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Special Counsel Hits Snag in Bringing Criminal Case Against Russians

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office appears to be in an early stalemate in its efforts to bring a criminal case against Russians allegedly involved in Moscow’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Special counsel Robert Mueller leaves after a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Special counsel Robert Mueller leaves after a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Although one Russian company indicted by Mueller in February, Concord Management and Consulting, has US attorneys and a court hearing scheduled, the special counsel’s team hasn’t been able to reach the company or its co-defendants.

The Russian government’s top legal office wouldn’t accept paperwork from US law enforcement in the case, and the company has already hit back at Mueller by demanding more evidence and information.

The tit-for-tat was revealed in a court filing Friday when Mueller’s prosecutors asked to reschedule a hearing about the criminal case against 13 Russians and associated companies, who allegedly influenced the election using social media. The hearing was set for May 9.

The situation shows how difficult it will be for Mueller to bring Russians to justice for allegedly interfering in the 2016 election.

The prosecutors said in Friday’s filing that they don’t know whether one of the companies indicted alongside the Russians was served with a summons in the case.

Mueller’s team has tried to reach the Russians, first with the summons delivered to the office of the prosecutor general of Russia on March 20. They have also tried to reach the Russians through the power of international treaties. The Russian law enforcement office declined to accept the summonses, US prosecutors said.

“To the government’s knowledge, no further steps have been taken within Russia to effectuate service,” prosecutors told the judge in DC federal court on Friday.

In US courts, defendants, even those in other countries, must receive formal notice of the charges against them before a case can proceed, unless a judge steps in.

Prosecutors also said US-based defense attorneys for Concord Management and Consulting, from the law firm Reed Smith in Washington, DC, have sought details about evidence Mueller’s office collected in the case.

The Russian company’s attorneys asked for information about other employees who Mueller considered to be co-conspirators or who weren’t charged in the case, the US people who communicated with the Russians, and recordings and other electronic surveillance of the company’s employees.

The company’s attorneys also asked for information about the past seven decades of US policy toward other countries’ elections, especially regarding ” ‘each and every instance’ from ‘1945 to present’ where the US government ‘engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes in any foreign country,’ ” according to the prosecutors’ court filing.

The Russian company’s attorneys sent the summons from Mueller’s office back to prosecutors, saying they hadn’t complied with court procedures.

Mueller’s team is asking the Washington judge who oversees the case to weigh arguments about whether Concord properly received notice that it faced an indictment.

The company’s attorneys have not responded to multiple CNN requests for comment since the Russians’ indictments. The judge ordered them to reply to Mueller’s office in court by Monday at 5 p.m.