Mar 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

DOJ moves to drop charges against Russians accused of funding troll farm

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Justice Department prosecutors on Monday filed a motion to dismiss charges against the shell companies accused of financing the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm that engaged in a social media disinformation scheme to interfere in the 2016 election.

The big picture: Prosecutors claim that the Russians were essentially able to evade accountability and punishment while taking advantage of the discovery process to potentially harm U.S. national security.

Context: The shell companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, were charged by special counsel Robert Mueller in 2018 along with 13 Russian individuals and the troll farm itself — known as the Internet Research Agency. The scheme, outlined in the 2018 indictment and again in the Mueller report, sought to sow political discord ahead of the 2016 election.

Details: The Concord companies sought to fight the indictment in court, unlike the other Russians charged by Mueller. In doing so, prosecutors say they were able to "obtain discovery" from the U.S. government regarding its efforts to "detect and deter foreign election interference" — while also ignoring court-issued subpoenas.

  • "In short, Concord has demonstrated its intent to reap the benefits of the Court’s jurisdiction while positioning itself to evade any real obligations or responsibility," prosecutors argued in the filing.
  • "It is no longer in the best interests of justice or the country’s national security to continue this prosecution."

Read the filing.

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Federal judge questions Barr's "candor" and "credibility" on Mueller report

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

D.C. District Judge Reggie Walton ordered Thursday the Justice Department to submit the full unredacted Mueller report for his review, stating that Attorney General Bill Barr's representations of the report prior to its release preclude him from accepting the Justice Department's redactions without "independent verification."

Why it matters: It's a rare instance of a federal judge, who filed the order as part of a freedom of information lawsuit by BuzzFeed News, calling into question the motives and impartiality of the attorney general in a politically explosive investigation.

Appeals court rules House can access Mueller grand jury evidence

Robert Mueller. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled 2-1 Tuesday to allow the House to access secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Why it matters: The decision gives the House a win in a separation-of-powers dispute with the Trump administration, and it's one of many feuds between the administration and Congress that have played out in the courts in recent months.

International Criminal Court allows Afghanistan war crimes investigation

The International Criminal Court in The Hague. Photo: Martijn Beekman/AFP via Getty Images

International Criminal Court judges ruled on Thursday that prosecutors can open investigations into allegations of war crimes committed by the Taliban, Afghan forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the AP reports.

Why it matters: It's the first time that ICC judges have allowed prosecutors to investigate U.S. forces, but Washington does not recognize the court's jurisdiction and may refuse to cooperate.

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