Be on the lookout for black-and-white pyrotechnics coming from the D.C. District Court in the weeks ahead. On Monday, special counsel Robert Mueller filed an eyebrow-raising motion opposing discovery requests by attorneys who represent a Russian company accused of operating a troll farm during the 2016 U.S. general election.
The 18-page court document all-but levels a high-stakes accusation against the legal team for Concord Management and Consulting LLC. Namely: Mueller alleges Concord Management–or someone working for Concord Management–took some of the case’s “non-sensitive discovery materials,” altered them and then released them in a bid to sow disinformation about the wide-ranging special counsel probe.
Mueller’s opposition to Concord Management’s motion for approval to disclose discovery could bode not so well for Concord Management’s own attorneys.
“The Russians’ lawyers may need to hire their own lawyers now,” tweeted trial attorney Page Pate.
“If the lawyers were aware of discovery material being leaked outside of the defense team, then they may have violated a court protective order and would be subject to sanctions,” Pate elaborated in an email to Law&Crime.
Civil Rights attorney Andrew Laufer was similarly bleak when assessing the legal team’s potential issues ahead:
Those attorneys are going to have serious problems.
— Andrew C Laufer, Esq (@lauferlaw) January 30, 2019
Fashioned as Mueller’s official reason for why his office should not be forced “to disclose documents identified…as ‘sensitive’ to Concord’s officers and employees for purpose of preparing for trial,” the filing’s central argument is that U.S. national security interests would be harmed if such materials were released.
Why? Because, the special counsel argues, several other documents from the case have already somehow made their way on to the internet. And, some of those documents have allegedly been messed with so as to discredit Mueller’s credibility, according to the filing. The special counsel also alleges that these attempted shenanigans were the work of someone in Russia–or at least with a Russian IP address.
“Nothing has occurred during the pendency of this litigation to ameliorate these [national security] risks,” the special counsel argues. On the contrary, the government’s concerns are only heightened by the apparent release and manipulation of information produced to Concord as ‘non-sensitive’ discovery in this case.”
The motion went on to outline the broad strokes of the special counsel’s argument.
“[I]n October 2018, one or more actors made statements claiming to have a stolen copy of discovery produced by the government in this case,” the motion continued. “The subsequent investigation has revealed that certain non-sensitive discovery materials in the defense’s possession appear to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign aimed (apparently) at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. political system. These facts establish a use of the non-sensitive discovery in this case in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the protective order and demonstrate the risks of permitting sensitive discovery to reside outside the confines of the United States.”
Mueller’s office also elaborated on this would-be disinformation effort:
On October 22, 2018, the newly created Twitter account @HackingRedstone published the following tweet: “We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller. You can view all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading!'” The tweet also included a link to a webpage located on an online file-sharing portal. This webpage contained file folders with names and folder structures that are unique to the names and structures of materials (including tracking numbers assigned by the Special Counsel’s Office) produced by the government in discovery.
Those files and folders, however, mostly contained “junk material that has nothing to do with [the] case” as well as “images of political memes from Facebook and other social media accounts that, as alleged in the indictment, were posted and re-posted online by the Internet Research Agency, and were produced in non-sensitive discovery.”
Concord Management’s legal team declined to comment.
Regardless of the jeopardy Concord’s own attorney might find themselves in, the filing itself contains several other digs at the defense. See Law&Crime’s additional coverage here.
You can read the whole filing below.
Mueller Responds to Concord by on Scribd
[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]
Editor’s note: this article has been amended post-publication for accuracy.