A “mystery case” in front of the United States Supreme Court appears to be tied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team’s desire to subpoena an “un-named, foreign-owned company” in connection with Mueller’s investigation into whether Russian officials conspired with the Trump campaign to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
As the rest of the country celebrated the Christmas holiday, Chief Justice John Roberts handed Mueller a loss, The Hill reports, ordering the Justice Department to respond to a lower court’s decision upholding the subpoena, but putting a halt to any fines or contempt of court orders while the DOJ decides what to do.
“The Supreme Court is putting on hold a contempt order against an unnamed company fighting a subpoena in a mystery case with possible ties to special counsel Robert Mueller,” according to The Hill. “A lower court last week upheld the subpoena after the company, which is owned by a foreign government, argued that it was immune from criminal proceedings under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and that the subpoena was unenforceable because it would require ‘the Corporation’ to violate ‘Country A’s’ domestic law.”
The company was paying an estimated $500 per week in fines, and the new order could give the justices more time to review the subpoena and even issue a more direct order, potentially ending Mueller’s probe into the mystery company, according to NBC News.
CNN reports that this subpoena may, in fact, be the first part of Mueller’s investigation to reach the Supreme Court (and it likely won’t be the last), and it’s unique in one other big way: the nation’s highest court has never heard a case, with all nine Justices present, where the case itself was under seal.
“So far as we know, the Court has never had a sealed argument before all nine Justices,” one legal expert told the network. “They can keep parts of the record and briefing sealed, and often do, such as in cases implicating trade secrets. But there’s no procedure in the court’s rules for having the whole case briefed, argued and decided under seal. The only times I’m aware of in which parties tried it, the court denied certiorari.”
According to the filings sent to the lower court, even the company, which, it seems, operates outside the United States but with some impact within the country, doesn’t know what the case is about, precisely. The company itself is shrouded in mystery, but could be a Russian conglomerate, based on Mueller’s previous subpoenas. Orders have gone out to at least three other Russian companies and at least 25 Russian nationals.
The Mueller investigation appears to be in its closing days, according to news outlets following the probe, but the Special Counsel is still working to interview a handful of key witnesses and pursue a number of final leads. After the primary investigation concludes, though, ancillary investigations may continue. Mueller’s team has reported a handful of independent investigations have grown out of the central probe into the Trump campaign.