Mueller's Move on Ex-Skadden Lawyer Puts Heat on Manafort, Gates

Mueller's Move on Ex-Skadden Lawyer Puts Heat on Manafort, Gates”

Mueller charges that Van Der Zwaan lied to FBI investigators about his communications with Richard Gates, a surrogate of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort who stands accused, along with Manafort, of conspiracy against the United States, fraud, and failure to register as a foreign agent.

Court documents say van der Zwaan worked for a firm tasked in 2012 with preparing a report for Ukraine's Ministry of Justice on the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Gates' former boss who was indicted along with him past year and pleaded not guilty, reportedly arranged for the law firm to conduct the report.

Gates and Manafort were indicted previous year and accused of conspiring to launder millions of dollars they earned from political consulting work in Ukraine. The firm was involved in writing up a report about whether Yanukovych's attempted prosecution of his political rival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, had any legal basis, and Mueller apparently wanted to know about Manafort's connections.

According to the indictment, Van Der Zwaan said his last communication with Gates was in mid-August 2016 - "an innocuous text message" - and his last communication with "Person A" was in 2014 (when he and Person A discussed Person A's family).

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 Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mueller already has secured guilty pleas from former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and one-time foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to investigators about their contacts with Russian Federation. A speaker of Russian, Dutch, English, and French, van der Zwaan also is the son-in-law of a wealthy Russian, German Khan, who was on a roster of oligarchs named in a recent Treasury Department list of prominent Russians with links to President Vladimir Putin. The case "sends a signal to both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates: cooperate or risk greater trouble in the future".

The attorney, Alex van der Zwaan, worked in London for the prominent NY law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

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Gates served as Manafort's deputy on the Trump campaign, worked on the president's inaugural committee and remained in contact with the White House in 2017 as he helmed the pro-Trump America First Policies nonprofit. In reality he "deleted and otherwise did not provide emails sought by the special counsel's office" and by "Law Firm A", the information says.

Gates joined Trump's campaign in June 2016 after then-candidate Trump hired Manafort to chair his presidential campaign.

Ms Tymoshenko was jailed the year before for criminally exceeding her powers, charges she said were politically motivated.

Gates is now facing criminal charges from the special counsel over his lobbying work in Ukraine.

Van der Zwaan appeared in court on Tuesday and the judge set sentencing for 3 April.

So on its surface, Tuesday's indictment relates exclusively to a single branch of Mueller's investigation: Paul Manafort's dealings with the pro-Russia faction in Ukraine. He was reportedly finalising a plea deal as of last week. An American, Richard Pinedo, of Santa Paula, California, also pleaded guilty to identity fraud regarding some bank accounts used by the Russians in their influence campaign.

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