CNN reveals Alston & Bird, a law firm with experience representing Russian interests, is involved in the mystery grand jury subpoena case assumed to be related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
The case involves a foreign-owned corporation, which we learned Tuesday is a financial institution, that is refusing to turn over documents and incurring a daily $50,000 fine.
CNN's reporting of the law firm's identity is among the first details revealed about a case that's progressed to the Supreme Court under extreme secrecy.
The identity of the foreign government and the company has been a closely held secret, and after several setbacks in court, the company may be forced to give the special counsel's office information or face a steep financial penalty.
Attorneys involved in the case include DC-based white-collar lawyer Ted Kang and Brian Boone, a North Carolina-based appellate attorney. It is not clear whether they represent the company, the country's regulators or another interested party.
Kang says on his professional website he represents "numerous entities and individuals in connection with" Mueller's investigation.
CNN first spotted the mystery court activity in September last year, when lawyers appeared in the courtroom for DC District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell opposite five prosecutors from Mueller's team. At that time, one of the corporate lawyers told CNN he was from Alston & Bird and represented "a country."
Another mystery court hearing before Howell happened in October, with Kang and Boone opposite Mueller's team, including top criminal appellate advocate Michael Dreeben.
After Howell denied the company's challenge twice, the case then moved to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Politico reported at that time that the appeals case related to Mueller's investigation.
When the scheduled arguments happened in December before the three-judge appellate panel, court officials were so careful not to reveal the identities of the lawyers involved that they cleared the public and media from an entire floor of the DC federal courthouse.
The company lost its challenge of the subpoena soon after ...
The company then took its fight to the US Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied it would continue to freeze daily fines placed upon the company for noncompliance. The court also said the company could file its broader challenge of the subpoena and its legal reasoning with some details still confidential. If and when that filing comes in, it could identify the appellate lawyers involved on both sides.
Alston & Bird has a history of working with Oleg Deripaska.
... Deripaska, a business contact of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort whom Mueller's team has sought information about, paid Alston & Bird $300,000 upfront in 2003 to help him reinstate his US visa, according to public lobbying disclosure filings. Over the next few years, Deripaska paid the firm another $270,000 for their work, the filings say. Around that time, Deripaska gave Manafort a $10 million loan, which the FBI cited in a 2017 search warrant on Manafort.
It has also done work for global public relations firm Ketchum Inc., which hired it to "provide advisory services to Ketchum, Inc. for the Russian Federation." This included gathering information on contemporary US-Russia relations and monitoring "legislative developments in the Congress in similar issue areas," according to filings from 2014.
For years, Ketchum helped the Kremlin and state entities like Gazprom with public relations campaigns intended to influence US public opinion and policy.