A Russian company accused of funding the effort to influence the 2016 election via social media pleaded not guilty in a D.C. federal courthouse Wednesday. Two attorneys representing Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, entered the not guilty plea. No other representatives of the company were present at the courtroom.
Concord Management was named in the grand jury indictment returned in February that also charged 13 Russians, and other entities allegedly linked to the effort. Those other defendants have not appeared in court, and Mueller’s team has said that they have had trouble delivering the summons.
Court documents filed over the weekend revealed a dispute between Mueller’s prosecutors and Concord Management, represented by Reed Smith attorneys Eric Dubelier and Katherine Seikaly, over whether Concord Management had properly been served.
Those court filings also revealed that in April, the day Dubelier and Seikaly formally entered their representation of Concord Management on the case’s dockets, they sent Mueller an extensive discovery request. Mueller’s team balked at going forward with the discovery without formal confirmation that Concord Management had accepted its summons, citing in a Friday filing the national security concerns involved in the discovery production. The discovery issue was not discussed at Wednesday’s hearing.
On Wednesday, Dubelier said Concord Management was submitting to the court’s jurisdiction and confirmed that the company had read a publicly-available version of the indictment.
Concord Management is partially owned by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Kremlin-linked restaurant mogul who was also named in the February indictment. It was one of the entities sanction by the U.S. in March for it involvement in Russian cyberattacks.
Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey asked Dubelier whether he was also authorized to represent Concord Catering, another company named in the February indictment. Invoking the old saying about prosecutors’ ability to indict a ham sandwich, Dubelier said that Concord Catering did not legally exist at the time in question, and that for Wednesday’s purposes, he was not authorized to speak on its behalf.
The lawyer representing Mueller’s team, Jeannie Rhee, brought up the question of Dubelier’s representation of Concord Catering again, pointing to filings with the Treasury’s Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees the implementation of sanctions.
Dubelier shot back that it was “disturbing” that the prosecutors had access to the “confidential” filings.
Another hearing in the case has been scheduled for May 16.