WASHINGTON (CN) — Raising furious objections from the lawyer representing a Russian company indicted as part of the Mueller probe, a federal judge cleared the way Thursday for the Justice Department to issue a subpoena.
“Novel actions raise novel legal issues,” U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said in the Washington courthouse this morning, granting a motion by the government to subpoena Concord Management Consulting through its U.S. counsel.
“You have submitted to the jurisdiction of this court,” Friedrich repeatedly told Eric Dubelier, an attorney for Concord with the firm Reed Smith.
Owned by Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin, Concord has pleaded not guilty to a single conspiracy charge. The U.S. government charged Concord as part of the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, saying it funded the troll farm that worked to put President Donald Trump in office.
Earlier this week in an opposition brief, Dubelier argued that Friedrich’s enforcement of the subpoena could trigger a violation of Russian laws governing the access or operation of computer networks, punishable at minimum by a fine of 500,000 rubles or imprisonment up to five years.
“There is a particularized risk that information provided by Concord could or would be used for surveillance purposes which might be lawful from a U.S. perspective, but would from a Russian perspective constitute a foreign incursion into Russian computer infrastructure,” Dubelier wrote.
Dubelier suggested in court this morning that he would appeal to the D.C. Circuit, insisting that there is no criminal case precedent for the U.S. government to subpoena a foreign company located overseas.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis pointed to a civil case where the D.C. Circuit ruled a foreign company is subject to subpoena power if it “voluntarily subjected itself to the jurisdiction of the court.”
“Nobody voluntarily appeared in this courtroom,” Dubelier shot back.
“You did,” Friedrich replied.
Narrowing the scope of the subpoena in part, Friedrich took issue with sections that she said “look much more like a fishing expedition for evidence.”
The subpoena seeks payment and communication records between Concord and the troll factory also indicted on conspiracy charges, Internet Research Agency.