Sources: Trump unnerved by McGahn discussions

White House counsel Don McGahn's 30 hours of conversations with special counsel Robert Mueller's team have unnerved President Donald Trump, who didn't know the full extent of McGahn's discussions, two people familiar with his thinking said. CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 11:50 PM
Updated: Aug 30, 2018 12:04 AM

The Russian company Concord Management and Consulting has latched on to the idea that special counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a "witch hunt," and accused him in a court filing Wednesday of indicting the company because of anti-Russian political motivations.

Concord Management, which has pleaded not guilty to a conspiracy charge related to social media use before the 2016 election, also asked the court to make more details public about the Mueller investigation.

The words "witch hunt" aren't written in the document that Concord filed in DC District Court on Wednesday. But Concord clearly reflects the same point of view as President Donald Trump.

Instead of using Trump's words, Concord borrowed a quote from an underling of Russian dictator Josef Stalin.

"The pinpoint demographic and ideological targeting of the Special Counsel's mandate is ironically reminiscent of a quotation attributed to Lavrenty Beria, the chief of Joseph Stalin's secret police," the Russian company writes in a footnote. " 'Show me the man, and I'll find you the crime.' "

Focus on Russians

The appointment of Mueller to investigate possible Russian coordination with the Trump campaign is inherently and illegally biased, the company argues, because it focuses on Russia and Trump and no other countries or political campaigns.

"That only Russian individuals and entities now face criminal liability for substantially similar alleged conduct strongly suggests that the government has selectively prosecuted Russian individuals and entities for being Russian -- an action that would warrant dismissal of the Indictment," Concord's US-based legal team wrote in Wednesday's court filing. "The identification and prosecution of only Russians is particularly nefarious here because it coincided with massive political and public pressure on the Special Counsel to confirm a narrative generated by the Clinton campaign that the Russians had ensured the election of President Trump."

The Justice Department has never before brought such a case against foreign nationals related to social media use in a presidential election, Concord's filing says. Because no other foreign national has ever been indicted for an alleged crime like this, Mueller's team has unfairly targeted -- or used "selective prosecution" against -- Concord, the filing says.

Ukrainians, Middle Easterners and Brits also tried to influence the 2016 presidential election, and Chinese, Canadian and Indian people and entities also made "unlawful" campaign contributions in the election without consequence, Concord argues.

"By their very nature, social media platforms have no national borders," Concord's legal team wrote.

Concord is one of 16 Russian defendants in an alleged social-media troll farm operation aimed at disrupting the 2016 election by swaying American voters against Hillary Clinton. Concord is the only defendant fighting the charges, and the other Russians named in the case have not appeared yet in US court.

Seeking information

Concord wants the court to force Mueller to turn over "any information" about investigations and legal steps taken toward people and companies from Ukraine, the Middle East, the United Kingdom, China and Australia who may have attempted to covertly influence the election, the Russian company's court filing says.

Concord Management is also interested in investigations into foreign nationals' campaign contributions in 2016 and "other instances of alleged influence" related to any presidential campaign, according to the filing.

Concord points one finger at the British former spy Christopher Steele, who wrote the dossier about the Trump campaign that reached the attention of the top US intelligence chiefs. Steele "engaged in a campaign to create media coverage negative to then-candidate Trump and to use unverified, and possibly false information to influence federal agencies to open and conduct investigations damaging to Trump," the Russian company alleges. Steele has not been charged with a crime.

Concord highlights news stories that detailed Ukrainian support for Clinton's campaign and an alleged Ukrainian effort to leak damaging information about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who faces two indictments and has been found guilty by a jury on some charges related to his Ukrainian political and financial ties.

The Russian company also raises the possibility of an August 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., military contracting company founder Erik Prince, the businessman George Nader, and high-ranking representatives from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. CNN has previously reported that Mueller's team was using Nader's help in the election interference probe. Nader's connection to cases Mueller has brought or may bring is still unclear.

The Russian company points to Chinese citizens' support for Republican Jeb Bush and Australians' support for independent Sen. Bernie Sanders as putting them among the foreign nations who may have illegally given money to 2016 candidates.

The filing doesn't mention how Concord Management is accused of working to sway voters toward Sanders, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz during the presidential campaign, in addition to Trump.

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