Russian Firm Spars With Mueller Over Ability to See Documents

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. prosecutors clashed with a lawyer representing a Russian business accused of bankrolling efforts to interfere in the 2016 election over the sharing of evidence with the American side saying it could give the Kremlin access to U.S. data-gathering techniques.

Eric Dubelier, a lawyer for Concord Management and Consulting LLC, says his client’s officers and employees need to see the government’s evidence to prepare for a trial in Washington. Concord is one of three Russian companies and 13 individuals charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Among those charged is Concord’s principal, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who runs a catering business and is known as “Putin’s chef."

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich on Thursday heard about 90 minutes of arguments in open court from lawyers for both sides, before clearing the courtroom of spectators and continuing in secret.

"My job is to balance these weighty government interests against the defendant’s interests," Friedrich said. She didn’t rule on the matter before clearing the court room. The judge had cautioned lawyers from straying into areas already deemed confidential during the open session.

Mueller’s prosecutors say more than 3 million documents are designated as sensitive. Information deemed non-sensitive and shared exclusively with Concord’s lawyers earlier has already found its way onto the internet, Mueller’s office told the judge in a Jan. 31 filing.

Dubelier alluded to a sealed filing in which he seemed to suggest the documents could be shared through a trans-Atlantic video conference link from his law office, rather than sending copies to Russia where unauthorized people could see them.

"It’s not going to be foolproof," he conceded.

Prosecutor Jonathan Kravis told Friedrich there was no way to ensure those privy to the video hookup didn’t include people the U.S. doesn’t want to see the information.

Friedrich then asked if there were any Concord employees who could come to the U.S. to see the evidence without getting arrested.

"There are officers of Concord who are not indicted defendants in this case," the government’s lawyer replied. The judge has said she won’t set a trial date until the bulk of the evidentiary issues are resolved.

Concord is the only Russian entity fighting the U.S. charges.

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

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