Supreme Court Rejects Mystery Company in Case Linked to Mueller

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court refused to shield a mystery company from having to provide information in what is believed to be the criminal investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Acting on a sealed request from the company and making no comment, the justices Tuesday declined to block a federal appeals court ruling that apparently favored Mueller. The appeals court upheld daily fines -- revealed Tuesday to be $50,000 a day -- against the company, owned by an unidentified foreign country, for failing to comply with a grand jury subpoena.

The latest order lifts the hold Chief Justice John Roberts had placed on the appeals court ruling while the Supreme Court considered the matter. There were no published dissents.

The order came hours after the court’s website indicated the company was poised to file an appeal of the ruling. The court’s online docket shows a new filing that that seeks permission to file that appeal under seal, with redacted copies available for the public.

Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction by President Donald Trump. The case apparently marked the first time the Supreme Court has been asked to intervene in the investigation.

The grand jury dispute has been shrouded in mystery, in part because officials closed an entire floor of a federal courthouse in Washington during arguments on Dec. 7. Politico linked the case to Mueller in October, citing a conversation overheard by a reporter in the court clerk’s office.

The appeals court order, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, rejected contentions that a federal sovereign-immunity law shielded the company from having to comply. Although the appeals court issued its judgment in December, it released an opinion Tuesday explaining its reasoning.

A concurring opinion by Judge Stephen Williams offered new hints about the identity of the company. Williams said that the company has an American office where the subpoena was served and that prosecutors contend the company conducts "considerable business" in the U.S.

Williams also suggested Mueller might be seeking information that is currently overseas. The judge said the company contends it doesn’t have "documents responsive to the subpoena in the United States."

The main opinion for the court said the trial judge had imposed a $50,000-a-day fine on the company, though the judge had blocked accrual of the fines while the case was on appeal.

The case acted on by the Supreme Court Tuesday is In Re Grand Jury Subpoena, 18A669. The still-pending Supreme Court matter is In Re Grand Jury Subpoena, 18M93. The D.C. Circuit case is In Re Grand Jury, 18-3071.

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