WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawyers for Russian company Concord Management and Consulting, LLC, formally entered a “not guilty” plea in federal court Monday in a case special counsel Robert Mueller probably never thought would happen.
Mueller, weathering significant criticism that his Russian collusion case was thin, unveiled a grandiose indictment Feb. 16 against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies. The 13 Russians in question were charged with waging “information warfare” in the United States, interfering with the 2016 presidential election, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Mueller generated headlines with the February indictment, safe in the knowledge the 13 Russians were beyond U.S. jurisdiction. Therefore, there would be no trial — only sensational Russian collusion accusations.
Mueller may now have to try the case, and Concord’s lawyers have put the special counsel on notice. The Russian company’s lawyers intend to invoke “discovery” to obtain U.S. intelligence about what they knew of Russian activities.
“I guess Mueller thought it was a freebie, for sure,” former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy told The Daily Caller News Foundation after the court proceeding.
“He thought it could make this association (of Russian collusion) and it would never be challenged in court,” McCarthy, also a National Review contributing editor, said.
Concord retained the services of two attorneys at mega law firm Reed Smith, and the company is demanding a speedy trial. The lawyers indicated they were going to exercise Concord’s rights under discovery to examine all of Mueller’s “evidence” of the conspiracy.
In starting Wednesday’s trial, Eric A. Dubelier, a Reed Smith law partner, entered a “not guilty” plea in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He also repeated his client’s interest for a “speedy trial.”
McCarthy called Mueller’s entire indictment an “unforced error.”
“One thing you never want to do is to indict in a case that you’re not prepared to try,” McCarthy said.
Mueller tried to delay Wednesday’s hearing and floated a claim Concord had not been properly served notice.
“Until the Court has an opportunity to determine if Concord was properly served, it would be inadvisable to conduct an initial appearance and arraignment at which important rights will be communicated and a plea entertained,” Mueller’s lawyers filed in federal court.
But Concord opposed the motion. “The Special Counsel is not entitled to special rules and is required like the Attorney General to follow the rules of the Court,” Dubelier stated in his response to Mueller.
U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich agreed with Concord and rejected Mueller’s request for a delay in the trial without comment, which led to Wednesday’s arraignment.
Concord wants a “speedy trial” as provided by federal law, the company’s lawyers also repeated Wednesday. The case will resume July 9.
It is the second legal headache for Mueller in two weeks. Last week, federal Judge T.S. Ellis, III, a Reagan appointee, threatened to throw out the special counsel’s indictment of Paul Manafort since the charges against President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager did not relate to any charges of Russian collusion. Instead, the charges were tied to banking activities that went as far back as 2005 — more than a decade before Trump announced his intention to run for president.