DOJ Flips the Lawfare on Its Head in Russian Troll Case

In part because Judge Dabney Friedrich has only recently attempted to impose some control on the case, the prosecution against the Russian troll company Concord Management waddles slowly towards a scheduled trial date of April 6, 2020. As it has throughout this process, Concord continues to make trollish arguments to gum up the prosecution. Of particular note, it continues its efforts to use the prosecution to obtain as much information as it can, including information about intelligence the government has on Concord as well as on the victims.

Don’t get me wrong. That is their right, and one of the dangers of indicting corporate entities for this kind of crime.

But the government just gave Concord a bit of its own medicine. On Tuesday, it moved to obtain an early trial subpoena to serve on Concord. It seeks information on Concord’s communications with the Internet Research Agency, other shell companies, and a list of co-conspirators. Perhaps most concerning, for Concord’s sometime owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin, it asks for his calendar from January 2014 through February 2018, a calendar that — if it’s accurate — likely includes Vladimir Putin.

Calendar entries for Yevgeniy Prigozhin for the time period January 1, 2014 to February 1, 2018.

The motion uses precisely the legal fact that allowed Concord to respond to this indictment with no risk to any biological person against it, arguing that because it is a corporation it has no Fifth Amendment privilege.

Moreover, even though it is a defendant, Concord cannot avoid responding to a trial subpoena requesting the production of records under the Fifth Amendment because corporations have no privilege against self-incrimination. Braswell v. United States, 487 U.S. 99, 102 (1988).

Understand, the government almost certainly has versions of all the things it asks for on the list. But assuming Friedrich approves the subpoena, Concord will be required to submit its own version of these documents, which the government might be able to prove to be false (adding to Concord’s legal jeopardy and putting Concord’s American lawyers on the hook). It’s also likely the government is forcing Concord to do its own parallel construction.

It’s a subtle move, but one that may shift how this proceeds going forward.

22 replies
  1. greengiant says:

    Prigozhin, the same chef allegedly involved in the Wagner group mercenaries in Syria and oil interests there?

  2. Savage Librarian says:

    Hmm. Since the Stone trial, I’ve been wondering if Concord would surface in the news again. I guess I was thinking about how Concord was mucking with the Andrew Miller testimony. And then Miller didn’t even come in play at the trial. So, I’m glad to hear the US has pulled the tablecloth out from under Putin’s chef’s favorite platters.

    (Just as a reminder about Andrew Miller, Stone, Concord, etc:)
    “Judges side with Mueller, nix Russian joint appeal bid”

    “U.S. Court of Appeals Judges David Tatel and Thomas Griffith ruled Thursday that the firm, Concord Management and Consulting, LLC., did not have standing to “intervene” in the appellate case brought by Andrew Miller, a former associate of longtime Donald Trump friend and Republican political operative Roger Stone.”

    • emptywheel says:

      I think it misreads what happened to suggest Concord was messing with Miller. Miller just used their legal strategy as a cheap way to challenge the subpoena.

      But yes–it is notable they didn’t use Miller’s testimony at trial. But remember, he testified before a new grand jury.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Thanks, Marcy. It was hard for me to tell who was using who in the article. It seemed like it might be mutual. Yeah, that other grand jury is intriguing. WAG, for Assange maybe? But with Nader in the news, another WAG, could Zamel be involved? Why do these names keep noodling around in my poor addled brain?!! I feel like Trump and his enablers have committed mind genocide.

        Here’s a correction for my bad link above:

      • Frank Probst says:

        I STILL found his lack of testimony to be mystifying. Didn’t they fly him in for the trial? Even if he’s now a witness for another case, I don’t see why they’d bother flying him in for the Stone trial. The best I can come up with is that there’s some sort of testimony that Stone’s lawyers could have gotten from one or more other witnesses, and Miller was brought in to somehow close off that avenue of questioning.

  3. Cathy says:

    …”the prosecution against the Russian troll company Concord Management waddles slowly…”

    troll? waddles? Nice. Even without subject-verb relationship. Just the sheer proximity. Like a contact high.

  4. Mao Cheng Ji says:

    “a calendar that — if it’s accurate — likely includes Vladimir Putin”

    Nonsense. They requested company records, not all Prigozhin’s activities for 4 years, obviously. Prigozhin is not on trial.

    Even if they do manage to convince the judge that this isn’t a ‘fishing expedition’ (though it most certainly is), it seems unlikely that the company-held Prigozhin’s appointments would produce any earth-shattering revelations…

    • bmaz says:

      It is not “nonsense” in the least, but your comment is. The records sought to be subpoenaed are spelled out specifically in the application for subpoena, and the quotes above are verbatim from said motion. And while Prigozhin may not be personally on trial, his company sure as hell is. And, no, it is not a “fishing expedition”. But thanks for trolling by.

      • Mao Cheng Ji says:

        Thank you for your reply, bmaz.

        I’m not sure: do you only disagree with my characterization of this request as a “fishing expedition”?

        Well, if they wanted to present some specific activity of Mr. Prigozhin as evidence of whatever crimes the company is accused of, they probably should’ve specified what this activity is, rather than asking for his whole agenda for 4 years.

        …seems obvious to me, but hey, sure, ymmv.

        Anyway, do you agree that his alleged sinister visits to high government officials are unlikely to be among the official company records?

        • bmaz says:

          1) No, I disagree with your entire comment.
          2) No, discovery is about finding evidence, you do not have to prove what you are looking for, in order to look for it.
          3) No I do not agree, I have no idea what said discovery may yield, and neither do you.

        • PieIsDamnGood says:

          This post is about a Russian company engaging in bad faith behavior to obtain information and the DOJ turning the tables on them. I think your reading comprehension skills need work.

          I’d advise against arguing with bmaz, never seen it end well for someone like you

        • Mao Cheng Ji says:

          I think I know what it is about.

          But if these requests do amount to “turning the tables on them” and giving them “a bit of its own medicine”, then it sounds like the government too is now “engaging in bad faith behavior”. Right?

          So, maybe y’all are happy to see the government engaging in bad faith behavior in this particular situation, I can understand that. But then what compels you to protest so much when I make this assertion?

        • bmaz says:

          No. You are completely full of shit and trolling this blog. Nobody here should pay attention to your bunk. You have evidenced no expertise, nor understanding of the facts, and you are about done here.

        • Rayne says:

          Hazmat suit and N95 respirator donned, though rather annoying trying to type with these nitrile gloves. It’s almost like Nunes’ Cow at the keyboard.

        • Cathy says:

          Better safe than sorry. [Right, Emotional Support Emoji? moo 🐄 Yep. Emotional Support Emoji thanks you for focusing on your personal safety.]

        • Cathy says:

          And yet there is a PPE for that: full moon suit (with SCBA) aaaand modifying the face shield with little wiper blades would not be remiss.

      • emptywheel says:

        Well, Prigozhin IS a co-conspirator. And he got himself onto discovery by claiming he was the head of Concord.

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