Special Counsel Robert Mueller has collected at least three million pages of material from the email and social media accounts of accused Russian trolls, including random spam and “nude selfies.”
This is according to a new filing by Washington, D.C., lawyer Eric Dubelier, who’s representing one of the defendants in Mueller’s case against the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg troll farm that used fake accounts to sow discord and boost Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
Mueller's team has given Dubelier nearly 4 million pages of pre-trial discovery, but designated 3.2 million of those pages as too sensitive for the lawyer to share with his own client in Russia, despite the fact that the documents are unclassified and came largely from the trolls’ own accounts at services like Gmail and Yahoo.
In rifling through the files, though, Dubelier found lots of seemingly innocuous content like spam, personal messages having nothing to do with election interference, and “personal naked selfie photographs.”
In a recent motion Dubelier asked the court to lift a protective order that bans him from sending the discovery on to Russia. In a Thursday filing he opposed Mueller’s move to provide classified information to the judge supposedly justifying the restrictions.
Mueller’s position in part is that a review of the emails would reveal U.S. surveillance capabilities, a contention Dubelier mocked in his motion, which calls the indictment a “first-of-its-kind, make-believe case.”
“Could the manner in which he [Mueller] collected a nude selfie really threaten the national security of the United States?” wrote Dubelier, a partner at Reed Smith.
Dubelier represents the company charged with financing the troll factory, Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian firm run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close Kremlin ally known as “Putin’s Chef.”
Concord is so far the only defendant to put in an appearance in the case, and, judging from court filings, Mueller finds that suspicious. Mueller has accused Prigozhin of using his company as a “stalking horse” to obtain the government’s evidence without leaving the safety of Russia.
Prigozhin is also charged individually, but he can’t mount a defense or obtain pre-trial discovery without showing up in Washington, which thus far he’s declined to do. His company, though, can defend itself from afar without anyone risking prison, because it’s a corporation and not a person.
Dubelier’s first move after taking the case was to demand the identities of Mueller’s informants, details of any electronic surveillance in the case, and a list of “each and every instance” since 1945 in which the U.S. “engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes in any foreign country.”
In all, Mueller has between 1.5 and 2 terabytes of data about the Russian troll farm gathered from several hundred sources.
“The government recognizes that these documents are not classified,” one of Mueller’s prosecutors, L. Rush Atkinson, wrote last June. “Nevertheless, as the Court noted, they do concern highly sensitive matters, including ongoing investigations.”