The judge who oversees the company's legal challenge over several months to avoid a subpoena in the Mueller case would not be so restrictive – but it still did not allow the law firm to make statements public on the case.
We do not know much about the company that is fighting Mueller's summons to appear. However, Chief Justice Beryl Howell, of the US District Court of Columbia, on Thursday explained the story that she had released six notices that she had formulated since the company had brought the In these notices, the name of the country and company from which Mueller searches for key documents is always redacted.
Opinions confirm, in the safest language so far, that the Society's records are essential to an ongoing investigation before a grand jury and relate to "foreign interference in the election Presidential election in 2016 and possible collusion in the efforts of US citizens ", in Howell's own words.
Here's how the case unfolded, according to recently released documents.
The summons to appear
It all began on July 11, 2018 with the issuance of a subpoena to the Mueller office, a witness of the criminal investigation whose business activities affected the United States. The Ministry of Justice had allowed Mueller to consult the company's records – even if a stand-off with the foreign nation to whom it belonged seemed possible. Prosecutors need the archives in two weeks, said the summons.
At first, the company's lawyers seemed to want to help the special council. They asked Mueller if they could share the subpoena with residents of an anonymous city who could help collect the requested documents. The company had some additional demands, such as a delay. Mueller would not accept everything that the company was asking for.
The company has attacked the courts, arguing that, as a foreign entity, it should be safe from the needs of a criminal investigation. Howell held a hearing in September 2018 and said that shortly thereafter, the company had to hand over the documents. The company did not comply and the special advocate asked Howell to order her for contempt of court. Again, the company argued that its owner, a sovereign country, should be immune. Howell again disagreed.
Howell scorned the company on October 5, 2018, the same day she heard the arguments. While Mueller's office initially offered to fined the company $ 10,000 a day for contempt of court, Howell raised the issue. Her fine is $ 50,000 a day. It is evaluated until the company submits its documents to be summoned or until the dissolution of Mueller's grand jury.
The fine would begin seven days after the court of appeal ruled against the company, Howell wrote.
The call and more rejects
The company has therefore tried its luck in the US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit.
December's arguments drew a crowd of journalists to the federal courthouse in downtown Washington, convinced that it was Mueller's team fighting for these documents. But the security of the court cleared an entire floor of the courthouse so that the lawyers involved could enter and exit without being seen. (CNN has seen Mueller's attorneys leave and resume their duties to the hearing.)
The court of appeal was lined up on the side of the Mueller team four days later, on December 18th. The next step for the company was the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Supreme Court initially suspended the situation until 8 January. The company returned to Howell in the court of first instance.
The fines for contempt of court were every day "another blow to the dignity of a sovereign nation," the company said, Howell said. She also argued that the public interest in "proper application of international law", according to Howell's paraphrase, was another reason why Howell should change his mind about fines – even though the country supporting society was still unknown. The company has asked Howell to suspend the fines pending the Supreme Court's review of his case, according to recently released opinions.
But Howell not. "Every day that [the company] refuses to comply with a subpoena that now carries the imprimatur of this court and the DC circuit still delays a process of nearly six months. Keep an order expressly intended to put pressure [the company] to comply with this valid assignment only aggravates the delay, "explained Howell, denying the company a third time.
The fine of $ 50,000 a day should begin to rise as of January 15, Howell decided. Soon after, the DC's US Attorney's Office began working on the case alongside Mueller's team, according to circuit court documents. This was one of many indications that the Mueller team was dissipating.
"The need for a swift resolution of all the disputed legal issues arising from this grand jury remains pressing, not only because of the issues involved, but also [REDACTED]"Howell wrote in a January notice – in one of the sentences that adds to the mystery of the case.
At about the same time, CNN was preparing to report that the law firm in question was Alston & Bird. The Washington Post had already written that a foreign-funded bank was the company that faced the subpoena.
Alston & Bird told the judge that he wanted to provide a simple "no comment" to media requests, but Mueller said the type of disclosure proposed by the law firm "would seriously undermine the proper administration of the justice, "according to Howell's summaries. CNN published an article naming the law firm on January 9, the day before Howell heard arguments about how parties should handle media requests. Lawyers and law firm staff still have not responded to requests for comment.
Howell finally told both parties that they could not talk about the case beyond what we knew publicly. Since then, the District Court, District Court and Supreme Court have progressively made available documents in this case.
Fines over $ 2 million
Fines of $ 50,000 a day still seem to increase against the company that refuses to deliver documents. The total amount due seems to exceed $ 2 million.
However, in a notice released by Howell at the end of January, on Thursday, she explains how the company and prosecutors were still in stalemate. "Both [the company] and the government was maneuvering for the best position, "Howell wrote on January 24. The company claimed that she should never pay the fines because she belonged to a foreign country and she was pleading before the Supreme Court. Prosecutors wanted to let the fines accumulate before being punished.
Prosecutors had not even tried to seize the assets or properties of the company, a necessary step before Howell made new decisions accordingly, she wrote. She did not even know the property that the US government would like to seize.
"The government can not simply bring the order for contempt of court or sheriff and require that a privilege be placed on [the company’s] property. A judge must first make a judgment on a specified amount and an order authorizing that conduct, "wrote Howell, who did not want to" solve the problems of execution based on a hypothetical sequence of Events that may never occur. "
Society and federal prosecutors still seem to be in this impasse, as the company asks the Supreme Court to review the decisions of lower courts that order it to release the documents and to be fined. The country that Mueller so badly needs is still unknown.