The Russian firm that special counsel Robert Mueller has charged with funding Russia’s election meddling on social media and is run by an oligarch known as “Putin’s chef” challenged Mueller’s legal authority in court filings Monday.
The arguments that the company, Concord Management, presented to attack Mueller’s investigation were somewhat distinct from those previously put forward by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whose own efforts to challenge thescope of Mueller’s authority were rejected by a federal judge in D.C. in May. A separate Manafort challenge to Mueller’s legal authority brought in the Virginia case against him is still pending.
In its new filing seeking to have the charges against it thrown out, Concord Management argued that Mueller’s appointment was a violation of the Constitution’s Appointments Clause and that the Justice Department’s regulations pertaining to special counsels were unlawful.
“Here, the Deputy Attorney General and the Special Counsel are attempting to exercise authority neither the Constitution nor Congress has conferred, and this Court should dismiss the Indictment to restore the checks and balances the Constitution demands,” the firm’s lawyers said.
Concord Management’s lawyers additionally said that even if the regulations were lawful, they would not permit Mueller to prosecute Concord Management.
Concord Management was among the defendants named in an indictment approved by Mueller’s grand jury in February. Mueller accused Concord Management of funding the organization of internet trolls who allegedly created fake social media accounts in the lead-up of 2016, and charged it with conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Concord Management has pleaded not guilty.
According to Mueller’s indictment, Concord Management is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a restauranteur with Kremlin ties who is also named as a co-defendent but hasn’t shown up yet in court to face the charges.
Concord Management in its filing takes issue with the Mueller appointment order’s sanctioning his takeover of an investigation ex-FBI Director James Comey confirmed in congressional testimony. Comey referred to the investigation as a “counter-intelligence investigation,” but Concord Management argued Monday, “Neither the statutes cited in the Order, nor the identified Special Counsel Regulations, however, authorize a counter-intelligence investigation.”
A footnote in the filing points out that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller’s probe due to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal “likely is a fact witness” in the special counsel obstruction of justice probe of Trump, given that Rosenstein wrote the memo the White House used to justify Comey’s firing.
The appointment order “does not indicate why it was that the Attorney General had a conflict of interest—but his Deputy does not —with respect to the particularized aspects of the investigation actually being pursued,” Concord Management said.
The filings also used some of the points made by Mueller in the Manafort case and in the federal judge’s decision in his favor in that case to attack his authority.
“To begin with, the Special Counsel has taken the position in court filings that the Special Counsel Regulations are not binding and cannot be enforced in court,” Concord Management said. “If that is correct, then there is no limitation at all on the scope of an investigation and prosecution the Deputy Attorney General can delegate to a special counsel to pursue. And the byproduct is a powerful prosecutor, unguided, unconstrained, unfettered, and, indeed, foreign to this Nation’s three-branch constitutional order.”
Read the court filing below: