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Mystery surrounds Supreme Court filing by foreign firm in fight with Mueller


A foreign-owned company that seems to be engaged in a tough fight with special counsel Robert Mueller has filed papers with the Supreme Court that were presented on Saturday to Chief Justice John Roberts.

The mystery firm asked the high court to block the special counsel from obtaining records via a subpoena after being turned down by a federal appeals court following a lower court ruling ordering release of the records, according to Politico:

The identity of the firm and the foreign country at issue remain closely guarded secrets, but POLITICO first reported earlier this year that the dispute appeared to involve Mueller’s prosecutors. A POLITICO reporter was in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals clerk’s office in October when a person connected to the appeal arrived to request a copy of the special counsel’s latest filing in the case.

When the case was argued at the D.C. Circuit last week, the courtroom was closed to the public. Court personnel went to unusual lengths to preserve the secrecy, ordering journalists to leave the floor where lawyers were presenting their positions.

The high court’s public docket did not offer many clues as to the identity of the foreign firm or the context of its filing or which attorneys are involved. But on Tuesday, a three-page court order revealed that the witness opposing the subpoena is a foreign-owned corporation.

The company is arguing that its status as an extension of a foreign government makes it immune from subpoenas, but that was rejected by a three-judge panel on the U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C. The judges were also unconvinced by the state-owned firm’s claims that complying with the records request would be a violation of laws in its home country.

Politico noted further:

After the order was filed Tuesday, sealed filings continued in the appeals court in what appeared to be a bid to stay the D.C. Circuit’s ruling or appeal it further. On Friday, the appeals court denied a motion from the company. The precise nature of the motion was not disclosed.

The Supreme Court’s online docket reveals only the request for a stay of the subpoena, as well as the fact that the company seeks to proceed with the case under seal.

Some have speculated that the company involved could be a state-owned corporation from Russia. Vox reported on some circumstantial evidence indicating that the case has to do with both Russia and Mueller:

  • Politico’s Josh Gerstein and Darren Samuelsohn observed that when the case reached the appellate level, Judge Gregory Katsas recused himself. Katsas was a staffer in Trump’s White House counsel’s office before Trump appointed him to the court, and he had previously said he’d recuse himself on Russia investigation-related matters.
  • Then last Friday, when appellate arguments were held, the courthouse sealed off the whole floor the courtroom was on, so reporters couldn’t see which lawyers would enter. But shortly after arguments appeared to end, CNN saw several Mueller prosecutors returning to their office building — including their top appellate specialist Michael Dreeben (the one person nearly certain to be involved if this was a Mueller-related appeal), as well as international specialist Zainab Ahmad.
  • Finally, this Tuesday, when the appellate panel’s ruling was announced, the Washington Post saw five Mueller prosecutors (including Dreeben) attend a sealed hearing in district court, along with two other unidentified lawyers.

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