U.S. District Court of D.C. Chief Judge Beryl Howell said Monday that she would not order that the identity of a foreign-owned company at the heart of a mystery special counsel Robert Mueller grand jury case be made public.
Her opinion — responding to a press freedom group’s request that more information about the highly secretive grand jury case be released — will allow for additional documents in the subpoena dispute to be unsealed. However, those documents will be redacted, her order said, to protect information sensitive to the grand jury investigation, which prosecutors say is ongoing.
“The parties shall do their best to identify material that may be released without compromising matters occurring before the grand jury,” Howell said. “Maintaining grand jury … secrecy is paramount.”
The identity of the company that sought to challenge the subpoena last year has remained a mystery, even as other details about the case slowly become known. The company’s American lawyers have been identified, and many details of its legal arguments have also been made public, due to filings that were unsealed from the proceedings when they were at the appellate court and Supreme Court level.
The company received the document request last summer, and challenged the subpoena on the basis of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Both Howell and the appellate court ruled against it, while the Supreme Court declined to take up the case. The company is now facing a $50,000 per day fine for resisting the subpoena.
Notably, Howell is the same judge who will be weighing a request by the same press freedom group, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, to authorize the release of grand jury material in Mueller’s report submitted to Attorney General Bill Barr.