Russian company charged in Mueller probe plans to plead not guilty

A Russian company indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller says it plans to plead not guilty to the criminal charge that it engaged in a fraud conspiracy to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

In a court filing in federal court in Washington, DC, on Saturday, US-based defense attorneys for the Russian company, Concord Management and Consulting, snapped back at Mueller’s office by calling the lawyering by one of the prosecutors “pettifoggery.”

The federal judge on Saturday also denied prosecutors’ request to postpone Concord’s initial appearance, scheduled for Wednesday. The special counsel’s office had asked to reschedule Concord’s appearance because it hadn’t properly served the company with a summons.

Concord, a company with ties to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked troll group, opposed moving the hearing.

“I find it disturbing that in your first communication you are already behaving in a manner that is inconsistent with the practices of the Department of Justice,” Eric Dubelier, a US attorney from the law firm Reed Smith that represents Concord, wrote to prosecutor Jeannie Rhee, according to an April 20 email he submitted to the court.

Dubelier was responding to Rhee’s attempt to communicate with Concord by sending him a legal document without first asking if he’d accept it on Concord’s behalf.

In US courts, defendants, even those in other countries, must receive formal notice of the charges against them before a case can proceed, unless a judge steps in.

Mueller’s team has faced difficulties in pursuing the criminal case against 13 Russians and three Russian entities, including Concord, since charging them in February for allegedly interfering in the 2016 election using social media.

The indictment provided insight into how the Internet Research Agency set up a vast network of fake American activist organization and used the stolen identities of real Americans in an attempt to wreak havoc on the US political system.