An attorney for alleged Russian agent Maria Butina demanded Wednesday that federal prosecutors turn over evidence they have to support their sensational claim made in court filings that Butina had offered sex in return for a job, as well as other potentially exculpatory evidence.
But prosecutors want Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, to first limit any potential public disclosure of evidence, citing his “cable news circuit” in recent days.
At issue in the status conference in DC federal court Wednesday were nearly a dozen terabytes of data that the Justice Department has used to build its case against Butina, who they say lied as she sought political influence within elite Republican circles, including the National Rifle Association in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
Thomas Saunders, the US prosecutor, said Butina’s lawyers has already rejected two offers to receive the evidence with protective orders that would have limited public disclosure.
Preventing the evidence from reaching the press was needed to “protect the integrity of potential ongoing investigations,” Saunders said.
Driscoll said his TV interviews are “an eyedropper in a tsunami of negative press” and necessary to correct false claims.
Butina appeared in court in an orange jumpsuit and sat silently throughout the nearly hour-long proceeding. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent.
Judge Tanya S. Chutkan appeared to side with prosecutors on the disclosure issue, saying she would consider a gag order on the case and telling Driscoll, “I’m cautioning you.” Chutkan denied early access to specific evidence and said the two parties must propose a new evidence-sharing agreement next month.
Driscoll also claimed prosecutors are privy to the transcript of an eight-hour interview Butina had given Senate investigators that would prove her innocence.
Saunders said the Justice Department was not currently in possession of the transcript and asked for more time to respond to what he called a “complicated constitutional question.” Prosecutors are required to turn over any evidence to a defendant that can prove their innocence.
The parties are expected to return for a status hearing in September.