DOJ Decides To Drop Criminal Case Against Russian Firms Indicted As Part Of Mueller Probe

( – The Justice Department apparently won’t move forward with cases against two Russian firms after all.

On Monday, the DOJ announced it wouldn’t continue to pursue criminal trials against two Russian companies that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Concord Management and Concord Consulting were both charged back in 2018 with charges such as conspiring to defraud the United States government. The charges stem from a claim they helped organize efforts on social media channels to “propagate disinformation and sow discord to affect the 2016 election.”

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who is sometimes known as “Putin’s chef,” is the businessman who owns both of those firms. He was also a defendant in the DOJ’s case.

Also charged in the indictment were 13 other Russian individuals as well as Russian company the Internet Research Agency.

While the Justice Department has spent the last two years trying to prosecute the case, prosecutors requested that U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich dismiss the case, which she did.

In a joint filing, prosecutors Timothy Shea, the U.S. Attorney for Washington, and John Demers, the assistant Attorney General for National Security, wrote:

“There is a substantial federal interest in defending American democratic institutions, exposing those who endeavor to criminally interfere with them, and holding them accountable, which is why this prosecution was properly commenced in the first place. In light of the defendant’s conduct, however, its ephemeral presence and immunity to just punishment, the risk of exposure of law enforcement’s tools and techniques, and the post-indictment charge in the proof available at trial, the balance of equities has shifted. It is no longer in the best interests of justice or the country’s national security to continue this prosecution.”

Because Concord doesn’t do business within the United States, the companies have “immunity from just punishment,” the prosecutors said, which was one of the main reasons they wanted to drop the case. The indictment will remain, but prosecutors said the “better course is to cease litigation.”

Following the move to dismiss the case, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to take another jab at Robert Mueller and his investigation, retweeting someone else’s tweet that said: “How embarrassing for Team Mueller.”

The move by the DOJ was stunning to many, especially as the case was set to go to trial in only a few weeks, on April 6.

Eric A. Dubelier, the lead attorney for Concord, said the U.S. wanted an indictment “to make a political statement regarding the outcome of the 2016 election that was grossly overstated.

“The government’s evidence was completely devoid of any information that could establish that the defendants knew what they were doing was in violation of highly complex U.S. laws and regulations. This was a make-believe charge to fit the facts solely for political purposes.”

Alex Stamos, the former chief security officer at Facebook who oversaw the company’s investigation into the disinformation campaign, said he was highly disappointed in the DOJ’s decision. He said:

“The unclassified evidence I have seen with my own eyes, and that Facebook provided to DOJ in 2017, demonstrates that the Internet Research Agency conducted an influence operation aimed at driving political divisions in the U.S. If this activity is illegal, then I don’t understand why the prosecution would turn on a classification decision.”