Mueller Fears Evidence in 'Putin’s Chef' Case Could Be Used By Russia to Interfere in More Elections

Attorneys for special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tapped last year to lead an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, asked a judge Tuesday to limit how much evidence can be shared with a defendant accused of assisting Russia’s election interference.

Prosecutors asked a federal judge to impose limits on the information that can be shared between defense attorneys and Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Associated Press reported. Prigozhin is accused of funding a “troll farm” that Mueller’s special counsel said used stolen American identities to spread false information in swing states ahead of the 2016 election.

Prosecutors alluded to alleged ongoing efforts by Russia to influence the 2018 midterm elections as a reason to protect the methods and techniques that would otherwise be disclosed in the case and allow adversaries to “adapt” their practices.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that the United States had a "great deal more work to do" in protecting the integrity of elections. "I have to say there is more work to do," he said. "We have not been able to achieve deterrence, effective deterrence of some of these efforts of the Russians," he said. 

Prosecutors outlined the potential threat in court filings obtained by the Associated Press. “The substance of the government’s evidence identifies uncharged individuals and entities that the government believes are continuing to engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment,” they wrote.

“As long as Prigozhin chooses not to appear personally in front of this Court, he is not entitled to review any discovery in this case,” they wrote. “Courts generally do not allow a charged defendant to seek benefits from the judicial system whose authority he or she evades.” Prigozhin, through his company, pleaded not guilty to one charge of defrauding the U.S. government.

170854733 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller testifies during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee June 19, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Mueller confirmed that the FBI uses drones for domestic surveillance during the hearing on FBI oversight. Alex Wong/Getty Images

He is often referred to as “Putin’s Chef” because he owns multiple restaurants the Russian leader has visited frequently.

President Donald Trump has been a consistent critic of Mueller’s investigation and argued that if he is indicted by the former FBI Director, he has the ability to pardon himself. “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

Trump tweeted in June. “In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!”

Trump tweeted in March, “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added… does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

A June POLITICO/Morning Consult poll showed Trump’s attack on the special counsel may be working. 53 percent of those polled said they viewed Mueller in an unfavorable light, a 26 percent spike in unfavorability since last July.

Mueller’s appointment in May 2017 was met with praise from both parties.

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