Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russia scandal is still very much alive, no matter what President Donald Trump might like to insist. This week, a mystery case Mueller’s team brought against an unnamed foreign government-owned company seeking to compel it to turn over information regarding its commercial activity — whatever exactly that is — reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
As the court decided whether or not it wanted to hear the case, Chief Justice John Roberts put the citation for contempt issued against the company on hold, thereby delivering it a brief reprieve and concurrently pausing the fines it was incurring for refusing to comply with Mueller’s team’s subpoena.
The delay lasts until the court reviews a response from federal authorities to the company in question that’s due on or before December 31.
The case recently made it to the D.C. Court of Appeals, where judges ruled that the company must comply with the subpoena, and the company subsequently appealed their case to an even higher authority — perhaps hoping that the two Republicans Trump has put on the court during his tenure could tilt the case in their favor if the court did hear it.
The identity of the company has been closely guarded, even in an era of leaks emerging left and right. When the case came before D.C.’s Court of Appeals, authorities cleared the entire floor — even checking stairwells for journalists staking out — in an effort to keep the identities of the parties involved under wraps. An association with Mueller has only been the result of careful conjecture built atop occasional overheard references and observations.
The case has yet to proceed to being heard before the Supreme Court as a more formal appeal, although the company has already scored a temporary victory in their effort to get the subpoena paused.
Remarkably enough, CNN justice analyst Steve Vladeck explained that “so far as we know, the Court has never had a sealed argument before all nine Justices,” underscoring just what a unique situation the present case represents. The case is also the first time a test of the special counsel’s authority has reached the Supreme Court, after Mueller’s team had previously come out on top in a range of lower court challenges.
Some cases are ongoing, like Roger Stone associate Andrew Miller’s effort to get out of a subpoena he’s faced.
In this case, D.C. appeals court judges explained in what’s available of their ruling on the issue that prosecutors had insisted that despite the company operating outside of the U.S., there was ample reason to believe that they’d taken actions directly affecting interests in the U.S. and relevant to their investigative efforts.
Mueller has previously targeted companies behind the Kremlin’s online election meddling efforts, and this case could involve one of them, or it could center on something else, like a foreign bank or technology company.
The possibilities remain open, as exemplified by the fact that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn successfully got his sentencing delayed so he could continue to cooperate with investigators — through at least March 2019.
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