U.S. Says Evidence Against Accused Russian Must Remain Secret

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. prosecutors said millions of pages of evidence gathered in the case of accused Russian foreign agent and gun-rights advocate Mariia Butina should be kept from the public because some of it relates to ongoing investigations.

Prosecutors made the argument during a court hearing Wednesday in Washington, saying they were preparing to turn over to the defense two batches of about 1.5 million documents each. That can’t happen, they said, until Butina’s lawyer agrees to keep the information confidential.

Prosecutors said they are concerned that Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, will publicize information he receives from the government, which could harm U.S. efforts to charge additional people. They cited Driscoll’s media appearances since his client was indicted last week on charges she conspired to establish a back channel between Russians and American politicians.

The government is unsure "whether the defense wants this information right away to prepare for trial in this court or whether they want it so they can use it on cable news," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Saunders told the judge.

Driscoll argued that he merely sought to rebut the government’s allegations, specifically one contained in court papers, that Butina offered to trade sex for a job. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan warned Driscoll about talking too much about the case in the press and said she would consider issuing a gag order if it continued.

The half-hour hearing set the stage for arguments to come over the next several months. Driscoll said he would ask the judge to consider freeing Butina before trial, though he didn’t commit to when he would file that request. He also said he’d eventually challenge the indictment and would seek to obtain a copy of a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing where Butina was interviewed for eight hours in a closed session before she was charged.

Chutkan set another hearing for Sept. 10.

Butina has been in U.S. custody since her arrest on July 15, after prosecutors said she had ties to Russia’s intelligence services and oligarchs who could offer her safe harbor.

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