Russian firm accused of election meddling could face trial in April

DOJ: Lawmakers shouldn’t get access to Mueller grand jury materials
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Robert Mueller

Concord Management and Consulting, the Russian company charged with attempting to interfere in the 2016 election, is poised to go to trial in April 2020, a full year after the end of the Mueller investigation.

The company’s defense lawyers and prosecutors from the DC US Attorney’s office suggested that date during a court hearing Tuesday morning. They largely discussed scheduling at the hearing in the long-running case.

The trial date has not yet been set by Judge Dabney Friedrich in DC District Court.

The indictment, since Mueller’s team brought it in February 2018, was a startling and sweeping allegation of a Russian operation to sway American voters in 2016 through divisive Facebook posts, rallies and other political propaganda on social media. The company is accused of conspiracy for funding the online troll farm effort.

Concord has pleaded not guilty. Two other Russian companies and 13 Russians, including an oligarch named Yevgeny Prigozhin, are also charged in the case but have not appeared in US courts to enter their pleas.

Since the indictment, the case has dragged on because of fights between Concord and prosecutors over evidence in the case and the Russians’ access to it.

The case is complicated — with millions of files in evidence and a corporation that’s only had its US lawyers appear in court — and the trial itself may last longer than any other criminal proceeding that originated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office within the Justice Department.

A prosecutor on the case told the judge Tuesday his team may take two to three weeks to present their case to a jury. Concord’s team expects the trial may take about a month, not counting jury selection.

Eric Dubelier, a defense attorney for Concord, said he hadn’t thought through whether the court should use a written questionnaire to suss out potential jurors’ biases before they gather for the trial. He can’t tell if potential jurors will come to court knowing Russia interfered in the 2016 election, or if they have no idea about the Russian interference investigated by Mueller, he said.

Prosecutor Jonathan Kravis suggested they use the questionnaire to select a jury because of news coverage of the case.