New report connects a mysterious foreign company — allegedly sparring with Mueller — to Russia
On Wednesday, CNN reported a new detail about the bizarre and secretive fight over a grand jury subpoena in a Washington federal court believed to be linked to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign: The case involves a law firm, Alston & Bird, that has previously represented Russian interests.
After the company defied a grand jury subpoena thought to be from Mueller last summer, it was found in contempt of court. The company appealed to the Supreme Court, but this Tuesday, the justices declined to dismiss the penalties against them, opening them up to fines of $50,000 a day for each day of noncompliance.
The identity of the foreign company, and what information Mueller is trying to extract from it, is still unclear. The only publicly known fact about it from court filings indicate it is a state-run enterprise "owned by Country A." It is also unknown exactly how Alston & Bird, one of the nation's largest law firms, is involved, and whether they are representing this company or another party with interest in the case.
However, their involvement is significant, because as CNN notes, they have represented a significant Russian client with ties to a major figure in the Mueller investigation:
The Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a business contact of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort whom Mueller's team has sought information about, paid Alston & Bird $300,000 upfront in 2003 to help him reinstate his US visa, according to public lobbying disclosure filings. Over the next few years, Deripaska paid the firm another $270,000 for their work, the filings say. Around that time, Deripaska gave Manafort a $10 million loan, which the FBI cited in a 2017 search warrant on Manafort.
As CNN notes, this law firm also has a lobbying arm that has pushed Congress to reform the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which is the same law at the heart of the grand jury subpoena challenge.
Much remains unknown about this case, but the facts seem to suggest that foreign actors are desperate to hide information from Mueller and his team — and this week, they failed.