The federal judge overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian internet trolls case settled a dispute Friday in the case over who could access the government’s discovery.
With an order setting up special restrictions, U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich required anyone — other than those on the defense team at the U.S. based-law firm hired by a Russian firm to fight the charges — seeking access to the discovery first to get her permission.
The order explicitly said that Yevgeny Prigozhin— a Russian oligarch known as “Putin’s chef” — would be barred from accessing the materials, absent Friedrich’s permission.
Prigozhin was among the 13 individuals and other entities indicted for election meddling, but he has not appeared in court. His firm, Concord Management, has however lawyered-up and entered a not guilty plea to the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Mueller has alleged that Concord Management funded the Russian internet troll operation.
Concord Management’s lawyers had been fighting for Prigozhin to have access to the discovery. Mueller had argued that access to the discovery should be restricted for national security reasons — an argument Friedrich on Friday mostly agreed with, though she stopped short of entirely barring Prigozhin from accessing the discovery if he didn’t enter an appearance with the court, as Mueller had requested.
The judge adopted a Mueller-proposed scheme to set-up a “firewall” team of government lawyers, separate from the prosecution team, to review requests from Concord Management’s U.S. attorneys to share certain evidence to individuals outside their law firm.
“Contemporaneous with any such requests, Concord’s counsel will provide an independent and Court-approved firewall counsel (who is not in the Office of the Special Counsel) with the name of the individual to whom counsel intends to release the sensitive discovery materials,” her opinion outlining the protective order on discovery said. “And if needed, the firewall counsel will alert the Court to any concerns that the government has about releasing the sensitive discovery materials to that individual. Absent further order of the Court, any such individual will be entitled to review disclosed sensitive materials only at a U.S. office of Reed Smith.”
Read the opinion and order below: