Supreme Court Allows Redacted Appeal in Possible Mueller Case

Greg Stohr

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court let an unidentified foreign-owned company file a redacted appeal in a case believed to be tied to the criminal investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The 38-page document released Tuesday contends the company isn’t legally required to provide information to a grand jury, or pay the $50,000 per day fine imposed by a federal trial judge for noncompliance. The company is owned by an unidentified foreign country.

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

The Supreme Court previously refused to block the daily fines, but the company is still pressing the court to hear an appeal. If the court were to take up the case, the justices would either have to put it on an unusual fast track or wait until the nine-month term that starts in October. A response from the government is due Feb. 21.

The new appeal is heavily redacted. It doesn’t mention Mueller or provide any details about the type of information being sought. The appeal contends the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act shields foreign companies from having to cooperate with U.S. criminal investigations.

The lower court ruling against the company "could throw immunity principles into disarray around the world," the redacted appeal contended.

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 high court rarely, if ever, hears cases that are under seal. In the famous 1971 Pentagon Papers case the court rejected a government request to hold part of the argument behind closed doors, though the sides were allowed to file briefs under seal. The court later ruled that the government couldn’t stop the New York Times and Washington Post from publishing the government’s secret history of the Vietnam War.

The case is In Re Grand Jury Subpoena, 18-948.

(Updates with excerpt from filing in sixth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Laurie Asséo

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