The appellate court that heard a sealed grand jury case believed to be linked to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe handed down a decision Tuesday, available publicly, upholding a lower court’s decision denying a request from an unknown company that it quash a subpoena. While it is still mystery who exactly challenged the subpoena, the public judgment revealed that it was a company in a foreign country that had sought to fight it.
It has not been officially confirmed that the subpoena was related to Mueller’s investigation. However there have been sightings and comments overheard at the courthouse that suggest it’s Mueller related, and at an early stage in a proceeding, an appellate judge who previously worked in President Trump’s White House recused himself.
When the appellate court heard the case on Friday, court staff kicked reporters off the floor of the courtroom so they couldn’t stakeout lawyers entering and exiting the hearing. However, two Mueller attorneys were spotted arriving at his office about 10 minutes after the hearing was believed to have wrapped up.
The decision doesn’t reveal much about the legal dispute, nor does it confirm that it was a Mueller issued subpoena that was being challenged.
According to the judgment, an unnamed corporation owned by a country dubbed “Country A” had claimed that it was immune from the subpoena under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Judge Beryl Howell, the chief of the U.S. District Court for D.C., apparently held that, regardless whether the company in general was immune, the matter in question fell within an exception in the law for commercial activities. She then held the company in contempt when it continued to resist the subpoena, prompting the appeal, where the appellate court upheld her judgment.
The appellate court also upheld the lower court’s decision to impose a monetary fine on the corporation for failing to comply with the subpoena after it was initially upheld. According to the opinion, the district court imposed a “fixed monetary penalty to increase each day the Corporation fails to comply.”
The appellate court cited a separate case ordering a $5,000 per week contempt sanction and said that, “Whether and how that sanction can be executed on remand is a separate question for a later day.”
Read the opinion below: