U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of the District of Columbia has released 71 pages of court orders and opinions in an ongoing grand jury subpoena fight that involves an unidentified foreign-owned company and the special counsel’s prosecution team.
The company, owned by a foreign state, has resisted for months compliance with a subpoena from Special Counsel Robert Mueller III. Howell, in September, declared the company in civil contempt and imposed a $50,000 daily fine. The company is represented by a team from Alston & Bird.
The company’s lawyers have lost several rulings in recent months, compelling the legal team to take the dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices are weighing whether to review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that said the company must comply with the subpoena.
Courts have unsealed some pleadings and orders along the way, providing clues to the contours of the dispute, if not the names of the actual parties involved. Here are several things revealed in the newly unsealed court filings:
>> Alston & Bird lawyers wanted to make a public statement, but Mueller’s prosecutors resisted the request. Their reasoning was redacted in Howell’s orders. “[REDACTED] counsel informed the court that attorneys and employees at their law firm have received threatening messages,” Howell wrote, in reference to a Jan. 10 hearing. That hearing came a day after CNN identified Alston & Bird as the law firm representing the unidentified foreign company. Howell ordered the lawyers in the case not to make any public statements beyond the “public information” about the case as presented in D.C. Circuit filings.
>> Howell noted in one order that the special counsel is “investigating foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion in those efforts by American citizens. The [Special Counsel's Office] has identified certain [REDACTED] as relevant to the investigation and, on July 11, 2018, the grand jury issued a subpoena to [REDACTED], which is [REDACTED] by Country A, to produce by July 27, 2018, any such records held [REDACTED] in the United States or abroad.” The information that’s being sought did not originate in the United States. “The materials sought are important to the grand jury’s investigation and the failure to secure the materials would undermine important interests of the United States,” Howell wrote.
>> Mueller’s office proposed a $10,000 daily fine, but Howell increased it to $50,000. By Jan. 24, the fine had reached more than $500,000. Here’s what Howell said about why she boosted the fine: “In imposing $50,000 per day, the court balances, on the one hand, a due regard for [REDACTED] status as an entity of a foreign sovereign deserving of international comity and, on the other hand, both the government’s need for prosecutorial expedience in a matter of great concern in the United States and in consideration of the sanction needed to coerce [REDACTED] compliance.”
>> Federal prosecutors haven’t yet—as of last month—attempted to enforce Howell’s contempt order. The dispute is still pending at the Supreme Court, which could give prosecutors some cause to hold off seizing property as a mean to enforce the penalty. Howell rejected an effort from the company’s lawyers to have her declare her contempt order to be unenforceable.
You can read the unsealed filings here: [falcon-embed src="embed_1"]