Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller who has been overseeing the Russia investigation said back in late June that a longtime associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin should be barred from seeing evidence in a U.S. criminal case unless he appears in court to defend himself.
On Monday, a judge appointed a “firewall” lawyer to review pretrial evidence related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case against Russians who allegedly interfered in the 2016 election.
According to Bloomberg:
‘U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington on Monday approved a request to appoint a so-called firewall counsel envisioned as part of an earlier ruling on Mueller’s concern about providing evidence to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a longtime associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin’s firm, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, was also indicted.’
‘Mueller’s team had argued that if Prigozhin gains access to “sensitive” evidence, he could use it to thwart U.S. efforts to “prevent his continuing criminal activity in Russia and elsewhere” outside the U.S. Prigozhin, who provides food services to the Kremlin, is known as Putin’s chef. He and his company are among three firms and 13 people accused of producing propaganda at a Russian troll factory to whip up political strife in the U.S.’
At the time of Mueller’s filing, prosecutors said:
‘While the government wishes to make this discovery available to U.S. defense counsel, the risk of exposing this material to the Russian government warrants limiting the distribution and discussion of the sensitive materials to within the U.S. and within the U.S. offices of the defendant’s counsel.’
Last month, the U.S. said that the sensitive material contains information describing the government’s investigative techniques. The material also includes identities of people and companies that are cooperating, and personal identifying information on individuals in the U.S. who were victims of identity theft.
Lawyers with Concord Management had argued that an order barring Prigozhin from reviewing the evidence against his company is unfair and unworkable, and that the firm has the same right as any other defendant to see evidence against it.
‘The charges against Concord and the other Russian entities were the first criminal charges tied directly to Russian interference in the 2016 election, which is the central focus of Mueller’s investigation.
‘Mueller’s office said the Russian campaign was clear about its objectives. In one internal memo prosecutors said the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency told its employees to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump – we support them).” In another, they said it is “imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton.”‘
Just five days ago, it was also reported that Mr. Trump’s lawyers and Special Counsel Robert Mueller appear to be nearing the final stages of negotiations on whether the president will sit for questioning.
‘Mueller’s team responded earlier this week to a proposal Trump’s lawyers submitted some 11 days ago that suggested the president would only answer questions about whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia, not whether Trump obstructed justice, said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.’
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