Indicted Russian Firm Bolsters Selective-Prosecution Claim

WASHINGTON (CN) – Challenging its prosecution by special counsel Robert Mueller, a Russian firm accused of conspiracy said Friday that Mueller must be made to identify all cases where he prosecuted or declined to take on foreign actors for election interference.

Concord Management and Consulting LLC is already seeking discovery to allege selective prosecution, but the government told a federal judge that the firm is ineligible for such relief because it failed to show any clear evidence of discriminatory intent.

The government also insisted that the allegations against Concord — the firm is said to have funded a large-scale Kremlin influence campaign that tried to tip the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump — are far graver than the examples of election interference to which Concord pointed.

Concord pushed back against this claim Friday, saying in a brief that it is “particularly ironic for the special counsel to now argue that Concord must identify individuals who actually committed the underlying crime in order to be ‘similarly situated.’”

Concord claims that Ukrainian, Middle Eastern and British actors tried to interfere in the election as well, along with two non-Russians who made unlawful campaign contributions.

It says Mueller failed to show how other foreign attempts by non-Russians to interfere are not similar in nature, pointing to the Ukraine’s support of Trump’s political rival Hillary Clinton.

In a Sept. 21 brief, prosecutors argued that social media posts from Ukrainian officials critical of Trump were made using their real identities, unlike Concord, which the government alleges fraudulently concealed its foreign identity in social media postings intended to sew political discord and impair the lawful functions of the U.S. government.

That, the government argued, meant the two groups did not engage in similar conduct in terms of selective prosecution.

Concord pushed back on that assertion Friday.

“In doing so, the special counsel entirely ignores the evidence cited in Concord’s motion that Ukrainian officials also disseminated unauthenticated documents in an effort to discredit the Trump campaign,” the Oct. 5 brief says.

Concord also took issue with how prosecutors characterized the activities of Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who compiled the 35-page dossier on President Trump.

Steele had met with reporters in Washington, D.C., to brief them on the dossier before it became public.

Prosecutors rejected Concord’s claim that Steele engaged in similar behavior that Concord stands accused of, saying that serving as an anonymous source for press articles is not equivalent to using fake identities to wage information warfare on the United States.

“Terminology aside, this is a distinction without a difference, as Steele allegedly used the media to influence the 2016 election while concealing his identity and foreign nationality,” the brief says.

Concord claims Steele’s behavior “implicates the lawful function of at least four government agencies and two branches of government” since he served as a source for the FBI and interacted with federal officials at other agencies and with congressional staff in an effort to circulate his dossier.

“Moreover, Steele’s ultimate goal was to publicly leak the information while remaining anonymous, which is far more egregious than private Russian individuals posting opinions on social media,” the brief says.

Earlier this week, Concord agreed to drop its appeal challenging the lawfulness of Mueller’s appointment.

Concord had appealed to the D.C. Circuit after U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected its motion to dismiss the criminal indictment on the basis that Mueller lacked the authority to charge the firm.

Concord voluntarily dismissed the appeal on Tuesday after consulting with Mueller’s office, but did not elaborate on why.

Concord is scheduled to appear at the district court for a motion hearing on Oct. 15.

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