Attorney Pleads Guilty to Lying to Mueller Investigators

(CN) — An attorney who found himself in the crosshairs of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to federal authorities about his contacts with a former Trump campaign associate.

Alex Van Der Zwaan, who was fired last year by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, a prominent New York law firm, admitted to lying to Mueller’s investigators about his interaction with Rick Gates.

Gates is a former aide on President Donald Trump’s campaign and a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The charge against Van Der Zwaan does not involve election meddling or the Trump campaign’s operations. It stems from the special counsel’s investigation into a covert Washington lobbying campaign Manafort and Gates are accused of directing on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian interests.

Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to related charges.

According to the two-page indictment, Van Der Zwaan made “false fictitious and fraudulent statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the Government of the United States” and allegedly lied to agents at the FBI.

Specifically, it notes Van Der Zwaan may have deleted emails connected to his most recent communications with Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide who was indicted last year on charges of conspiracy to launder money and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

Van Der Zwaan worked for a legal firm hired by the Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice, preparing a formal report on the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Shortly after Van Der Zwaan’s indictment was announced Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, issued a statement in which it confirmed fired him last year and that it has been cooperating with authorities.

Manafort and Gates currently face charges of money laundering and making false statements to federal agents. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Gates joined Trump’s campaign in June 2016 after then-candidate Trump hired Manafort to chair his presidential campaign. During the Republican National Convention, Gates also oversaw campaign operations alongside Manafort, serving as Manafort’s top aide.

Manafort was fired in August 2016, after reports circulated suggesting possible improper payments he received from a Kremlin-backed political party aligned with Manafort’s former client and Ukranian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych served from 2010 to 2014.

Despite Manafort’s departure, Gates remained on the campaign, serving as assistant to Trump’s inaugural committee and liaison to the Republican National Committee.

Tuesday’s indictment of Van Der Zwaan is the 14th indictment announced by Mueller’s team in just the past four days. On Friday, the Mueller’s investigators indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for violating a series of laws in order to intrude on the 2016 election.

That 37-page indictment claimed individuals began conspiring as early as 2014 to interfere in the election, using false identities online in order to disperse contentious political material and other propaganda on social media.

The Russian individuals indicted also failed to register as foreign agents. They obtained visas through false statements, held political rallies using fake American identities and “solicited and compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates,” the complaint said.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson opted not to move forward with sentencing Tuesday. Instead, Van Der Zwaan’s sentencing hearing will be held April 3.


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