The prosecution said that they could not pursue Concord because the evidence would reveal sensitive security data.
Concord, on the other hand, says that there is no “there” there.
I’m inclined to believe the latter.
There have been processes in place in federal courts for decades to allow prosecution when sensitive information is involved, so the prosecutor’s argument rings hollow:
The Justice Department moved on Monday to drop charges against two Russian shell companies accused of financing schemes to interfere in the 2016 election, saying that they were exploiting the case to gain access to delicate information that Russia could weaponize.
The companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, were charged in 2018 in an indictment secured by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, along with 13 Russians and another company, the Internet Research Agency. Prosecutors said they operated a sophisticated scheme to use social media to spread disinformation, exploit American social divisions and try to subvert the 2016 election.
Unlike the others under indictment, Concord fought the charges in court. But instead of trying to defend itself, Concord seized on the case to obtain confidential information from prosecutors, then mount a campaign of information warfare, a senior Justice Department official said.
At one point, prosecutors complained that a cache of documents that could potentially be shared with the defendants included details about the government’s sources and methods for investigation, among its most important secrets. Prosecutors feared Concord might publish them online.
With the case set to go to trial next month, prosecutors recommended that the Justice Department drop the charges to preserve national security interests and prevent Russia from weaponizing delicate American law enforcement information, according to the official. The prosecutors also weighed the benefits of securing a guilty verdict against the companies, which cannot be meaningfully punished in the United States, against the risk of exposing national security secrets in order to win in court.
“Concord has been eager and aggressive in using the judicial system to gather information about how the United States detects and prevents foreign election interference,” prosecutors said in a motion filed in court on Monday. At the same time, the firm has tried to stymie the judicial process, including by concealing facts and documents and submitting a false affidavit.
Department officials denied that the decision to drop the charges was intended to dismantle Mr. Mueller’s work, noting that prosecutors are still pursuing charges against the 13 Russians and the Internet Research Agency.
On Monday, the court granted the motion to dismiss the charges against the Concord defendants.
Federal prosecutors in Virginia are still pursuing a separate case against a Russian national, Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, who managed a multimillion-dollar budget for the troll farm efforts to sow division against Russian adversaries, including the United States. Ms. Khusyaynova, 44, worked for several entities owned by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch sometimes known as “Putin’s chef.” Mr. Prigozhin, a part owner of the Concord companies, was among the Russians whom Mr. Mueller secured indictments against.
The difference between Concord and Khusyaynova is the the former could mount an aggressive defense without spending 18 months in solitary confinement before the trial, because you cannot jail a corporation, so they could fight.