The Justice Department is moving to drop charges against two Russian companies that were accused of funding a social media campaign to sway American public opinion during the 2016 election. Prosecutors said they concluded that a trial, against a corporate defendant with no presence in the United States and no prospect of meaningful punishment even if convicted, would likely expose sensitive law enforcement tools and techniques, "potentially undermining their effectiveness," the AP reports. Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering were among three companies and 13 individuals charged in 2018 by special counsel Robert Mueller in a conspiracy to spread disinformation on social media during the 2016 presidential race.
The case had been set for trial next month, making the government's filing all the more abrupt. Concord is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman known as "Putin’s chef" for his ties to the Russian president. In the court filing on Monday, prosecutors said Concord had been "eager and aggressive in using the judicial system to gather information about how the United States detects and prevents foreign election interference." Prosecutors vowed to continue to pursue their case against the 13 Russians who were named in Mueller's indictment, along with the troll farm that Concord was alleged to have funded, the Internet Research Agency. (Last year, Mueller's office said Concord altered and leaked files provided to its defense team.)