Less than a year after a US District court judge dealt a blow to the "Russian active measures" talking point when she ruled that Robert Mueller failed to link them to the Kremlin, the Justice Department has moved to drop all charges against the shell companies accused of interfering in the 2016 US election.
Mueller charged the companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting in 2018 - along with 13 Russians and another company, the Internet Research Agency - in what prosecutors claimed was a sophisticated scheme to "knowingly and intentionally" divide America through disinformation and election interference.
To Mueller's surprise, Concord actually showed up to a Washington courtroom to fight the charges - which Mueller's team tried to delay by claiming that Concord never served in the case, as they didn't 'properly' answer the special counsel's summons. When Concord argued that they appeared as provided by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, US District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich agreed.
I don’t think anyone (including Mueller) anticipated that any of the defendants would appear in court to defend against the charges. Rather, the Mueller prosecutors seem to have obtained the indictment to serve a public relations purpose, laying out the case for interference as understood by the government and lending a veneer of respectability to the Mueller Switch Project.
One of the Russian corporate defendants nevertheless hired counsel to contest the charges. In April two Washington-area attorneys — Eric Dubelier and Kate Seikaly of the Reed Smith firm — filed appearances in court on behalf of Concord Management and Consulting. Josh Gerstein covered that turn of events for Politico here. -Powerline Blog
Prosecutors fought tooth and nail to keep confidential information out of Concord's hands - arguing that the defendants would obtain details about the government's sources and methods. Judge Friedrich, however, ruled last September that it was "significant and prejudicial that the government itself drew a link between these defendants and the Russian government," adding "In short, the Court concludes that the government violated Rule 57.7 by making or authorizing the release of public statements that linked the defendants' alleged activities to the Russian government..."
This is a major blow not just to Mueller but to the entire "Russian Active Measures" talking point. As the judge acknowledges, the IRA (which, btw, put out juvenile clickbait mostly unrelated to the election) is a private entity & Mueller never establishes a Kremlin connection. pic.twitter.com/WT2n5nZ5Fy— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) July 9, 2019
So, with trial approaching next month, prosecutors recommended that the Justice Department drop the charges against the companies in order to preserve national security interests and, as the New York Times describes it, "prevent Russia from weaponizing delicate American law enforcement information." Another factor was that the defendants - even if found guilty, would be difficult to meaningfully punish in the United States.
"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 said in a Monday court filing.
Of note, the day the charges were levied against the Russians which included allegations of a wide-ranging influence campaign over social media, former Facebook then-VP of advertising Rob Goldman admitted in a series of tweets that the majority of advertising purchased by Russians on Facebook occurred after the election - and their strategy was to "sow discord and divide Americans", as opposed to help Donald Trump win.
The main goal of the Russian propaganda and misinformation effort is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans. It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation.— Rob Goldman (@robjective) February 17, 2018
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, paid a former UK spy to use Russian sources in a sham dossier, which the Obama FBI used to obtain a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign - while rumors of the Trump colluding with Russia were seeded to the media a month before the election by said operative. Meddlingly.