The federal government responded Friday to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ issuance of a temporary pause on an order holding an unnamed, foreign government-owned company in contempt over a mystery court case related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The government response was filed under seal ahead of Monday’s deadline.
This is the first known legal challenge apparently related to Mueller’s investigation to make its way to the Supreme Court.
Roberts’ original order put on hold the contempt citation issued by a DC federal judge against the company for refusing to comply with a grand jury subpoena, but only long enough for the justices to decide whether they want to intervene.
The company asked the Supreme Court to intervene after a federal appeals court ruling that ordered the company to comply with the subpoena, which required it to turn over “information” about its commercial activity in a criminal investigation. The Supreme Court action also paused fines the company was facing for every day of noncompliance.
Roberts could now refer the matter to the full court to determine the next step.
It would take votes from five justices to keep in place the pause of the contempt citation if the Supreme Court decides to take up a full review of the lower court rulings.
The company’s challenge of the subpoena appears to have begun in September. In its ruling this past week, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia offered few clues about the company and its country of origin or what Mueller’s team sought.
There’s a vast range of possibilities on the identity of the company. The company could be anything from a sovereign-owned bank to a state-backed technology or information company. Those types of corporate entities have been frequent recipients of requests for information in Mueller’s investigation.
And though Mueller’s work focused on the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, prosecutors have said and CNN has reported that the Mueller team looked at actions related to Turkish, Ukrainian and other foreign government interests.
The company in the Supreme Court challenge has stayed secret – as has the grand jury proceeding it’s related to. And both the company, prosecutors and the circuit court took pains to keep the identities of those involved in the case under wraps. An entire floor of the DC federal courthouse was locked down by security on the morning of the company’s appeal argument so that the lawyers entering and leaving the courtroom would not be seen.
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.