Mueller Prosecutors Push for Tight Lid on Pretrial Discovery

WASHINGTON (CN) – The office of special counsel Robert Mueller requested limits Tuesday that will prevent foreign nationals from accessing sensitive materials from the prosecution of a Russian oligarch’s company.

Of the 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies indicted by Mueller in February, Concord Consulting and Management LLC to date remains the only defendant to respond.

Owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch caterer whose connections to the Russian president have earned him the nickname “Putin’s chef,” Concord faces a single count of conspiracy regarding its alleged funding of troll farms that worked in 2016 to swing the U.S. presidential election for then-candidate Donald Trump.

Special counsel prosecutor L. Rush Atkinson noted Tuesday in a motion for a protective order that the government is largely in agreement with Concord’s counsel, Reed Smith attorney Eric Dubelier, about what should be kept under wraps as discovery in the case gets underway.

With two key provisions still unresolved, however, Atiknson said that all discovery materials should be kept off limits to Concord’s co-defendants until such time that they enter an appearance with the court.

“At a high level, the sensitive-but-unclassified discovery in this case includes information describing the government’s investigative steps taken to identify foreign parties responsible for interfering in U.S. elections,” the 14-page motion says.

That includes sources, methods and techniques the government used to identify those behind Russia’s effort to disrupt the election and U.S. political process to try to sway the election in Trump’s favor.

Also at stake are the methods foreign parties used to mask their real identities, relationships between indicted and unindicted parties, and the government’s ability to collect evidence related to online conduct.

“Discovery in this case contains sensitive information about investigative techniques and cooperating witnesses that goes well beyond the information that will be disclosed at trial,” the motion continues.

Release of the information could also aid foreign intelligence agencies, particularly in Russia, Atkinson said. The discovery materials in the case would identify unindicted individuals the government believes continue to engage in interference operations.

As for the potential involvement of foreign nationals, Atkinson said the court should intervene by allowing only domestic defense counsel to access “particularly sensitive material.”

If after an initial review domestic counsel want to make additional disclosures to a foreign national, they would need to ask the court’s permission.

“Defense counsel would provide a firewall counsel for the government (separate from the prosecution team) with the name of any such individual contemporaneous to its request for court approval,” the motion says.

Firewall counsel would notify the court should any concerns arise about any disclosures, the motion continues.

Atkinson said in a footnote that if the court approves the motion, the special counsel’s office will identify the firewall counsel to the defense and the court.

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