Foreign interference in US elections is still going on, Mueller tells judge

Foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections are still going on just five months before the midterm elections, special counsel Robert Mueller told a judge on Tuesday.

Mueller made the assertion in a filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, in his prosecution of 13 Russian nationals and three companies who were indicted in February on charges including interference in the 2016 presidential election. It says the government believes foreign "individuals and entities" are continuing to "engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment."

The filing seeks to protect evidence requested by one of the companies, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which provides food services at the Kremlin and is run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who prosecutors allege is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has had "extensive dealings" with the Russian Defense Ministry.

Attorneys for Concord Management say they need the evidence gathered by government investigators to help with their defense, and they have objected to stringent secrecy measures Mueller's team has proposed — restrictions that would bar Concord from sharing the evidence with Prigozhin or any of the other co-defendants unless they first appear in court.

So far, only Concord Management has appeared in court, having pleaded not guilty last month. Prigozhin, 12 other Russian nationals and the two other companies — Concord Catering and the Internet Research Agency, which prosecutors describe as a Russian online "troll farm" — have yet to make court appearances.

"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," the government motion contends.

An attorney for Concord Management didn't immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

The motion, which is signed by Mueller, says Concord Management's co-defendants must appear in court to agree to his restrictions. Allowing wider access to the evidence without such agreements would jeopardize "sensitive information that remains relevant to ongoing national security investigations and efforts to protect the integrity of future U.S. elections," it said.

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US President Barack Obama applauds outgoing Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) director Robert Mueller (L) in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on June 21, 2013 as he nominates Jim Comey to be the next FBI director. Comey, a deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, would replace Mueller, who is stepping down from the agency he has led since the week before the September 11, 2001 attacks. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller applauds key staff members during a farewell ceremony held for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW HEADSHOT)
391489 03: U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during a conference as he stands with Justice Department veteran Robert Mueller, left, who he has nominated to head the FBI, and Attorney General John Ashcroft July 5, 2001 the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller stands for the national anthem during a farewell ceremony for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (L) reacts to a standing ovation from the audience, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole (C) and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (R) during Mueller's farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller gestures during his remarks at a farewell ceremony held for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
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Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller reacts to applause from the audience during his farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
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Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (C) delivers remarks at a farewell ceremony for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Also onstage with Mueller are Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole (FROM L), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former CIA Director George Tenet and TSA Administrator John Pistole. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
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Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller (L) stand during the National Anthem alongside Attorney General Eric Holder (R) and Deputy Attorney General James Cole (C) during a farewell ceremony in Mueller's honor at the Department of Justice on August 1, 2013. Mueller is retiring from the FBI after 12-years as Director. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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Besides potentially compromising intelligence sources and techniques, Mueller wrote, allowing wider access would the publicly identify "uncharged individuals and entities that the government believes are continuing to engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment."

The investigation — which has been dubbed the "Russian chef" case because of Prigozhin's alleged ties to Putin — yielded the first grand jury indictment tied directly to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"Some defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities," according to the indictment (PDF), which was filed Feb. 16.

By Election Day in November 2016, the Russians' efforts included "supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton," the indictment alleged.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, last week issued a similar warning about November's elections, saying at a conference in France: "It is 2018, and we continue to see Russian targeting of American society in ways that could affect our midterm elections."

Trump has denied any collusion with Russia and tweeted specifically in response to the indictments in February that "the Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!"

Russia, as well, has repeatedly denied any effort to influence the election.

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