It appears that trolls are enjoying St. Patrick’s Day as much as Leprechauns. The Justice Department shocked many by dropping the matinee case of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller against two Russian companies accused of funding the “troll farms” in the 2016 election. Many critics have charged that the trolling operation was laughingly ineffective and clumsy. Moreover, the evidence against the companies, including Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering, was questioned. The prosecutors, while defending the original charges, moved to dismiss the case because they viewed the trial as threatening national security secrets. That claim seemed like more of a spin in a case that never seemed to materialize into hard evidence to support these charges. Update: The company has announced that it will sue the U.S. government for billions in damages — a move that will once again raise this same information for trial.
The sudden move came just two weeks before jury selection in the trial. The trial itself was largely symbolic since these companies are largely out of the reach of U.S. jurisdiction. However, the case from February 2018 was the primary prosecution of the trolling operation with three companies and 23 individual charged. It has now ended with a fizzle and a whimper.
Concord was the only defendant to enter an appearance in the case and vigorously contested the allegations of Mueller’s team. Concord is tied to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman known as “Putin’s chef.”
The charging of the defendant brought MSNBC Rachel Maddow close to tears in proclaiming that “For me, personally, hearing these charges and hearing what they were charging these Russians for — it was the first time that I felt like finally, finally, for the first time since we realized all this was happened, finally, it feels like someone is defending us.” The emotion around the case often seem disconnected from the actual evidence both against the companies and more importantly on any real impact on the 2016 election.
Prosecutors now say that the trial “unreasonably risks the national security interests of the United States.” It is a curious conclusion since they have been litigating the case for years and sharing information with the counsel for the accused Russian trolls. They are now at the point to presenting that evidence, which is largely known to the defendants.
Nevertheless, prosecutors declared on Monday, that Concord had been “eager and aggressive in using the judicial system to gather information about how the United States detects and prevents foreign election interference.” It concluded “In short, Concord has demonstrated its intent to reap the benefits of the Court’s jurisdiction while positioning itself to evade any real obligations or responsibility. It is no longer in the best interests of justice or the country’s national security to continue this prosecution.”
The dropping of the charges further undermines the record of the Mueller team which largely convicted defendants of relatively minor crimes with short sentences for lying to investigators. Other more serious charges, like those against Paul Manafort and Micheal Cohen, were largely unrelated to the alleged Russian conspiracy.
The Mueller prosecution objectively achieved much in revealing the Russian trolling operation and its connections to the 2016 election. It cleared the Trump campaign of any direct knowledge or collusion with the Russians. However, in terms of the actual prosecutions that so moved Maddow, it was not particularly successful or substantial in major criminal convictions. For actual prosecutions (as opposed to the value of the report itself), the roughly $25 million and large Mueller staff seems an exercise in overkill in resources like using an aircraft carrier to take out dinghies.
Here is the filing: Justice Department’s Motion to Dismiss