The Justice Department questioned on Monday whether a Russian firm accused of election meddling was even participating in the case prosecutors brought against it.
At a hearing Monday morning on a DOJ request that the firm be held in contempt for not complying with a trial subpoena, Adam Jed — a veteran of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team — suggested that the upcoming trial might need to be delayed, because the Justice Department did not want be in a position of “the rug” being pulled out from under it.
The concerns echo the skepticism observers have had about the case, which was never expected to see a courtroom when Mueller unveiled in February 2018 an indictment of several Russian individuals and entities for allegedly interfering with the 2016 election over social media.
But, in a surprise move, a defendant entity called Concord Management lawyered up with American attorneys and for nearly two years has been aggressively fighting the charges.
The current dispute centers on the refusal by the Concord’s lawyers to confirm on the public record that the firm has fully complied with a handful of subpoenas issued ahead of the trial, where jury selection is slated to begin April 1.
At Monday’s hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich did not seem interested in delaying the trial, but agreed that Concord needed to be more upfront about whether it’s actively participating in the case.
“Concord needs to do that now,” she said.
Concord attorney Eric Dubelier appeared visibly offended by the prosecutors’ claims.
While claiming he wasn’t going to go after Jed because he was a “young guy” who has only been a prosecutor for a year, Dubelier attacked his arguments as “bogus” and “ridiculous.”
(Jed worked in the DOJ’s appellate section for several years before joining Mueller’s team in 2017.)
Dubelier also lashed out at the judge for her handling of the subpoena dispute, which he said was “completely unfair.”
Dubelier accused the judge of using a “tone” with him that suggests he was “doing something sneaky or wrong.”
When she suggested that the evidence suggested there was a “strong likelihood” that Concord had not fully complied with the subpoena, he shot back that “you don’t know anything about the company.”
For now, she’s giving Concord Management until Wednesday evening to submit an affidavit from a company representative in charge of record keeping that explains what steps the company took to comply with the subpoenas and why it hadn’t produced all the documents the U.S. government says it has.
The documents in question are financial records, communication, calendar entries, and information about the company’s IP address that the government has suggested would show its links to the Russian operation behind the 2016 election-related social media posts.