Frankly, with all of the coronavirus news, this development slipped past me. It didn’t slip past Andrew McCarthy, who writes that the Department of Justice had no choice but to drop this publicity stunt from Robert Mueller and his special-counsel team. The New York Times report notes that the DoJ frames the decision as the result of the indicted Russian firms “weaponizing” the case, but McCarthy advises readers not to be fooled by that spin:
The Justice Department moved on Monday to drop charges against two Russian shell companies accused of financing schemes to interfere in the 2016 election, saying that they were exploiting the case to gain access to delicate information that Russia could weaponize.
The companies, Concord Management and Concord Consulting, were charged in 2018 in an indictment secured by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, along with 13 Russians and another company, the Internet Research Agency. Prosecutors said they operated a sophisticated scheme to use social media to spread disinformation, exploit American social divisions and try to subvert the 2016 election.
Unlike the others under indictment, Concord fought the charges in court. But instead of trying to defend itself, Concord seized on the case to obtain confidential information from prosecutors, then mount a campaign of information warfare, a senior Justice Department official said.
At one point, prosecutors complained that a cache of documents that could potentially be shared with the defendants included details about the government’s sources and methods for investigation, among its most important secrets. Prosecutors feared Concord might publish them online.
Gee, who could have predicted that? Actually, anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the rules of discovery could have predicted it — and did. Fifteen months ago, after Concord Management demanded materials that led to the indictment, materials to which defendants are entitled in criminal prosecutions, Mueller’s team attempted to skirt the demand by claiming Concord had never actually been served with the indictment, an argument made ridiculous on its face by their very presence in the courtroom. As I wrote at the time, the better part of valor would have been to withdraw the indictment then and admit that it was just a narrative builder for their investigation.