Government response mystery case: Mueller appears to respond

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Government response mystery case: Mueller appears to respond.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office appears to have responded to a foreign company’s bid to get the Supreme Court to step into a fight over a grand jury subpoena served on the firm.

Most details of the case remain under seal at the Supreme Court since the company asked for an emergency stay last week, but an entry in the high court’s docket indicates a response was filed Friday, three days ahead of the Monday deadline set by the court. The filing was accompanied by an application to put the filing under seal, the Supreme Court docket says.

The docket entry doesn’t indicate Mueller’s office is involved in the legal fight. Indeed, there’s not even a mention in the Supreme Court’s public records that the U.S. Government or the Justice Department is involved in the case.

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Friday’s filing was likely submitted by Solicitor General Noel Francisco’s office, which handles nearly all Supreme Court briefs for the U.S. government.

When a federal appeals court issued a ruling last week turning down the company’s effort to quash the subpoena, the judges made public some details about the dispute. The D.C. Circuit order revealed that the firm involved is owned by a foreign government and was held in contempt by a district court judge who rejected the firm’s arguments that its governmental ownership makes it immune from a grand jury subpoena.

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The appeals court also rejected claims that the firm should be excused from responding to the subpoena because answering the request would violate the foreign country’s laws.

The connection between the legal battle and Mueller’s ongoing investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia is murky, but a POLITICO reporter stationed in the D.C. Circuit clerk’s office in October heard a visitor ask for a copy of a filing by the special counsel just hours after a sealed pleading was submitted in the appeal.

A D.C. Circuit judge who formerly worked in the White House as an associate counsel to President Donald Trump also recused himself from the dispute, court records show.

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A spokesman for Mueller’s office declined to comment on the development at the high court Friday.

If the Supreme Court decides not to step into the dispute, the details of the fight could remain and the identity of the company and country involved could remain hidden from public view. But if the justices decide to grant some relief to the company or hear the case on the high court’s regular docket, some additional details of the battle could surface, since the Supreme Court rarely entertains cases on an entirely secret basis.

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