Purported hackers obtained and leaked confidential information about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as part of a pro-Russian disinformation campaign that appeared to be aimed at discrediting the inquiry, Mr. Mueller’s office disclosed Wednesday.
Mr. Mueller’s office had turned over the documents to a Russian firm fighting federal charges, Concord Management & Consulting LLC, as part of the disclosure process ahead of a trial.
.. This month, Concord’s attorneys criticized the judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, in an unusual filing saying she had created an appearance of bias in favor of the government. That came after Judge Friedrich, appointed to the bench by Mr. Trump, told Concord lawyer Eric Dubelier that he was engaging in unprofessional behavior in his attacks on Mr. Mueller’s team and told him to “knock it off.”
.. The Wednesday filing came in response to request by Concord to share documents with colleagues in Russia, including one of the indicted defendants, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and known as the Kremlin’s favorite restaurateur.
He earned the slightly mocking nickname of “Putin’s cook.”
Despite his humble, troubled youth, Mr. Prigozhin became one of Russia’s richest men, joining a charmed circle whose members often share one particular attribute: their proximity to President Vladimir V. Putin.
.. According to the indictment, Mr. Prigozhin, 56, controlled the entity that financed the troll factory, known as the Internet Research Agency, which waged “information warfare against the United States” by creating fictitious social-media personas, spreading falsehoods and promoting messages supportive of Donald J. Trump and critical of Hillary Clinton. He has denied involvement.
.. he has emerged as Mr. Putin’s go-to oligarch for that and a variety of sensitive and often-unsavory missions, like recruiting contract soldiers to fight in Ukraine and Syria.
.. “He is not afraid of dirty tasks,”
.. “He can fulfill any task for Putin, ranging from fighting the opposition to sending mercenaries to Syria,” she said. “He serves certain interests in certain spheres, and Putin trusts him.”
.. the Kremlin endorsed projects like the troll farm without directly organizing them.
“This is done by somebody who receives large-scale government contracts,” he said. “The fact that he gets these contracts is a hidden way to pay for his services.”
.. When the troll factory was formed in 2013, its basic task was to flood social media with articles and comments that painted Russia under Mr. Putin as stable and comfortable compared to the chaotic, morally corrupt West. The trolls soon branched into overseas operations focused on Russian adversaries like Ukraine and the United States.
.. limited details about his personal life have emerged, mostly through the Instagram accounts of his two grown children.
One picture featured his son, Pavel, walking naked on the deck of the 115-foot family yacht. Other pictures showed a private jet and a vintage powder blue Lincoln Continental, said to be Mr. Prigozhin’s favorite car.
.. sweeping view from his wooded compound in Gelendzhik, the resort town on the Black Sea.
.. pier for the yacht, was built in an ostensibly protected forest much beloved by Mr. Putin and his cronies
.. In exchange for providing soldiers to protect Syria’s oil fields, companies linked to Mr. Prigozhin were awarded a percentage of the oil revenue
.. The only clues are the companies’ overlapping ties, including the same managers, shared telephone numbers or IP addresses.