Supreme Court rules against foreign firm, in mystery case potentially linked to Mueller

The Supreme Court has rejected an emergency appeal from an unknown foreign corporation over a pending federal subpoena believed linked to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

The justices issued an unsigned order Tuesday, refusing to dismiss a contempt citation issued by a federal judge for failure to comply.

The unnamed company -- listed cryptically in court records as owned by "Country A" -- had challenged a subpoena from a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., including daily fines, after its refusal to turn over requested documents to U.S. investigators.

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Chief Justice John Roberts last week had put the pending compliance order on temporary hold, while he and his eight colleagues considered the corporation's stay request.

The company had cited the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in its refusal to comply, saying to do so would violate the laws of its home country.

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Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its order upholding the contempt citation, a federal appeals court issued a separate, partially redacted opinion upholding its earlier ruling against the companies. The opinion noted that the company is facing a $50,000-per-day fine for failure to turn over the documents. The papers in question are kept overseas, though the company does have an office in the U.S.

The opinion also noted that prosecutors have been trying to obtain the information since at least this past summer, and the three-judge panel determined it could get involved in the dispute because "there is a reasonable probability the information sought through the subpoena here concerns a commercial activity that caused a direct effect in the United States."

The company earlier Tuesday filed a request with the high court to hear the dispute on legal merits. That request is still pending with the court, and it was unclear if this new appeal meant those documents still could be withheld temporarily, while the case is litigated.

A federal appeals court last month held closed-door oral arguments over the dispute, and reporters and the public were removed from the entire courthouse floor where the case was heard.

This is believed to be the first Mueller-related appeal to reach the Supreme Court.

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It remained uncertain if the justices would be asked in the coming weeks to take on the broader legal questions raised by this issue, and how that might affect the special counsel's investigation.