Prosecutor: Grand jury in Russia probe 'continuing robustly'

COLLEEN LONG
IN this March 24, 2019, photo, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and his wife Ann, depart St. John's Episcopal Church, across from the White House, in Washington. The release of the special counsel’s findings in the Russia probe swiftly reshaped the 2020 presidential campaign, all but settling the question of whether President Donald Trump could be knocked from the race by a new revelation in the report and turning the debate over the investigation on its head. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A grand jury that was involved in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is "continuing robustly," a federal prosecutor said Wednesday.

The prosecutor, David Goodhand, made the revelation during a hearing over whether court filings in the Mueller probe should be unsealed related to an unidentified foreign corporation that had refused to turn over documents to the special counsel. Attorneys for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, seeking the filings, also sought to unmask the corporation and country behind it.

Mueller officially completed his investigation when he turned over his report to Attorney General William Barr on Friday. He found no evidence that President Donald Trump's campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election but reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, according to a letter Barr sent to Congress summarizing the special counsel's findings.

But Mueller referred some matters he discovered to U.S. attorneys' offices. It's not entirely clear what else a grand jury, whose dealings are generally secret under law, may be considering.

The case in court Wednesday centered on a corporation owned by a foreign government, neither of which have been identified. The corporation was held in contempt for refusing to turn over information demanded by Mueller's investigators. The Supreme Court had rejected an appeal from the corporation on Monday, and the case is now being handled by prosecutors in Washington.

The corporation has been racking up fines of $50,000 a day for not complying with the grand jury subpoena for documents. Fines have been accruing since Jan. 15 and could total more than $3.5 million. New daily fines stop once the grand jury is discharged.

The hearing came after attorneys for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a motion seeking access to court filings tied to the subpoena fight that developed during Mueller's investigation. The attorneys also sought the name of the mystery corporation, arguing in part that although the investigation was closed, the public's right to know remains.

"It really is a special situation," Theodore Boutrous, the attorney who represented the press freedom organization, argued in court. "We have a company, owned by a foreign nation, litigating all the way to the Supreme Court."

During Wednesday's hearing, Chief Judge Beryl Howell then asked prosecutors whether a grand jury investigation was continuing despite Mueller handing over his report last week.

"I can say it is continuing robustly," Goodhand responded.

Howell ruled partially in favor of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, saying that redacted court documents and transcripts from a contempt hearing and other motions could be released, but gave the government time to redact the motions. She didn't decide on how long they would get to redact the documents, but said she was mindful of the scope of the task.

The judge did not say whether she would release the name of the corporation or country. Attorneys for the mystery corporation attended the hearing Wednesday, only to say their client would prefer not to be publicly outed and would also prefer not to say why in open court.

Boutrous said he was pleased with the ruling. He said he was hopeful the judge will eventually make the name of the corporation public.