Judge upholds Mueller indictment against Russian troll farm

Judge upholds Mueller indictment against Russian troll farm

A federal judge on Thursday upheld an indictment from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE against a Russian troll farm charged with using social media to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected Concord Management and Consulting’s request to dismiss the Mueller indictment, according to court documents. The Russian firm has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government and interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Friedrich in part rejected the firm’s argument that the indictment should be tossed out because there is no U.S. law that prohibits interfering in an election.

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The judge argued that the question is not whether underlying laws that pertain to foreign agents or political spending in elections were violated, but whether the company's actions were "deceptive and intended to frustrate the lawful government functions" of the Federal Election Commission, Department of Justice or Department of State.

“The difficulty for the government, however, is not identifying deceit — of which there is plenty — but connecting that deceit to the lawful government function of ‘administering federal requirements for disclosure,’ which the defendants allegedly conspired to impair,” Friedrich wrote in a 32 page opinion memorandum, which pointed to past legal precedents.

The judge also criticized the company for going too far in arguing what the special counsel has to prove in this conspiracy case, which Friedrich notes is different from cases centered solely on violating foreign agent or election laws.

“Concord goes too far in asserting that the Special Counsel must also show that Concord knew with specificity ‘how the relevant laws described those functions,’ ” Friedrich wrote. “A general knowledge that U.S. agencies are tasked with collecting the kinds of information the defendants agreed to withhold and conceal would suffice.”

Mueller’s team has accused Concord Management of funding the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm that spread false and misleading information on social media as part of a sophisticated effort to interfere in the heated presidential race.

The company’s attorney, Eric Dubelier, has previously argued that there is no federal law prohibiting “interference” in a U.S. election and that there isn't a federal law making it a crime to conspire to do so.

U.S. prosecutors allege that the firm “knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States” by carrying out activities on behalf of a foreign entity in which the firm and its co-conspirators sought to “interfere with the U.S. political system” by masquerading as U.S. activists on social media.

The decision also comes after Friedrich ruled earlier this year against Concord’s efforts to dismiss the indictment based on Mueller’s “unlawful appointment and lack of authority.”

Concord Management was included in the slew of charges Mueller brought against 13 Russian national and three Russian entities in February.
 
“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the Internet,” Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinEx-Trump aide: Can’t imagine Mueller not giving House a ‘roadmap’ to impeachment Rosenstein: My time at DOJ is 'coming to an end' Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump MORE said in a statement at the time. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed."