian Firms Indicted by Mueller

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 24, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The Justice Department on Monday abandoned plans to move forward with a criminal trial against two Russian firms indicted by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller for financing efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

The two Russian companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, were charged in 2018 with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by organizing efforts on social media to propagate disinformation and sow discord to affect the 2016 election. Both firms are owned by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a businessman known as “Putin’s chef,” who is also a defendant in the case.

Another Russian company, the Internet Research Agency, an apparently Kremlin-funded propaganda arm, and 13 Russian individuals were also charged.

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At the request of prosecutors, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, dismissed the charge in the two-year prosecution.

“There is a substantial federal interest in defending American democratic institutions, exposing those who endeavor to criminally interfere with them, and holding them accountable, which is why this prosecution was properly commenced in the first place,” wrote Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers and U.S. Attorney for Washington Timothy Shea.

“In light of the defendant’s conduct, however, its ephemeral presence and immunity to just punishment, the risk of exposure of law enforcement’s tools and techniques, and the post-indictment change in the proof available at trial, the balance of equities has shifted. It is no longer in the best interests of justice or the country’s national security to continue this prosecution,” the prosecutors said.

Prosecutors added that the indictment would remain, but recommended that the “better course is to cease litigation” and pointed out that Concord has “immunity from just punishment” anyway since it does not do business in the U.S.

After the trial was dropped, President Trump on Monday night retweeted another user’s tweet mocking the move that read, “How embarrassing for Team Mueller.”

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