US judge rejects Russian company’s bid to dismiss Mueller charges
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has rejected an effort by a Russian company to get charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller dismissed.
U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich, who was appointed by President Trump, on Monday denied a motion by Concord Management and Consulting LLC to dismiss an indictment on the grounds that Mueller was appointed unlawfully by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation.
The company — which allegedly has ties to Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, a Russian businessman better known as “Putin’s chef” because of his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin — is accused of funding a Russian troll farm that used social media to sow discord among the American public in a broader plot to interfere in the election.
A U.S.-based attorney filed a motion in June asking the court to dismiss the charges, arguing that Rosenstein violated the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution when he tapped Mueller to spearhead the Russia investigation in May 2017.
The clause allows the president to appoint “principal officers” who are then confirmed by the Senate and permits courts or departments to appoint “inferior officers” with the permission of Congress.
Lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting argued that Mueller’s appointment is unconstitutional because he does not qualify as either under the clause. They wrote that he was not appointed by the president to be a “principal officer” and there was “no statutory authorization” allowing Rosenstein to appoint Mueller as an inferior officer.
Friedrich struck down that argument on Monday.
“The Special Counsel is an inferior officer because he is directed and supervised by the Acting Attorney General,” Friedrich wrote, referring to Rosenstein, who took over the Russia investigation after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
“Although the Special Counsel regulations may not permit the Acting Attorney General to counterdemand certain decisions made by the Special Counsel, the Special Counsel remains subject to the Acting Attorney General’s plenary supervision,” the judge wrote.
“Second, Congress vested the Acting Attorney General with the power to appoint the Special Counsel,: Friedrich continued, citing past legal precedents that “make clear” Rosenstein, acting as attorney general with respect to the investigation, has the “necessary statutory authority” to appoint Mueller.
Attorneys for Concord and Mueller’s team have sparred over access to evidence and other matters since the company was indicted in February as part of the case against the St. Petersburg troll farm, called the Internet Research Agency.
The company, said to be controlled by Prigozhin, has pleaded not guilty to the charges through its attorneys.