`Putin's Chef' Judge Scolds Lawyers Over Evidence-Access Fight

(Bloomberg) -- A federal judge urged lawyers for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and one of 16 Russian defendants accused of interfering with the 2016 presidential election to settle their issues over who can see evidence gathered by prosecutors.

Mueller lawyers contend Russians are still trying to disrupt American elections and that wholesale release of information to the defense runs the risk of disclosing intelligence-gathering methods to those who would use it against the U.S.

Lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting LLP, a firm led by Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, criticized the prosecutors’ plan to limit who can see information backing up allegations. Prigozhin is nicknamed "Putin’s chef" based on his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington said she is convinced the government has made a good case for a protective order for some of the evidence, estimated at as many as 10 million pages and terabytes of data. Among the topics the government doesn’t want to disclose are cooperating witnesses who may be helping with the broader Russia investigation.

Eric Dubelier, an attorney for Concord Management, told the judge he’ll have an alternate explanation of "Project Lakhta," which Mueller contends included a broad effort to interfere in the U.S. elections.

"You’re going to be surprised what Project Lakhta was about," he said.

Friedrich told both sides to reach an final agreement in 10 days or she will impose her own solution. She said she may appoint a special master to resolve evidence disputes.

The case is U.S. v. Internet Research Agency, 18-cr-32, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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