A Washington, D.C., federal judge on Thursday upheld an indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller against a Russian troll farm accused of using social media to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.
Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected efforts by Concord Management and Consulting to dismiss the indictment in a 32-page opinion.
The company is charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government by hiding its election-related activities and failing to register as a foreign agent. Federal prosecutors said Concord saturated the internet with political propaganda during the 2016 presidential election.
Concord’s attorneys argued the indictment should be tossed because there is no U.S. law prohibiting interfering in an election.
Judge Friedrich, who was appointed by President Trump, rejected that claim. She said there was “plenty” of evidence the company’s actions were “deceptive and intended to frustrate the lawful government functions,” including the Federal Election Commission, Department of Justice and Department of State.
“The difficulty for the government, however, is not identifying deceit — of which there is plenty — but connecting that deceit to the lawful government function of ‘administering federal requirements for disclosure,’ which the defendants allegedly conspired to impair,” Judge Friedrich wrote.
Concord also argued that the indictment should be dropped because Mr. Mueller did not prove the Russians were aware of the U.S. laws they allegedly violated or knowingly intended to violate those laws.
Again, Judge Friedrich shot down Concord’s argument. While agreeing that prosecutors need to prove that defendants knowingly violated election laws, she said Concord was not charged with those crimes. Concord was charged with conspiracy, and Judge Friedrich said that statute does not have the same requirement.
Mr. Mueller indicted Concord in February, making them the first Russians to be charged in the investigation.
A dozen Concord trolls were also charged, but none have appeared in a U.S. court. They are expected to remain in Russia where they can avoid extradition by the U.S. But Concord has fought the indictment through its U.S. attorneys.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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