Judge Tells Prosecutors to Clarify Case Against Russian Company

WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge on Thursday asked prosecutors to flesh out their arguments in the case against a Russian company accused of funding the Kremlin’s effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in a three-page order asked prosecutors with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office to clarify their position on whether Concord Management and Consulting had a duty to report under the Federal Election Campaign Act and the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

Concord is accused of conspiracy to defraud the United States for allegedly funding the Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to boost President Donald Trump’s chances. The company is challenging the indictment on the grounds that the behavior it is accused of does not violate either of those two federal laws.

Friedrich on Thursday wrote the government has not substantively responded to the company’s arguments about FECA and FARA and gave prosecutors until Oct. 23 to clarify their position. Friedrich’s order specifically mentions a hearing earlier this week at which prosecutors said they do not need to prove Concord “had a legal duty to report” under the laws.

Friedrich, a Trump appointee, wrote the government at the same hearing “implicitly conceded” that in order to show a defendant failed to register it must prove the defendant had a duty to do so in the first place.

The order notes the government has taken the position that instead of proving any one defendant violated either law, it can prove “that the defendants knowingly and intentionally engaged in deceptive acts that interfered with the regulatory functions of the [Federal Election Commission] or [Department of Justice] in a way that precluded those entities from ascertaining whether those substantive statutes were violated.”

To clarify this, Friedrich asked prosecutors to explain whether she should assume Concord “had a legal duty to report expenditures or to register as a foreign agent.” She also sought clarity on whether she should assume that neither the company nor any of the others named in the indictment “knowingly or unknowingly violated any provision” of either FECA or FARA.

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